Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How My Thinking Affects My Social Views

My research into my son's autism has resulted in my coming to understand myself as well, since one of the results of that research is to learn that I have Asperger's, a form of autism. The result is I now have a causal explanation for why I think as I think.

For example, with the Intense World Theory of autism, one would predict I would have very strong emotional reactions and strong feelings of empathy. However, expressing these strong emotions and feelings of empathy in the intensity in which I feel them is considered to be socially inappropriate. As a result, I engage in suppression, to keep in control. That doesn't mean I don't feel deeply or that I don't empathize deeply -- quite the contrary -- but it does mean that if I don't want to be an emotional nightmare to everyone around me, I have to keep continuous conscious control over it. The overwhelming bombardment of empathy for others can also make one shut down when one is in a crowd. Imagine intensely empathizing with a room full of people! It's often too much. Thus, I appear socially awkward at parties.

People with Asperger's and autism (hereon out, simply "autism") also are more bottom-up thinkers, while neurotypicals are top-down thinkers. What this means is that autistics collect lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of data before creating a hypothesis or theory, whereas neurotypicals will form a theory after collecting a much smaller amount of data. A consequence of this is that neurotypicals will then typically engage in confirmation bias, searching for confirming data for their theories. Autistics, on the other hand, are not so attached to their theories that they won't change their minds if there is enough data to disconfirm their ideas. For my own part, I in fact seek out disconfirming data and ideas. I have changed my ideas quite a bit over time, adjusting my world view as new data becomes available.

Bottom-up thinking also tends to lead to pattern thinking. I am very good as seeing patterns -- especially complex patterns that are not obvious to others. Much economic thinking is based on the ability to see exactly these kinds of patterns. It also means that I can see similarities among ideas that others may miss. I see the commonalities among information theory, self-organization, evolution, emergence, network theory, and Austrian economics -- to such a degree that I quite often interchange them and their vocabularies. This sometimes leads to confusion when I am conversing with someone -- but very often I get them to see that I am really saying the same thing they are, just using a different language from a different model. I can do that because the patterns of each of these theories are actually identical.

Having laid the groundwork, I can now explain how the way I experience the world leads to my social views. I have extreme empathy for those who are poor and who suffer. It deeply bothers me to see suffering. As a result, I have tried to learn the best ways to alleviate suffering on as large a scale as possible. I have collected data over the decades, and come to the conclusion -- based on historical, social, cultural, and economic data -- that free markets in the economy, and other kinds of spontaneous orders in other social spheres. Spontaneous orders are bottom-up orders -- not unlike my thinking. And seeing the patterns in common among the various social systems helps me to see how if one spontaneous order benefits people the most the freer it is, then the same is true of other orders as well. Since I do not have an emotional connection to ideas, as neurotypicals seem to do, but only care about whether what I propose actually has the effects I seek, I do tend to come across as, at best, incredulous when I come across people who will not see the incredible damage their ideas have done, continue to do, and will do.

I will also note that the fact that neurotypicals are top-down thinkers might explain the preponderance of top-down ideas. More than that, if we are looking at thinking as occurring along a continuum, one would expect a few extremes of top-down and bottom-up thinkers. The most extreme bottom-up thinker would never be able to synthesize everything into a theory (they could not see the unity), while the most extreme top-down thinker would never be able to see the pieces, but would have a theory and stick to it no matter what evidence (they could not see the diversity). For the hyper-autistic thinker, everything would be outside of them; for the opposite, there would be nothing outside of them (that is, they would be purely solipsistic). It seems odd that the autistic thinker is seen as pathological, but not the solipsistic thinker, though as I have demonstrated, they are equally pathological. More, their thinking is necessarily going to make them more defensive of their ideas, since their ideas are them, and an attack on their ideas is an attack on them. It would also explain why they care more about their ideas than the outcomes, even at the expense of human lives. It would also explain why so many people think that top-down organizations are preferable to bottom-up spontaneous orders.
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