Autism is Lindy, autistic thinking has been conserved in history

(via) The Lindy effect is a concept that the future life expectancy of some items or concepts  such as technology or an idea is proportional to their current age, so that every additional period of survival implies a longer remaining life expectancy. My idea of Lindy comes from reading Nassim Taleb, who expands upon the writings of Beniot Mandlebrot who described an effect of a deli

Lindy is a deli in New York, now a tourist trap, that proudly claims to be famous for its cheesecake, but in fact has been known for the fifty or so years of interpretation by physicists and mathematicians of the heuristic that developed there. Actors who hung out there gossiping about other actors discovered that Broadway shows that lasted, say one hundred days, had a future life expectancy of a hundred more. For those that lasted two hundred days, two hundred more. The heuristic became known as the Lindy Effect.

Perhaps, it can be best thought of via example eg that butter is more Lindy than margarine and that olive oil is a very lindy cooking oil of our times.

Lindy is not really meant to be applied to perishable items. Nonperishable are Lindy. Ideas, technologies and institutions.

So… I think autistic thinking has been Lindy over the ages. Why might this be the case?

Autistic thinking tends not to follow the dominant social consensus thinking of the time, I also argue, autistic thinking can importantly lead to radical breakthrough where you have leaps of understanding that perhaps typical thinking would not demonstrate.

Rates of ASD diagnosis in the US are around 1 in 65, with New Jersey as high as 1 in 45 and between 1 in 50 to 1 in 100 a likely typical range in Level 4 countries.

If you look back 70,000 years there’s evidence that early man, Neanderthal man looked after his disabled siblings into old age..

Anecdote suggests that autism and autistic thought has been present in human society for hundreds of years, while both environment and genetic factors both plays roles I find it noteworthy that nature and its Darwinian forces seemingly have conserved autism and that autistic thinking might be Lindy.

If  there is some aspect of autism that is Lindy why might it be so?  I might be entirely wrong but let’s go a storytelling...

Why might that be…?

Autistic thought tends not to follow the crowd of “herd” thinking or social pressure or social learning.

These traits can be incredibly useful.

Think about any paradigm shift in thought which requires ideas outside of normal.  A non-autist has social pressures and social learning that an autism might not.

An ice age has set in.  On the one hand, you need tools and weapons to hunt.  You need social communication to co-ordinate large groups of people. You need leaders of those groups.

But, you need inventors to create tools which are different to the status quo.  If everyone hunts the mammoth in only one way and that way stops working, you need someone who can think differently and sees a solution not because “we’ve always done it this way” but because there’s a way that makes sense to autistic thought that non-autistic thought can’t reach easily.

The rest of the human society, maybe the leader of those small ape-like human groups, can see the value in these different autistic thinkers who have ways of seeing and answers to problems the “herd” can not solve.

Maybe I go too far to suggest that this different thinking is treasured.  

But if the autistic way has been treasured for tens of thousands of years, perhaps that’s one explanation for why is survives in humans today.

And with estimated rates of 1 in 100 (and rising) with close to 1 in 45 in New Jersey being diagnosed on the spectrum, is this an argument for autistic thought being Lindy - and for why we should still treasure our autists and their way of being.

Sweden immigration integration

Speed and size of immigration has real world social integration impacts in Sweden. A story I was told: after one refugee crisis, some refugees ended up in Sweden, some in Minneapolis, US.

(From chatting to a handful of Swedes)

The narrative I heard was that the refugees in Minneapolis (on average) have integrated better (in a shorter time) as more of them had to seek jobs and employment helps social integration (although given time, integration and jobs can be achieved in Sweden).  Whereas the refugees in Sweden didn't find / weren't forced to seek jobs under the same type of pressure  - This recalls to me psycho-social studies that show working together in increases harmony (esp re: race) - a whole set of studies and questions found here at the Oxford Centre for Intergroup Conflict.


It is also anecdotal evidence in support of a job guarantee policy idea as suggested in a paper by James Montier (see GMO site) and by the left libertarian mmt economist Bill Mitchell (see Bill’s blog, with comprehensive left libertarian economic thinking, an advocate of Modern Monetary Theory).


This idea is potentially stronger than universal basic income because a job gives you skills (both intangible, and measurable)  and experiences plus can promote social harmony.  Still, there did seem to be broad hope that given time, the new Swedish immigrants will also integrate. The newly arrived need to learn the skills, language etc. to help them find jobs - there are seemingly many who arrive unable to read/write well and that’s a problem.  

The anecdotes I heard were not studies. I found a study here and an in depth reporting here on the issues, the two pieces did seem to align broadly with what I heard, suggesting some Swedes at least are abreast of the issues.

If you'd like to feel inspired by commencement addresses and life lessons try: Ursula K Le Guin on literature as an operating manual for life;  Neil Gaiman on making wonderful, fabulous, brilliant mistakes; or Nassim Taleb's commencement address; or JK Rowling on the benefits of failure.  Or Charlie Munger on always inverting.


Cross fertilise.  On investing try a thought on stock valuations.  Or Ray Dalio on populism and risk.  You can also click on the Carbon tag below. 


A lesson from autism here.

Jonathan Meth. A conversation, one.

Elegant, flowing, beautiful hands. Chatting with Jonathan Meth, I was struck by how eloquent his hands were.


Social decorum crimped me and I felt I couldn’t interject to say - wow your hands wonderfully mesmerize me. Social media strips decorum, so I can say that now.


My writing threads go back to when Jonathan ran writernet which harks back almost 20 years ago now. Now, I’m stepping back into a writing practice or perhaps a playwright as a multi-disciplinary arts-investing person, a some time mingler - which I’m told is a form of covening. It’s amazing to re-connect and hear how artists’ work have developed.


Jonathan has kept an international network of artists through Fence, which seems to me an evolution from the dramaturgical work of writernet (I will split the post and write about Fence in another section). He has also developed a practice in disability arts - and our shared interest in autism crosses over here. There’s a lot to Jonathan’s practice.


Across time and space, we end up on a warm New York autumn evening drinking a bar tender’s choice of drink, 10 over years since we last met.


The disability practice is described in this 2015 Guardian article and on his own site here. What I took away is that there is a strong disability arts practice in various countries, often forging on with limited support, but creating a long history or astonishing art. Three of them are partnered in Crossing the Line (not to be confused with the project that Gideon Lester and others are involved with): Crossing The Line (EU) is a project of the co-operative partnership of 3 European theatre companies: all leaders in the field of working with learning disabled artists. The partners are Moomsteatern in Malmo, Sweden; Compagnie de L’Oiseau Mouche in Roubaix, France and Mind The Gap in Bradford, UK. Jonathan is project dramaturg, and is hoping to expand the partnership to many more countries.

We also intersect on Ambitious about Autism. This is an ABA led group in the UK on ASD special education needs; but Ambitious acknowledges that the tent is larger than ABA and so pushes forward across a range of ASD advocacy; as child-centric and child-led practise informs much of good SEN (and typical) practice today, whatever techniques you find that work (and research is still relatively poor).


Drawing this part together, it was apparent to me that Jonathan speaks many languages. The language of art in its many dialects, the language of SEN, the language of policy makers and funders.


It dawned on me, I speak several of these languages too, and that we need more of us in today’s word. More than ever.


Jonathan spoke of Isaiah Berlin’s Fox (after Greek poet Archilochus) who ‘know many little things’.  As Jonathan writes: “They react to challenge by drawing on a pattern of general, pragmatic understanding, often making mistakes but seldom committing themselves to a potentially catastrophic grand strategy.” As opposed to the hedgehog, which knows one big thing.   It reminded me of this Nassim Taleb conversation with philosopher Constantine Sandis  -  Taleb argues a cousin piece of thinking:


“I do not consider myself a hedgehog, but a fox: I warn against focusing (‘anchoring’) on a single possible rare event. Rather, be prepared for the fact that the next large surprise, technological or historical, will not resemble what you have in mind (big surprises are what some people call ‘unknown unknowns’). In other words, learn to be abstract, and think in second order effects rather than being anecdotal – which I show to be against human nature. And crucially, rare events in Extremistan are more consequential by their very nature: the once-every-hundred-year flood is more damaging than the 10 year one, and less frequent.”


Being open minded, being open to possibilities when they happen, intertwining chance - taking those chances  - those challenges are absorbing them to make you stronger (anti-fragile, even more than resilient)


Looping back to Spike, that chimes with some of what I hope for him, that we can expose him to enough small and varied challenges and opportunities that he find enough to think, and be, and to find purpose. It’s hard for Spike to do that within an institution. We will find a way.


This last few days in New York has felt a little like that - throwing out the the threads - listening - thinking - being - meeting: from the chance meetings (triggered by the Empty Space), the semi-chance meetings like Jonathan; the near misses (Gideon, I’m still hoping); the re-connections;

Mixed in with the latest in pharmaceutical, medical technology and consumer genetic thinking.


And, I am thankful for that. Part two of conversation here.


Time for more?  Here’s a short post on 5 things autism has taught me.  Here is   JK Rowling on the benefits of failure.


Autism. One more lesson.

The cow was as black as the sky.

The cow was as white as paper.

The cow was as soft as sofas.

The cow was as fluffy as toys.

The cow moos as armadillos. 

Autists have a remarkable ability to put the unexpected together and create images, words and ideas that are fresh and new.


These ideas stimulate us to places we would not find otherwise.

...quiet as a dark sky

shy as a train leaving...

If I could pursue more of this I would, if I could be half as inventive.

5 lessons Autism has Taught Me

Some thoughts on what we can learn from autism, ASD, written in the self-help leadership style.

Everybody is somebody's weirdo

What unites humanity is vast and wonderful.

In the tapestry that is being human, you will always find someone who will seem odd to you. Likewise, you will always be peculiar to someone else. That is no reason for fear or hatred.

In finding out how oddball you are to some people, you can grow a wider appreciation of your own biases.

We all have them. We are all human.

Patience is genius

A quick decision particularly over questions of limited materiality (a Jeff Besos type 2 decision) is efficient. However, I have found I have won out in many situations by exhibiting patience. More patience than my competitors. I can out-wait most. Some psychologist have called this "grit". Economists talk about taking time horizon risk. I call it what you learn by losing going toe to toe with an autist.   

Patience is a winning strategy

"Because everyone else does it" - is never a great reason

Autists reveal what are social norms because they often flout them (I won't go in to theories of why, just the empirical observation that they do). This in turn reveals that much more of the world is built upon social norms than I had thought.

We do things because other do things. Lemmings. Herd mentality. All well documented. Yet it goes deeper to matters you would not question until an autist throws it, into stark relief.

Why do boys wear blue and girls pink? They did not 80 years a go. It's a social norm created by marketeers. Why do we shake hands ? (In fact, in many cultures, we do not). Why don't we speak truth to power ? Most autists I observe do not lie. If a person is fat, why not say they are fat ? Is it more harmful to turn from the truth (of course, white lies have their place in typical society, but what effect does that have?) Question if something is right, do not rely on the fact that everyone else does it.

Follow your interests - you may discover the extraordinary

Autists often obsess. People on the autistic spectrum also seem to create break throughs or invent non-standard thinking more regularly than typicals. Gladwell has written about the 10,000 hours plus it takes to reach a 'genius' level.

You are unlikely to have a novel breakthrough just ploughing the same furrow. Neither will you master anything unless you keep at, perhaps long after others have fallen by the way side (cf. Patience as a strategy).

Autists will sail steadfastly obsessively on beyond where I thought I could tread. That inspires me to more, even if I have no comprehension of what that obsession might be. Prime numbers, Disney cartoons, the cracks in the street, the music in the air, train couplers....

Sure, if you like, go fail conventionally.

That is not the way of the autist.

How people react to autism/difference reveals the character of their humanity

Post an interview, some CEOs and managers will ask how the candidate treated the support staff along the way to the interview. I've heard many repeat the adage of how someone treats a waiter or receptionist reveals a true character.

This is heightened when facing difference. While we can be trained to be polite to waiters and receptionists, there's a routine we can follow. Throw in unexpected difference, an autist, a different culture, a deaf person, a conflict...

Grace under pressure

We can all learn that, and be better people for it.