Monday, April 06, 2015

autistic spectrum a key ingredient of tech success?


WaPo |  If you want to be a true innovator, be prepared to leave everyone behind. (Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images) The individuals who have founded some of the most success tech companies are decidedly weird. Examine the founder of a truly innovative company and you’ll find a rebel without the usual regard for social customs.

This begs the question, why? Why aren’t more “normal” people with refined social graces building tech companies that change the world? Why are only those on the periphery reaching great heights?
If you ask tech investor Peter Thiel, the problem is a social environment that’s both powerful and destructive. Only individuals with traits reminiscent of Asperger’s Syndrome, which frees them from an attachment to social conventions, have the strength to create innovative businesses amid a culture that discourages daring entrepreneurship.

“Many of the more successful entrepreneurs seem to be suffering from a mild form of Asperger’s where it’s like you’re missing the imitation, socialization gene,” Thiel said Tuesday at George Mason University. “We need to ask what is it about our society where those of us who do not suffer from Asperger’s are at some massive disadvantage because we will be talked out of our interesting, original, creative ideas before they’re even fully formed. Oh that’s a little bit too weird, that’s a little bit too strange and maybe I’ll just go ahead and open the restaurant that I’ve been talking about that everyone else can understand and agree with, or do something extremely safe and conventional.”

An individual with Asperger’s Syndrome — a form of autism — has limited social skills, a willingness to obsess and an interest in systems. Those diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome tend to be unemployed or underemployed at rates that far exceed the general population. Fitting into the world is difficult.

While full-blown Asperger’s Syndrome or autism hold back careers, a smaller dose of associated traits appears critical to hatching innovations that change the world.