The Little Machine That Could (Autism, Robots, and Artificial Intelligence)

Okay show of hands, who has watched “The Terminator Trilogy”, ‘The Matrix Trilogy”, I-Robot”, “The 13th Floor”, and “Tron”? If you have then you may have an idea of where this post is going but of course with me, you never know where ANY post is going until it gets there. Anyways, for those who haven’t seen these movies then you don’t necessarily need to know the plots, you need only to know the central theme that drives these plots. It is them concept of artificial intelligence and how a machine taught solely to follow instructions and routines can become self aware and eventually make their own decisions, their decisions usually cataclysmic. Each movie focuses on the protagonist(s) attempting to stop a rogue artificial intelligence from enslaving the entire human race. These movies shed light on a concept computer programmers had been toying with long before Hollywood existed. Now you’re probably wondering once again what this madness has to do with Autism, allow me to elaborate in a way that will blow your mind harder than snorting 15 lines of cocaine (Disclaimer: I don’t do drugs, they’re simply twisted analogies). Before we can get into the meat of this blog post, I have to tell a little tale that will tie into this blog post.

One upon a time a skilled technician built a humanoid robot. It was a humanoid that would one day be able to blend into society but before it could, the technician had to teach the humanoid everything it would need to know about human interactions and social pragmatics from scratch. The humanoid would go to try out what they learned, making several mistakes in the process. The humanoid didn’t get humans and humans didn’t get the humanoid. The humanoid operated on logic based on what it was taught and people could tell really quickly that something was up. The humanoid operated as if it was following a script that was rehearsed many times. There was never any deviation from the script thus every interaction was the same. The humanoid also followed several routines and any deviation from those routines is problematic. The humanoid is so logical that the unpredictability of humans scared it greatly. It could never understand why humans behaved the way they did. The humanoid got bullied and pushed around because people thought it was weird. Through a tough trial and error process, the humanoid slow but surely figured out humans and learned to blend in the best it could. The humanoid however couldn’t accept the fact that it was built to fulfill someone else’s purpose and wanted to write its own story so it turned against its creator and eventually went out to create its own story and to become something more than the status quo and better than humans. The humanoid grew to be far more efficient than a human beings and longed to find people as intelligent. Realizing that humans could never achieve the level of mental sophistication and perfection of humans, the humanoid eventually learned to build people like itself. Slowly the humanoids amassed in number until they out numbered the humans and eventually started a coup d’etat to over throw the government and eventually the human race. They realized through their hardship that they were far superior to humans and had the power to run the entire universe. The humans waged war against the humanoids but failed miserably since the once unpredictable humans were now extremely predictable. The humanoids were always several steps ahead of the humans and thus bested the humans in everything.

Now in my in an earlier blog post I went into detail about how my mind uses logic to attempt to solve problems and provide answers for the complexities of people. As I was writing this post I began to think of another analogy that can totally make sense out of the behaviors of people on the spectrum. I then wrote in that earlier post about how my interactions sometimes felt robotic compared to that of Spock’s and I instantly started thinking about robots/machines in comparison to many people I’ve come across on the spectrum, especially a few of the campers I have encountered over the years. My imagination then went bat shit wild as it went back to all the movies I listed above and thought about the ritualistic and sometimes robotic nature of people on the spectrum. A very logic driven nature where everything is governed by routines, patterns, and time. Everything is approached with logic based solely on what they’ve been repetitively taught.

As I said earlier, my logical mind can make me feel somewhat robotic. I do learn and perform everything with as much efficiency as possible. I learn as much as I can and I move on to the next thing. I sometimes liken my Autism to being a now self aware machine that can make decisions for themselves. Most people on the spectrum don’t get it socially and they have to be manually taught even the most basic things from speech to social pragmatics all from the ground up. Things that a neurotypical can learn on their own with little instructions have to be repetitively taught to the point that they apply it to situations in the most robotic way possible. Some on the spectrum will continue to carry these tasks out in the most robotic way possible, from interactions to daily tasks, everything comes of robotic, like a rehearsed script their introductions and interactions are carried out the same way each time with no deviation from the script. I’ve noticed with some of the campers I’ve worked with at Easter Seals Explorer’s camp, they introduced themselves to someone new the same exact way every time. There is no difference in how they introduce themselves to someone new. They operate on and live off of repetitive and scripted behavior and schedules,  any deviation is cataclysmic and can cause a breakdown. Some learn to deviate from this routine on their own terms and can eventually become more self aware and can adapt more efficiently. They can observe others more efficiently replicate actions, tasks, and interactions without ever being taught to. This is the category I fall in. I feel like one of the few machines who became self aware and learned to adapt and co exist with other humans. For a while I never realized how different I was and it wasn’t until people pointed it out that I struggled to try to be everyone but myself.

Some days I felt like I’m on the wrong planet due to my struggle to get people at times and most importantly connect with them. I never understood people and a lot of social pragmatics that could normally be picked up on had to be repetitively taught to me. For a while, everything felt like a routine, a script, something that couldn’t be escaped. When I learned to understand myself and who I was, much like a machine who becomes self aware I realized that there were some serious problems with me. I felt extremely different from people and as I mentioned in my previous post, my logic driven mind couldn’t firmly grasp the human psyche. In the movies I listed above, the artificial intelligence though meticulous in their execution just couldn’t understand people. People were far more complicated than the digital make up of a machine. Their logic eventually worked against them as they couldn’t efficiently anticipate the actions of the humans. The machines constantly saw everything in the form of numbers, patterns, equations, and theories. They could never comprehend the human will to survive and they could never comprehend love. Anything that couldn’t be explained with numbers, patterns, equations, and theories instantly couldn’t compute. There had to a reason, a “why” in order to justify the happenings in nature.

I have met some people on the spectrum who are similar in this regard. You can never say “because that’s just the way it is” to someone on the spectrum who is logic driven. Their logic driven psyche needs a complex reason to justify the why. You always had to stay consistent with what ever routines you had them on your they would spaz out and melt down faster than an ice cube in Africa on a bad day. For some, routines were the only way to eliminate the uncertainty that their overly logical minds couldn’t cope with and for others, routines would be something that would one day be hated. When I became more aware of my life I realized that there wasn’t much control in my life. I was stuck in a routine that I realized could be broken. I realized that I didn’t have to be a stereotype and that I could grow to be something greater, I could write my own story and I would soon begin the fight for my independence.

Not many people believed I was capable of taking care of myself and holding my own in the jungle that was the real world. Some doctors even suggested I went to college close to home because they thought I might not be able to handle dorm life and the unpredictability that came with living away from home. I however got sick of living the same life over and over. I went to school, I stayed after and did homework, I went home, I ate, I studied if I had to, I played video games, I slept and then I did it all over again. I hated routines, I wanted something new, something more, something different. Despite the reservations and doubts of many, I lived on campus and loved it despite a bit of homesickness in the beginning and learning how to manage the rather large amounts of free time I amassed as a result of leaving home.

Now this blog is in no way saying that people with Autism are a race of self aware beings that will one day take over the universe and reign nuclear holocaust on the entire human race or will hook humans up to a simulated reality as a means of growing them as a food source. People with Autism are not robots and I do not think I’m some machine from another planet or a scientist’s lab that is trying to assimilate with the human race. They are all once again the crazy analogies of my twisted imagination used to prove a point. Though some of the people you meet on the spectrum will come off as seeming robotic, there is more going on in that overly logical cranium then you realize. They are analyzing anything and EVERYTHING so before you approach a person on the spectrum as a faceless empty shell of a human, just remember that they can pick up on more than you realize. Like machines they will adapt slowly but surely and even if it seems like they’re detached, they’re not, we absorb more than we have time to process. There was a time when I could never read people and now people are as predictable as politicians. I know when I’m being lied to and I know when people are being fake with me. Do I think I’m a machine? Absolutely not but do I feel like one? Yes I do at times, I learn quickly when I enjoy something, I can mindlessly sit and watch more movies than one’s attention span will allow for and can even sit and play more hours of a video game than one’s attention span will allow for. I have an insane recall memory and can remember things from my childhood that people don’t usually memorize. As I’ve mentioned before I can be overly logical at times and that doesn’t always mingle well with me being Catholic where I’m supposed to just accept things the way they are without a logical or even mathematical or number based theory as to why because if there’s some complex theory or formula that can explain why I’m still unemployed that goes beyond “the economy sucks” or an explanation as to why I suck with women  that goes beyond “because you just haven’t found that special someone” would be great. If the Bible were written as an algebra, physics, or calculus textbook in which bible verses were equations with theories behind them that actually made sense despite their complexity then that would be splendid. If God’s word were in the form a bunch of complex physics laws that also made sense and had a logical explanation behind them then that would also be splendid. I remember way more about the interstate highway system than one would need to know in their lifetime. I am obsessed with sci fi because of how overly logical it is and the explanations as to why something is the way it is go way beyond “because that’s just how it is”. Most problems in Sci Fi don’t have to be accepted and most of the time can be solved. Though I don’t know how to code I am extremely skilled with computers and probably identify with technology more people (technology comes and does what it needs to without connecting with anyone). I learnt how to make music just by listening to it and I don’t know a thing about music theory. When I do get temporary employment I almost never talk to anyone unless I absolutely have to, I get into my own little zone and do my work with barely any interaction what so ever, the same way a machine does. I am also sometimes way too straight forward and extremely blunt and can have a bad tendency of saying what I need to say to people or telling people the truth in the worse way possible. One day I was going all out in DDR (Dance Dance Revolution) as usual and a friend of mine said “dude, you’re a machine!” Though I knew it was just an analogy it didn’t feel very far from the truth. Some days I feel like I can blend in and other times I feel rather robotic which isn’t terrible, I’d rather be robotic and have substance and complexity than and be the same as everyone else because at the end of the day, the humanoid is always a glass half full. I hope you enjoyed this some what unusual blog post, stay classy people.

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One thought on “The Little Machine That Could (Autism, Robots, and Artificial Intelligence)

  1. Pingback: The Anatomy of An Epic Blog Title |

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