The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum by Dr. Temple Grandin (Full Transcript)

8Well, I was just down at JPL yesterday. And if you want to work at JPL all day and play video games at night, I don’t have a problem with that. What I’m getting concerned about is the kid that’s getting addicted to video games and they’re not getting a job at JPL. That concerns me very, very much. And so he was bullied. And then when he went to work for Atari, he was such a filthy slob they made him come in at night. No, being a filthy slob’s not okay. And there’s a scene in the movie where they slam down a deodorant and they said, “You stink. Use it.” That actually happened. This is where bosses are going to just have to give some instruction on how to behave at work. And being an absolutely filthy, dirty slob I don’t think is going to be very acceptable here either. It’s just too gross.

Now I like to look at personality differences sort of like a music mixing board. It’s not black and white. If I get a diagnosis for tuberculosis, that’s definite. I either got tuberculosis or I don’t. Or I’ve either had tuberculosis or I didn’t. So when I check the Australian customs form, which I did two months ago, I can check “I have never had tuberculosis.” That’s definite. When you see autism, that’s a much more gray area.

Geeks and nerds, when does that turn into mild autism? No black or white dividing line. It’s a continuous trait. And if you got rid of this trait completely, you won’t have any new employees. It’s just that simple.

Now I am a total visual thinker. I think in photo-realistic pictures. I don’t think in words. So when I think about designing something, I can test run it and see it in my head in 3D. Before 3D virtual reality computer programs were invented, I could sit in a conference room and they could try stuff. And I could say, well yeah, if you do that, that’s not going to work.

And you might wonder why is the chute curved? Well, as the cattle come on around the bend, they think they’re going back to where they came from. And that’s one of the reasons why that works. I always get asked all the time questions like, do cows know they’re going to get slaughtered? I had to answer that question very early in my career. And I found they behaved exactly the same way at a slaughter plant as they behaved going up a chute for the veterinarian. It’s not stress free. But the amount of stress they have in both of those places is approximately the same.

In fact, I just updated that literature for my class slides and it’s still the same. They tell us to do blood samples in both places. Yeah, it can vary from very little stress to higher stress, but it’s about the same in the two different places. Well, when you’re a weird geek, one of the things I’ve found is that the way that I had to sell myself was by showing off my work. You sell your work rather than yourself. So I put portfolios together. Okay, I’d say the quality of this projector’s about medium good. I’ve had ones where it’s shown up better than this.

Now the thing is when I first started out, I’d go to the AG engineering meeting and they thought I was really weird. No one wanted to talk to me. And then I whipped out a big foldout drawing. Then I started to get respect. That’s selling your work. And the thing I learned about my portfolio, you want to make a portfolio where someone looks at it and 30 seconds later it’s “wow!” Don’t put too much junk in a portfolio. You just put enough stuff in there so look at it really quickly, wow this person really can do some stuff.

Now I used to joke around that I had huge internet access to my visual cortex. Well, turns out I’ve got a pretty big circuit there. And that’s probably in the top 10% or so of circuits going from the frontal cortex all the way deep to the back of the visual cortex where the graphics files are stored.

Now Walter Schneider at the University of Pittsburgh has a new scanning technology, which I’m sure some Asperger people had to develop the computer to enable this scanner to track white matter fibers. So your brain’s got the gray matter on the outside. And the inside of the brain is all white matter, big long axons that go all the way across the brain that form cable bundles. And this new technology can actually dissect out the cable bundles. It can tell the difference between a bridge that cross each other or an intersection. And that took a lot of computer power, and they can fit it inside a box that Walter can pick up. And so I’m an associative thinker, so start thinking about that song. You can get eight great tomatoes in that itty-bitty can. That’s an ancient old ad for tomato sauce. So that came up. You can get lots of computing in an itty-bitty box. That’s sort of how my mind works.

Okay, now this is the cable bundle for speak what you see. And it goes from the visual cortex up to the language area. That’s the normal one. And that’s mine. And those branches, you can see they’ve been truncated there on that rendering, they actually go all over the brain. So I basically have got a search engine — it’s a lot like Google for images – where you type in keywords and I get lots of pictures. And they are specific! The thing I find so fascinating about search engines is they work just like how my mind works.

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