Being on the autism spectrum is often described as a feeling of being on "The Wrong Planet" So I'm wondering what the right planet might be like...

For those that are unfamiliar:

  • Social conventions aren't always obvious to the average person with Aspergers'
  • Non-verbal communication is often difficult. (Making eye contact and recognizing facial expressions)
  • Stimming is common.
  • Sensory issues are also somewhat common. (sensitivity to lights, sounds, textures)
  • There's some evidence of trouble with theory of mind
  • Highly specialized areas of interest are a key feature.

In my Completely Fictitious Scenario*, people with Aspergers' are an evolutionary result of over-specialization and are so good at specializing they eventually inherit the Earth.

What would this society look like? How would things function?

*(I really can't stress the fictitious part enough, way too many false theories on autism go mainstream...)

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ False theories on autism going mainstream? What ever could you mean? $\endgroup$ – KSmarts Feb 26 '15 at 16:18
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ How far on the spectrum would be ideal in this ficticious scenario? I'm probably somewhere on that spectrum (we probably all are), but not nearly to the degree of other people I've met. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Feb 26 '15 at 16:39
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @DaaaahWhoosh I'm not too sure, that's sort of a relative question. I've been diagnosed as "mild to moderately autistic", but that seems to be poorly defined, as far as diagnoses go. I guess I would say verbal, mostly functional, but obviously effected... Does that answer your question? $\endgroup$ – apaul Feb 27 '15 at 2:46
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ It would be wonderful, beautiful, poetic and bizarre. $\endgroup$ – superluminary May 20 '15 at 16:00
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ There seems to be a base logical issue with this concept - the idea of being on the 'wrong' planet stems from a lack of ability to understand and interpret communication signals provided by others. Even if you had a planet of people sharing the same atypical neurology, they will all still feel like they are on the wrong planet due to the fact that they still lack the development to understand each other's communications properly. They may build communal ways to resolve this, but it will always still feel wrong to communicate with others. $\endgroup$ – Edit Your Profile May 22 '15 at 16:36

As someone who also has Aspergers, and comes from a family of aspies, I can state with some certainty that aspies tend to pick a subject of interest, stick with it and become very good at it. That subject could be almost anything other than idle social interaction. My father is undiagnosed, but we have no doubt that he's an aspie, and his area of interest is gardening, specifically orchids, but any gardening interests him, so farming interests is not beyond the bounds of possibility.

So, we'd have a society of specialists. They'd probably achieve more than the neurotypicals ever did, as they would be driven by their obsessions, rather than wasting so much time engaging in frivolous chit chat. Conversations would be more goal-oriented - Aspies tend to like talking about their area of specialty, just not meaningless trivialities.

After quite some time in an aspie world, I predict that language will become more precise. Aspies tend to be quite pedantic, and can have a hard time accepting misspoken or ambiguous statements even when they know what the speaker should mean.

If Aspies inherit our world, then I predict that much communication would be via impersonal means such as texting or email, then telephone, and the last preference would be for face-to-face, except with friends and family.

Don't expect much telemarketing any more - an aspie would hate to cold-call someone, and if called by a telemarketer, would typically just hang up or say something rude. Any advertising would tend to appeal more to logic than emotion than is the case now.

You may still get wars; while aspies dislike direct conflict, there is no reason why wars might not be fought by proxy using drones and robots more than by aspies with guns. Why send a man to do a job that a robot can do better?

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ This sounds like it's what Gene Rodenberry was thinking when he came up with Vulcan. $\endgroup$ – user3294068 May 20 '15 at 20:56
  • $\begingroup$ As an undiagnosed aspie, I can say that this a huge part of the appeal of Star Trek to me. "Outsider" characters like Spock, Data, Seven of Nine, and Odo were always the highlights of the various series. $\endgroup$ – ApproachingDarknessFish Feb 2 '16 at 2:40
  • $\begingroup$ A couple of interesting disadvantages to the culture. If aspies don't learn to take interest in others' specializations, this could lead to blind-spots in their society. If you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail, so your awareness of other tools like saws and pliers is handy. And a surprising amount of this you pick up from idle chatter (it's really not very efficient, most of it is just noise). I think aspie infantry specialists would be important to the culture, as unsupported robots have various weaknesses (EMPs, etc). Could be a strong contender in a galactic war, all the same. $\endgroup$ – Johnny Dec 18 '17 at 9:19

Most people can be classified as Extrovert vs introvert. Extroverts tend to be more outgoing, expressive, and capable in the social domains. Most leaders tend to be extroverts...from team leads to management to political leadership.

Aspie's are pretty much introverts by definition. They tend to be the thinkers and workers, but struggle when it comes to human relations (for a variety of reasons...usually an inability to comprehend non-verbal queue's, though anxiety in general can come up here). Programmers and researchers tend to be introverts as they can reach highly specialized knowledge but tend not to share it readily.

So our Wrong World here is ultimately a world full of dreaming introverts. Stackexchange is actually a haven for Aspie's...English is a pretty exacting language and it's hard to interpret the same words in multiple ways (unlike human body language that can be interpreted in any number of ways). It's from behind a computer screen, which tends to negate the feelings of 'being judged' and allows the anxieties to play out in a personal space where they can be managed.

If I may speculate...I can see the internet social domain expanding heavily and starting to function at a governing level. Websites where people can post idea's, comments, answers, etc...and have the discussions on a non-personal and exacting level (Having multiple meanings to one thing and not being able to determine which of those meanings is correct can be a source of anxiety, so expect highly specific wording to avoid any of that). Arguments and conflicts still happen, but it tends to be relegated to the comfort of anonymous internet discussion.

The problem with this society is it becomes incredibly reliant on each other...no specialist can really exist without having a wide array of others to depend on. So you have people incredibly reliant with each other and the preference not to directly communicate with each other. If this highly specialized setup is disturbed, it tends to collapse with little ability to stop the fall.

The other issue that comes out here...the information industry is well suited to an Aspie. Horticulture (read that as gardening) and small scale manufacturing (artisan style) is also very well suited to Aspie's. Mass manufacturing and mass agriculture is not...high accuracy tasks that must be preformed repeatably as industry and farming requires are poorly suited to aspies (boredom and drifting mind issues hit here). You'd likely see a move away from the mass scale industries and more towards small scale 'cottage industry' type setups. Whether or not this can sustain the semi-fragile nature of this society is for more speculation.

End note - I'm a diagnosed Aspie. It presents as anxiety that comes up in non-familiar social situations and tends to make me seem quite and a bit withdrawn. I don't mean to offend anyone with this answer and would be interested to hear other peoples takes on it.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I agree 100%. I think the construction industry would also be greatly affected: I can imagine a bunch of brilliant architects but no one willing to build their ideas. Building would absolutely still happen, but on a much smaller scale. As such, I see a move away from big cities; why live in a densely-populated city anyway? $\endgroup$ – Seth May 20 '15 at 16:45

After giving this a bit more thought, I think a "Wrong Planet" would differ quite a bit from person to person...

Here's a bit of what my world would be like in no particular order:

  • Nepotism would be a thing of the past
    • Replaced by Meritocracy.
  • The fashion industry, would dramatically shift towards comfortable, functional attire.
    • The tuxedo would be a distant memory.
  • Florescent lighting would be carefully maintained, or replaced with lights that are less likely to flicker or hum.
  • Naming conventions would lean more toward meaningful descriptive titles or sequential numbers.
    • No more silly items on restaurant menus...
      • "Rooty tooty fresh and fruity" would just be: "Pancakes with fruit and whipped cream".
      • "Big Mac" would just be: "Standard Hamburger" or "Basic Hamburger"
    • 1st Street rather than <insert important person> Street.
  • Being efficient would be favored over being friendly in customer service situations.
  • Advertising would be purely informative.
    • "Product X has new feature Y" Full stop.
  • Education would be tailored to the student rather than to an average.
    • Expect a lot more online learning and self-education.
  • "Big Box stores" would largely be replaced by markets filled with independently owned and operated, highly specialized, artisanal shops.
  • Robotics would become a major industry.
    • Most manual labor would be done by robots.
  • The metric system would replace imperial measurement.
    • Except for pints, beer would still come in a proper pint glass.
  • Personal space would be a standard measured distance.
  • People would be expected to ask permission before hugging, shaking hands, etc. with unfamiliar people.
  • Turn signals would have a standard blink rate.
  • News media would change significantly.
    • News organizations that presented opinions as facts would be fined.
      • Not eliminating opinion pieces altogether, but opinion pieces would have to run with a disclaimer.
    • Retractions and corrections would have to receive as much, if not more, airtime or print copy as the original piece being corrected.
  • Most "small talk" would be eliminated.
  • Public transportation would run on time.
  • White collar crime would carry the same sorts of penalties as regular crime.
  • Long rambling lists would become a highly respected poetic form.

As a side note, I think a lot of people underestimate the diversity of interests that Aspies engage in. The idea that aspies are only interested in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) is a misconception. My wife for instance is an amazing sculptor and visual artist.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Either your idea of a Big Mac or your idea of a standard hamburger seems off. Most standard hamburgers don't include a 3rd piece of bun in my experience. $\endgroup$ – SnoringFrog Jul 17 '15 at 17:40
  • $\begingroup$ @SnoringFrog True... That was intended to speak to personal issue with silly naming conventions. $\endgroup$ – apaul Jul 17 '15 at 21:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I like your planet. Even though I'm not autistic. Let's move things gradually in that direction. $\endgroup$ – Wildcard Dec 11 '16 at 23:27

It would be wonderful place full of interesting people quietly going about doing poetic beautiful things.

However, there would be issues with practical matters such as: where will all the food come from, where are we going to live, who is going to do all the manual work, who will go down the sewer and fix the blocked drain, etc.

I like computers, my son likes chess, neither of us is going to be much good at running a large scale food production facility. Neither of us could co-ordinate contractors to build a housing estate. Neither of us could administrate a university, or organise a conference, or even throw a successful party.

I predict a wrong planet would be amazing for about a month, then everyone would starve or be eaten by polar bears. There's a reason AS genetics are in the minority.

  • $\begingroup$ Unless everyone is literally living inside computers. Have you thought about those possibilities? $\endgroup$ – Wildcard Dec 11 '16 at 23:27

I think you would find that a good many things, like those social conventions that are supposedly obvious to 'normies', would be taught instead of leaving them to be deduced. Likewise, more people would actually say what they mean instead of expecting others to guess - and the normies would just have to learn to deal with that.

We might also expect (assuming we're starting from current society) more stringent light & noise pollution laws. Tossing a hand grenade into a boom car (one of my passing fantasies) would be seen as a laudable act, rather than a crime.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.