163 Comments
Jun 8Liked by Ruxandra Teslo

There's a lot of discussion about how academia is being "feminized", with too much focus on emotional safety and conformity. People talk about it like it's being forced on academia from somewhere else, but I think this article is right that it's a natural consequence of how funding and administration have changed. Funding agencies now are very focused on large, interdisciplinary, collaborative projects, with the idea that this complexity will make the work more innovative. These projects take a certain level of soft skills to manage, and I suspect the money involved makes agencies gravitate to "safe" projects, since they don't want to have to explain to the government why they wasted millions on high-risk, high-reward ideas that didn't pan out. It can be very hard to tell whether a Weird Nerd is a genius or a crank. Universities are also more bureaucratic now and demand more faculty involvement in cooperative, non-intellectual tasks - terrible for Weird Nerds, great for agreeable, conscientious people (aka women). This has probably created a positive feedback loop, where as norms get more feminine, academia attracts more women, who make norms even more feminine, etc.

However, I also suspect that many academics welcomed the initial push to these norms because "Weird Nerds" can come with a lot of conflict and drama of their own. I'm talking departments where half the members wouldn't speak to each other, screaming matches and throwing chairs in the audience at conferences, even a fistfight between an advisor and student - all stories about men from my field 30+ years ago, when women were still rare. The conflict and drama has a different flavor now, but I think academia has always been kind of unstable and dysfunctional, and people are being naive to think it would return to some rational golden age if we just got rid of all the women.

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The bureaucratization and wokeization problems in academia are real, but I think it's too facile to blame them on women specifically.

As for Weird Nerds, you definitely don't want them as tenured faculty in your dept because they cause immense headaches when they mistreat students (genuinely, not the modern made-up snowflake stuff) and won't do the things they need to do to keep the place functioning. Weird Nerds are best kept working on soft money, which allows them to spend all their time in the lab and not fuck up the other duties they would have as tenured faculty. Or, they can get much the same deal (and a lot more money) in industry. This is exactly the path of Kariko's career (justly or unjustly in her case, I can't say).

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Jun 8Liked by Ruxandra Teslo

Being Weird and mistreating people aren't the same thing, though: there are plenty of people who come across a quite normal, with reasonable social intelligence, who mistreat people badly....and plenty of weird people who don't.

Social intelligence can be used for ill as well as for good.

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Jun 9·edited Jun 9

This is an underrated point. One's social intelligence and one's kindness (as in genuine kindness, not to be confused with socially appropriate behavior) should be decoupled. There are both socially adept kind people and toxic people, and there are both socially inept kind people and toxic people. Toxic people shouldn't be tolerated in any workplace regardless of their social ability - their drawbacks in terms of destroying morale and causing turnover outweigh benefits gained from their "genius" in most cases. At the very least, those types cannot be trusted with any supervisory or managerial role.

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Alas, it cannot fully be. Unkind but socially apt people understand there are consequences to mistreating people and usually do not do it, only when they think they can get away with it and would draw a big benefit from it. Kind but socially inept people often do not understand what offends other people. They hear "all consensual sex is okay" and interpret it as asking random strangers for a fuck.

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Yeah I agree here. A lot of the social climbing stuff I didn’t want to participate in was about undermining others and dishonesty. Being awkward and more interested in your subject than in social status is not the same thing as engaging in antisocial behavior.

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That's a good point, and as Spruce says skillful sociopaths may actually do more damage when success metrics load more heavily on social skills.

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Totally understand where you’re coming from on this. Being true to yourself is important.

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Indeed. If you're the head of some department, you get the brief to cut down on mistreatment and you implement it by getting rid of the weird people - you're not only doing the wrong thing (and potentially being discriminatory) and risk running your organisation into the ground if you get rid of your best people, but you're also walking right into the trap of the high-social intelligence abusers. The most dangerous ones are exactly the ones who can say "Abusive? Me? Surely not - I'm not one of those weird people over there." and have the charisma and skills to get away with it.

These are also the people who are far more likely to be able to pull a "She's just overreacting and being emotional" excuse, which would work far less well coming from a low-social-status weird person who clearly has problems with social norms themselves. And yet this excuse in some form seems to come every. single. time.

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Sure, evaluation of social intelligence is as imperfect as anything else. But ignore it in faculty candidates at the peril of having to constantly clean up after them.

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Absolutely. I'm just saying that don't assume that a bit of awkwardness versus smoothness is necessarily a good indicator of how many of those issues you'll see with a person. Hopefully, references who have worked w/the person before can help give you some idea.

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That's a good point about soft money. I think the most concerning part of her story is how intellectually cliquey funding agencies have become - if most of the field has already decided your idea won't work, then you'll never get funding to try, so fields can end up stuck. (Some people think Alzheimer's research is an example). At the same time, this is also how agencies are supposed to filter out cranks (or just plain old bad ideas). Is Kariko's career really a case of science being too focused on politics and soft skills? Or being too focused on "safe" research, with an overzealous crank filter? Maybe the solution is more lower-stakes pilot grants to see if high-risk high-rewards projects that go against the existing consensus can make any headway.

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Yes, I would like to see the agencies do much less micromanaging. Universities have responded to the chicken-and-egg question for new asst profs by handing out multi-million dollar start-up packages, which did not used to be a thing, because back in the day you could get a grant on a wing and a prayer. But those days are gone. I believe the current system is stifling true innovation as well as wasting huge amounts of everyone’s time and effort on writing and evaluating proposals. If proposal evaluation actually worked, the experiments would not need to be done!

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I agree! I'd like to see a system that makes proposals shorter (5 pages tops) and limits each PI to 1 or 2 per year to avoid spamming with weak ideas. Then reduce the burden on reviewers by having them sort them into some top percentile (50, 25%) and just pick from that pool with a lottery system. Reduce the enormous amount of time wasted on 15, 20 page proposals (and gobs of supplementary docs) and on going over all this material with a fine-tooth comb.

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I'd go further and have funding for established faculty (6 years past first hire) contingent on past results, not at all on proposals. New faculty just get funded for 6 years period. Funding levels adjusted based on results, not on wild-ass claims about the glorious future.

In the olden days, you didn't need detailed proposals, just general ideas of what you wanted to do. "How do I know what I am going to do before I do it?" was one memorable comment I heard when this started to change.

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What would you define as the “modern made-up snowflake stuff”?

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She may be channeling Richard Hanania here: https://www.richardhanania.com/p/womens-tears-win-in-the-marketplace

Quite a few of the Weird Nerds probably did harass women, either out of an attempt to drive them out or general social clumsiness. (Dr. Teslo was clever in picking Kariko as her exemplar.) That's no longer considered an acceptable price for keeping geniuses around. Whether it should be or not depends on your values. (There *are* some ridiculous cases, like the guy who landed the rocket on the moon and got in trouble for wearing the pinup-girl shirt his wife made for him on TV.) We probably won't know how important it is on a civilizational level until 50 years from now when we know if we've been leapfrogged by the Chinese (who, after all, are pretty good at cultivating intellect).

There *is* a small group of women who actually benefited from having things the old way; I've heard from a few spectrum-y women who said they had an easier time getting through sexism about their abilities than playing the usual indirect female social games. But they're rare.

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Yeah, that's another reason I think some of this shift was healthy and welcome in academia. I don't think we should go back to the days of turning a blind eye to sexual harassment or abuse of students. But, I think we've swung too far, where we're getting rid of due process for the accused and the new model for advising students is to emotionally support them into productivity. In my experience, older female professors, who probably did deal with a lot of sexism, are almost always tough as nails and very much the Weird Nerd archetype.

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It's precisely that kind of instability and fistfighting that we need to return to

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Eh, environments where people get in literal fights or give each other the silent treatment for years are also dysfunctional. There's a happy medium.

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Nah, bc usually the winners are just the loudest or the ones who get the most allies, which has little to do with who has the most promising work

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"War is the father of all, the king of all"

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It makes for a cool quote, but if you tried to give your coworkers a years-long silent treatment, your company would fire you. And for good reason - your personal drama would be making the entire enterprise less productive.

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Precisely my point. Academia is increasingly run like a company and not as it should be like a thunderdome for hyperintelligent weirdoes.

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Academics are not ronin, they work for universities or research institutes. They have to be functional enough to carry out the responsibilities of the institution on top of their other work.

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We don’t need to get rid of the women. We need to point them in a better direction.

Among the many things a good administrator can do is find, nurture, protect, and promote talent. A mediocre manager will arrange things to make their own lives easier, not necessarily to further the mission.

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Administrators don't have much to do with hiring in academia, though. People are mostly being evaluated by their future colleagues, and there's an incentive not to hire someone who seems like they're going to be a pain in the ass for the next 30 years.

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I get the impression that they have veto powers. They can also force faculty _out_.

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Administration has to approve of candidates, but if someone has a strong record and the department wants them, it would be hard for admin to argue against them. It's also very hard to get rid of people for being too agreeable - by definition, they haven't done anything wrong, it's just that too many agreeable people can stifle innovation. (Too many disagreeable people can stifle innovation, too, if they take conflicting ideas personally and make it absolutely radioactive to publish anything disagreeing with them).

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I don't quite agree that the group pushing out the weird nerds are "Failed Corporatist" types. The shift I observe is that there are now a lot of "Successful Corporatists" who could easily have elite careers in finance or consulting, who pursue science because they prefer it.

Imagine someone who, at the end of their undergraduate degree, made a choice between an offer from McKinsey or FAANG (depending on the type of person) and an offer from a top 10 PhD program in their field. They are sociable and good at networking. They have normal, legible hobbies: perhaps moderately skilled at a musical instrument, likely athletic and pursuing an endurance sport in a serious but not competitive way. No one would say they are a genius but they have solid ideas, pursue them well, and are very competent and pleasant to work with. And they never have the "basket case" type of problems you get where the Weird Nerds just sometimes fail to do their jobs.

I think this is an increasingly common type of person, who is very attractive to recruit. They are not just politicians, they can actually be very good scientists. But you get enough of them, and the environment does become very neurotypical.

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Yes, and that is something I mentioned to Rux in one of my comments to the “Flight of the Weird Nerd from Academia” piece. The people displacing weird nerds in STEM are better across the board in terms of ability and are actually often good scientists too, if not among the very best. They could have easily succeeded in other fields. And these types (not necessarily going into STEM, but successful corporatists in general, though this is also true in STEM) are the norm at most elite institutions and it was one of the key factors behind my poor mental health as an undergrad as I felt inferior to them (I could compete with them academically but not socially).

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Varies a lot by type of science. you can do high quality incremental science. at the tails originality still important.

I have a lot of friends who are very talented who are going into start-ups and really imagining new things there. Many will fail. But if 10% succeed, they will have a lot of impact. A lot of tail end outcomes are coming from tech start-ups, mostly led by Weird Nerds. sure, there are very competent programmers who make Google work, but again, those are not the same people.

Probably Weird Nerdness even more important in fields like Humanities and Social Science, where imo "incremental research" is even less valuable.

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Jun 9·edited Jun 9

My strategy was to learn how to kiss butt well enough to survive, work twice as hard, give up on romance (since the risk of a harassment accusation from a failed pass was too high), and pick a career with a high enough income I could retire early (won't say what, I'm being controversial here ;) ).

It kind of worked. I'm in my mid-40s and could theoretically retire to a middle-class lifestyle at this point, though I'm not sure what I would do with the remaining 30-40 years. Kind of blew the family formation thing, though. Arguably it's a form of societal eugenics that focuses on social skills rather than economic productivity.

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If family formation is important to you, it probably isn't too late. I'm also in my mid-40s, and in a similar financial position to you. My firstborn is about a year old, and I'm expecting my second in ~half a year.

But you do need to prioritize it highly; this includes finding ways to manage or work around harassment-accusation and similar risks.

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Jun 9·edited Jun 9

I had this argument back on Astral Codex Ten--I specifically sought out a pronatalist site to steelman the case for kids--and decided against it for a variety of reasons. But thanks for thinking of me.

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Human kittens require a lot of energy, something the average mid-40s human dude does not have too much of.

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Fair enough.

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When you look at the biographies of various scientists you quickly find out that they were anything but "normal". I sincerely doubt the neurotypical successful people can actually make good scientists, let alone great ones.

Everybody likes them because they project a nice image but when you start looking into them you see everything is surface level and there is not much where they are actually good enough to make a big impact.

Being in the leading group is not very useful if you can't convert and get a win at some point.

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I'm pretty sure the main purpose of universities over the past century or two has been to groom the upper class into this kind of person.

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Jun 10·edited Jun 10

I remember reading a couple of tweet threads by Maeve Park about "high value men" and "high value women" in the context of dating (https://x.com/PMeadhbh/status/1650923016925093897 https://x.com/PMeadhbh/status/1650875094401466369), and it describes the "successful corporatist" type very well. The vast majority of the people I met in my undergrad (non-Ivy elite private) were this type of "high value" person! I felt like complete and utter trash while I was there because I was an autistic weird nerd and what they had (at least my level of academic success but also social success on top of that) was unattainable for me. Things got a bit better for me socially when I did my PhD, because those types were only a fraction of my cohort, but my PhD wasn't at an elite institution but at a merely solid/good state flagship and I'd imagine a more elite university would be more dominated by successful corporatists. The thing with them is that they are flat-out superior across the board for all of the metrics that people use for selection processes. Most came from rich/privileged families (I didn't), were neurotypical, didn't have traumatic unstable upbringings (I did), had acceptable hobbies (largely because their families had the money for them), etc. and most likely have better mental health than I did.

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Jun 10·edited Jun 10

Yes, but they are extremely boring and never quite find much that could be valuable because all they have been doing their entire life is just doing what they were told to, just better than most.

I think those people are cancer to any group that actually tries to change stuff.

If all you need is to keep the statuts quo alive and well they are well suited but the thing about science is that it's basically the opposite of that...

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I have never been able to do the glad-handing back slapping bullshitting thing myself. I don't like it and I am not good at it.

What I did was found a niche where I was the only cat who could do what I do. Humans don't have to like me, they never have and they never will, but they do need me.

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Jun 9·edited Jun 9Liked by Ruxandra Teslo

I am really appreciating your Substack overall and the series of essays around this particular issue resonates so much!

It seems like a lot of people are interpreting Weird Nerd to mean someone with abysmal social skills or even antisocial behavior, when I took what you wrote to mean people less adept at marketing themselves, ladder climbing, and navigating social-political games. Qualities typically associated with corporate or political success that were less important in academia until recently.

I have known plenty of people who fit the Weird Nerd category, who are socially awkward, but not unkind, and not bad teachers or collaborators and not even bad managers. Oppenheimer (based on his depiction in the movie) comes to mind here as a Weird Nerd who had the soft skills needed to manage other Weird Nerds, but didn’t have the social acumen to navigate cut throat political games. While there are degrees some Weird Nerds with unacceptable levels of social skills, IMHO not all Weird Nerds are completely inept in every social dimension, but perhaps are especially inept in the dimensions needed to get ahead in very socially competitive environments.

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thanks! Yes, I mostly referred to Weird Nerds who are not toxic -- and I think Kariko is one of them.

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Agreed. There is a difference between someone who is merely socially awkward and not good at playing politics versus someone who is toxic to colleagues. And the latter is often not a weird nerd at all, but a narcissistic self-promoter who can and often do get ahead.

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I think Oppie may have been average in his social skills, or a Weird Nerd who worked on it very hard--let's not forget these aren't your average office politics he flopped at, but dealing with the legislative body of the world's most powerful nation. There are some A-1 operators there!

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Oppenheimer may also have gotten sucked into the cult of the Left. Communism is a toxic cult.

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You know, one of the things that movie crystallized for me was the reason so many of those scientists got into the Communist party.

Guy gets a girlfriend and a wife out of it. Whatever they may have convinced themselves about the new world they were building, how many were trying to get laid?

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Writing as an elderly academic biologist, I have a couple of comments on what you write, besides that it's a well-written essay that accurately identifies some serious issues.

First, while your tone of confidence enhances the reader's enjoyment, not everything you say is necessarily correct (though I'm inclined to agree). How rare, really, is "genius"? It depends on definitions, but it implies a model that may be inaccurate: It seems to me that genius in contemporary STEM is overrated. Indeed, I suggest that it is precisely its incremental nature that has allowed "hard" science as a body of knowledge to make such spectacular advances over the past 3 centuries. Galileo and Newton were perhaps crucial, but I'd say mainly because this was the dawn of contemporary scientific thought, and a few really awesome "breakthroughs" were required for people to accept that this was a new and important way of thinking. Kariko made really important contributions, but while a practical mRNA vaccine might not have been ready for this pandemic without her, (leading to greater loss of life) the technology surely would have been perfected eventually.

Second, I'm not sure whether "soft" academic pursuits can be evaluated through the same lens. I don't understand modern physics, but don't doubt that contemporary physicists understand a lot that 19th century physicists didn't, and much of that new understanding is really important. I'm not at all sure that (for example) the literary criticism of 2024 is in any meaningful way superior to that of the 1800s.

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I think saying "genius in contemporary STEM is overrated" is probably accurate, but not True. I'm sure you're right that Kariko's work would have been reproduced without her eventually, but she's just a very visible example of someone who "succeeded" in proving her worth just in time to not be totally forced out/forgotten. But there are so many different types of barriers to weird nerds that I don't think we can/should try to use her as the paradigmatic example. There are so many significant problems in the "pipeline" to get "potential geniuses" into a position where they would thrive that I don't even know how would could get an "accurate" measure of what progress is possible. Especially since many of those problems aren't specific to academia, but to funded research in general (IRBs, progress reports, etc.). Obviously, those things serve a purpose; equally obvious is that they deter some types of research and researchers. But, if we had 20 institutions that operated more like Bell Labs or Xerox PARC did in their heyday, employing/protecting/enabling the weird nerds who don't fit in elsewhere, I strongly suspect we'd see a great deal more Progress than we currently do. Especially when you consider the feedback loops between one genius unlocking another's potential.

Just to get back to Newton, the fact that he was able to make seminal advances to mathematical (calculu)s, experimental (optics), and conceptual (universal gravitation) physics is really the kind of thing I just can't account for without acknowledging "genius" as a real thing. Yes, it was easier to make big impacts when Science was young, but John Von Neumann was probably of a similar intellect (~all his contemporaries agreed he was a genius and probably the smartest living human at the time), and he was able to make similar huge contributions in a variety of fields (including founding several "new" ones). The fact that Von Neumann probably would not have made it in today's academia makes me worry we might be underrating the importance of genius to real progress.

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You don’t think Von Neumann would have made it today?

It may have taken the specifically mathematically nurturing environment of interwar Hungary to have brought out his genius at such a young age. But given that, if you had plopped him in the Princeton of today vs that of the 1930s, he would have still been a successful genius with multiple contributions (of course, the counterfactual world without von Neumann at that point is hard to figure). But he was a very successful player of the academic political game, actually. He would probably have to be more woke than his innate preference, but so it goes, it’s not the end of the world.

Would that we could recreate the mathematically nurturing environment of interwar Hungary, though! A very high rate of geniuses per capita emerged from there.

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It was the doing of one teacher, not a whole environment: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L%C3%A1szl%C3%B3_R%C3%A1tz

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Yup. An exceptional teacher. Though I would say one who would flounder in most modern school systems. His being empowered to reform math instruction in Hungary was quite exceptional too.

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One of the issues you raise is how to nurture genius. Good question, probably many different answers. I don't think there's any kind of conspiracy, but it's human nature to admire people for many reasons, including social skills, physical appearance, self-confidence, etc. Plenty of weird nerds with huge potential are getting lost, but I'm not sure the problem is worse than it was in the past.

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"while a practical mRNA vaccine might not have been ready for this pandemic without her, (leading to greater loss of life) the technology surely would have been perfected eventually"

Can you please elaborate? Would it have required somebody to spend another decade trying to pursue tenure and office politicking to then assign a few underlings to pursue mRNA vaccines? What if they don't get tenure or grants?

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I know a medium amount about the mRNA story. It's far from my professional expertise, but a couple of years ago I took a close look at the literature. My gut feeling is that it would have taken maybe another 2 years (one never really knows about these things, could be more or less). Kaneko wasn't the only person interested in the problem, and while there were some formidable difficulties in making it work, she wasn't the only person who did essential preliminary work.

To respond more directly to your point, yes it might have required a lot more time to get a decent mRNA vaccine, and yes, it would have been nice if NIH and other funding agencies had been more willing to invest more heavily in development of that technology. But the notion that she was *essential* is probably incorrect.

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good point, I will correct that part.

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The mRNA/Kariko story is a really unfortunate example to pick. I would not recommend using it or her as a scientific success story.

The true story is a fair bit darker. There was no inexplicable bias against genius or mRNA tech, in academia or elsewhere. The people who assert that can't come up with any better explanation than "weird nerds are unpopular", which is hardly unique to biology or Kariko, because there the real reason is much more horrific. It was treated as a dead end backwater topic because mRNA based treatments had always had the same problem: they became toxic upon repeat doses. The first dose would seem to work and everything would be fine, but the body was learning. It really hates foreign mRNA and would react very badly to additional doses beyond that.

Nobody could find a solution for this problem, not even after many years of research. Far from being ignored in a weird nerd corner of academia, Moderna (remember ModeRNA?) was founded in 2010, raised a lot of capital and invested heavily to try and crack the problem, as the potential was obvious. Even so by 2017 Moderna was facing bankruptcy. They had pitched to investors a world of mRNA-based drug treatments, but hadn't been able to solve the toxicity issues either, just like all the other researchers before them.

Fortunately for them, they found a brilliant solution to the repeat dosage problem. It wasn't a medical or technological fix. Would you like to know what their solution was?

Their solution was a business one. They pivoted the company away from drugs (can sell repeatedly to the same person, highly profitable), to a new strategy: making vaccines. Why vaccines? Because, of course, a vaccine is something you only need to take once or twice and then you're fixed for life. The profit is much lower, but the toxicity issue doesn't come up because the patient is expected to never take a repeat dosage at all. Taking booster after booster is not a risk with vaccines because if such a vaccine were to be created, it surely would not be considered effective and thus wouldn't be approved. Right?

https://www.statnews.com/2017/01/10/moderna-trouble-mrna/

Now you're waiting for me to tell you how they found a real technological fix for repeat dose toxicity just in the nick of time to let everyone take their 5th COVID booster. But there is no such story. It would appear they never found a fix. What saved Moderna was mass hysteria combined with governments forcing people to take the COVID vaccines repeatedly against their will, even in the face of massive side effects that would normally have disqualified any medical product. That's the power of emergency authorizations.

Post-COVID Moderna and other pharma companies have got lucky. Regulatory discipline has collapsed, and "vaccines" that would pre-2020 have never been approved are now being waved through. But not because they are actually good. It's because they spent years purging anyone who didn't reflexively treat anything labelled "mrna vaccine" as a magical health potion, beyond all reasonable doubt.

This is the tech that Kariko wasn't getting funding for - not really because of unrecognized genius. She found it hard to get funding because she never found a solution to the actual critical problems with the tech, and other people could see that.

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Jun 8Liked by Ruxandra Teslo

Keep calling us autistic. We’re fine with that. I’m not sure who’s objecting, but it’s not likely (in my lived experience) to be we autistics. 🤓

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author

haha a lot of people are objecting!

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I know it's a joke amongst us computer people that we constantly call each other autistic. I have done it for years with my engineer friends until someone who is smarter than me called me out in private. His own parent actually teaches autistic children.

And then I read this article called the gentrification of disability by Freddie deBoer:

https://open.substack.com/pub/freddiedeboer/p/the-gentrification-of-disability

Nowadays it strikes me as insensitive, sometimes distasteful of us who make banks and oftentimes collaborate with teams across continents to build massive, complex systems to use a real disability to tease each others. I'm glad that my friend called me out before I embarrass myself outside my lil techie bubble.

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yea I liked Deboer's post. Autism is not a single disorder, but quite a few people have a severe form. Think non-verbal, possibly not toilet-trained, etc. Tragic and potentially horrifying, but not amusing and certainly these people are not part of an unrecognized pool of geniuses.

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I am not a shrink or a neurologist or anything, but it was always my sense that "autism" was a really cluster of related symptoms than a single disorder.

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I’ll buy the perspective and continue to disagree with it. Just because many people have found successful strategies doesn’t make them less autistic any more than getting elected makes someone less narcissistic. By that logic, “high functioning” autistics don’t need support and help—which is why we removed Asperger’s from the DSM and flattened ASD into one diagnosis so that insurance companies can’t discriminate.

I’m a parent of three children with formal autism diagnoses. My wife is a locked-unit special ed teacher for kids with autism. We both could have been diagnosed as children, if anyone knew what to look for back in the stone ages. But they didn’t. Claiming that we’re gentrifying the adjective by self-describing diminishes the struggles we endured.

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Jun 10·edited Jun 10

I have a string of college girlfriends from the 70s who are 50-50 PhD's vs Master's degrees and well-employed but definitely autistic and demonstrably socially hampered.

"Well, but they're not headbangers," but one actually was, though softly and surreptitiously, more than half had other self-stim issues. Again, disguised and channeled. What I see most often is that the Theory of Mind issues become more prominent in the face of emotion and while they might wreck relationships openly, they are more likely to retreat as much as possible into circles where emotionalism is discouraged. It's a pretty good adaptation, though it can go bad when they need others outside that circle, especially as they age.

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That tracks with my own experience and my observations of others like me. I was probably in my fourth decade or so by the time I figured out that people are too complex to figure out. I have acquaintances that still try to treat other people like microwaves or other appliances instead of people.

Also, the old misbelief about autistics being emotionless is backwards. We either feel it more or regulate it less well or both. My youngest especially struggles to tolerate being in the presence of people visibly suffering unpleasant emotions. It was amusing for a 4-year-old to try to force your face into smile when you're sad—not so much when a bearded 24-year-old does it because his mirror neurons are working overtime and he needs you to stop being sad so he can stop feeling sad. 😐

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Just saw you have nothing up yet. You can find me at Assistant Village Idiot blogspot. Put Aspergers,, autism, etc in my search bar and you'll see a bunch over the years. You will also track my own learning curve that way. I have an unwieldy post on Theory of Mind that I'm trying to gain control of now. We'll see.

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When I get there on substack, I’ll be focused on fiction theory and genre conventions. I used to give a keynote from time to time called “Autism is a gift.” with the punchline that it is often a difficult gift to unwrap. But I haven’t been active in advocacy since my kids became adults and my two careers consumed all of my attention. Happy to follow you and watch your theory evolve.

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Definitely coming over to your substack now. I also worked on a neuropsych unit at a state hospital and started with the more severe autists. Lots of the staff who choose to work with them are Aspies themselves.

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I was most likely under bad peer influence

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That's because Asperger Syndrome was taken off the books. Computer people are really Aspies for the most part because without that it is hard to think in code. Very literal, very mechanical etc.

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According to the National Institute of Mental Health, "Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disorder that affects how people interact with others, communicate, learn, and behave." https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-asd

So calling someone "autistic" is making an amateur mental-health diagnosis of a "disorder".

And that's why people object.

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Autistic is an adjective, not a diagnosis. Describing things as they’re perceived is a human behavior even lay folk were wont to do long before the psychiatric priesthood was invented.

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It's a spectrum, and there are people who aren't clinically diagnosed with it but nevertheless have traits; one might call this "subclinical" autism, or that they're part of the "broader autism phenotype."

Like you, I have a formally diagnosed child. Unlike you, I don't like the use of it to apply to people who aren't disabled. It invites scepticism, which I've personally experienced, as to the degree of my son's disability.

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Jun 9·edited Jun 9Liked by Ruxandra Teslo

I think it was the Nobel prize winner (and weird eugenicist sperm donor) Shockley who suggested that the right model for actual contribution was to multiply out the factors like intelligence, motivation, ability to get funding and all the other things which are necessary to contribute to science.

I mean this obviously depends on units but I think the basic insight that there are many factors which can limit how much someone can contribute is correct. Taking this seriously strongly suggests we should do everything we can to reduce the number of barriers since it's really hard to be exceptional at many different variables.

I think this strongly suggests we need even more division of labor in science. Yes, one kind of division is whether we demand you succeed at the politics to get success. However, I think that's actually one of the measures we do a fair bit about.

What we don't do as well is to reward specialization in areas like managing a laboratory, procuring interesting data sets, instrument design or otherwise encourage specialization. That's why people jealousy guard data sets and people don't just publish their ideas about what experiment should be done so a better experimentalist can run it because they can't get the best jobs or prizes doing this because we measure everything in papers.

We need a system where papers acknowledge not just the papers they cite but allow some kind of allocation of credit to particular data sets, instruments lab managers etc etc. Part of this, of course, is because the scientific publishers are resisting a move to a common open online system which incorporates all these other contributions and allows credit to be assigned.

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I actually think that's a good idea. I never got why researchers are supposed to teach or vice versa. Some people are great at both and they should do both, but universities really should, as a rule, hire separate people to teach students vs. do research, and then hire separate people to do research vs. manage labs (this will have to necessarily be someone well-versed enough in the science though not necessarily the best scientist, but better at managing personalities) vs. write grants (also someone who is good enough at science though not necessarily the best scientist, but the best at persuasive writing in a scientific context).

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Because teaching isn't a skill in that way in the first place. Yes, at earlier stages good teachers can inspire kids to love a subject and help students feel they have the ability but once students invest in a discipline (if they do) it no longer matters (and if not most jobs don't need specialized college skills anyway).

Ultimately, as long as the teaching is minimally adequate it doesn't really matter how it's done. Almost all the learning happens between and amoung the students with class serving as coordination about what they are doing. And while I agree that laboratory based researchers shouldn't have to teach in subjects like math, philosophy, theoretical physics etc asking professors to teach is useful in keeping them coming into the office regularly and making it less likely they kinda intellectually wander off.

Especially at the top end the professors aren't there to teach they just lend status to the institution and at the high end students know their profs are elite and that's motivating. But what does the work distinguishing Caltech from UIUC or UIUC from UIC is the selectivity of the student body. Students are motivated to keep up with their peers.

If you want to improve learning probably the best thing you could do is to divide students at giant schools like UC Berkeley into dormitories by college so all the STEM kids live together and so on (well UCB might need more dorms first but you get the idea).

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I would argue for higher level subjects good teaching is even more critical, because textbooks are sparser and subjects are more complicated. Though usually there’s not a problem with it because the classes are smaller and the teachers are more excited about the more specialized topics and the committed students. But it does take time away from their research.

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But at that level students generally are far more capable of learning on their own -- indeed that's probably the most critical skill for them to learn. Yes, doing a horrible job is worse but if you meet w minimum level I don't think there is much benefit for further marginal effort.

I know that's been my experience in classes.

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If you have someone explain something well, you can often learn it many times more efficiently, even if you could have eventually figured it out for yourself.

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That's true but we live in an amazing age where you can access the absolute best explanations ever produced either in written form via textbooks and now even in video form via YouTube.

The idea that the person in the room with you needs to produce that excellent explanation has been shaky ever since textbooks but it's much harder to maintain now. Not to mention that most of the learning actually happens while you try and solve problems do often happens away from class.

So called flipped classes where you listen to lectures at home and do your homework in class where you can get help actually do much better imo. And it has the lucky additional feature that it really just depends on being able to answer questions not lecturing skill/planning. Yes, someone needs to do that once somewhere in the country but not the person in the classroom.

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I'm seeing some good trends in the open source community, fueled by AI money. Traditional paper publishing is just too slow for computer science. Hope this collaboration model spreads to the other fields.

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What's still missing in all of these is a single site for post-publication comment and review.

Basically a combo of Yelp plus Facebook for verified academics in each area which let's them usefully rate, comment and reply regarding publications.

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Check this out: https://joss.theoj.org/

We just have to replicate this to other fields.

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Jun 8Liked by Ruxandra Teslo

Interesting article. One comment that, to me, is the most salient, overlooked, and very very important, is the ability and willingness of an inventor/discoverer to be low status for long periods of time. You have to kill your ego, get over yourself, and use all the free time and energy to further one's work. Its a huge key to success.

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yes, which is why very few intelligent people actually discover meaningful things

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Jun 8Liked by Ruxandra Teslo

This post/thread reminds me of something said by decades ago by Peter Drucker, famed business consultant and writer on management and on society:

“There is tremendous stress these days on liking people, helping people, getting along with people, as qualifications for a manager. These alone are never enough. In every successful organization there is one boss who does not like people, who does not help them, and who does not get along with them. Cold, unpleasant, demanding, he often teaches and develops more men than anyone else. He commands more respect than the most likable man ever could. He demands exacting workmanship of himself as well as of his men. He sets high standards and expects that they will be lived up to. He considers only what is right and never who is right. And though often himself a man of brilliance, he never rates intellectual brilliance above integrity in others. The manager who lacks these qualities of character—no matter how likable, helpful, or amiable, no matter even how competent or brilliant—is a menace and should be adjudged “unfit to be a manager and a gentleman.”

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Glad to stumble across that - thanks. Leadership boils down to motivational force applied in the right direction, and glad-handing can go badly astray even as it slips by like a nice summer breeze. Certainly one thing that never pans out well is mealy-mouthed passive-aggressiveness, which more frequently emanates from those who wish to be loved - have been on the receiving end of that and wish I hadn’t. As far as the place and status of “weird nerds” goes (great coinage!), it does seem that the advent of feminization, which has produced some positives, has also diminished the cultural salience and status of those demanding and disagreeable types who might’ve previously gained esteem for hard-won accomplishments. In any case, if pluralism is an actual goal, it ought to come with the proviso that we have to make room for all manner of oddballs, cranks, grumpies, etc. or risk selling our souls for some updated version of the sanitized society of American prime time TV circa 1958. Am conflicted in saying as much, since I’ve never liked the idea of my counterculture heroes being co-opted by The System.

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Depending on how cranky and grumpy you are talking about, the top comment mentioned men throwing chairs at conferences merely 30 years ago. I fail to see how that benefits innovation unless there is some correlation between brain power and physical strength that I don't know about.

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I didn’t intend any defense of ridiculous academic pissing contests or the behaviors and attitudes that fuel them. In any case, anecdotal bits like that one don’t constitute a viable objection to a preference for open discourse that allows for a range of input and participants at variance from a norm of polite congeniality. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with good manners and propriety per se, but they can be invoked for the purpose of stifling and narrowing - in other words, as passive/aggressive power plays. It can take a long time to apprehend how that can play-out in real life, and how skillful actors can deploy such stratagems for their own ends. I am at the end of a long career as a high school teacher and have seen it firsthand (mostly in dealing with school administrators) on several occasions, but was pretty oblivious to it in my early years. Sometimes one has to risk social comfort for the sake of more important matters, and everyone who takes seriously the prospects for genuinely productive and positive exchange must acknowledge that and conduct themselves accordingly.

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I don't think Drucker would have approved people throwing chairs. He was probably thinking of people like the auto shop owner for whom Gerhard Neumann (who became a major contributor to the jet engine industry) worked when he was a young apprentice in Germany.

Neumann was required to work as a a hands-on worker before being admitted to engineering school, and his father asked the 10 cab drivers of Frankfurt/Oder to recommend the garage where they thought the boy would learn the most,: the answers were unanimous: Albert Schroth’s. So began Gerhard Neumann’s apprenticeship, which, other than the technologies involved, could have been something out of the Middle Ages. “In winter my hands were frozen purple. Wear work gloves? ‘What’s the matter, boy, are you a girl?’ When my hands were bleeding, Herr Schroth pointed to the large bottle of iodine in the backroom and mumbled something about faules Fleisch (lazy flesh.) No Band-Aids, no pitying, no time out.”

At first, Neumann had second thoughts about the path he had chosen. “My friends were still continuing at the Gymnasium, spending their days in comfortable and clean surroundings; here I was, accustomed to a fine home and the luxury of two maids and a chauffeur, becoming a grease monkey for three long years.” But Neumann found the work interesting, and took pride in the high reputation of the shop.

At the conclusion of the three-year apprenticeship, Herr Schroth said “Thank you, Neumann”…the only time that he had ever said “thank you” to his apprentice, or called him anything other than “boy”…and sent a bouquet of flowers to Neumann’s mother. “I felt sincerely grateful when I, in turn, thanked Herr Schroth–the man whom I had always addressed as Meister and who had given me a solid groundwork for what I hoped would be a rewarding engineering future.”

https://ricochet.com/533924/jet-engines-ge-and-herman-the-german/

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I’d say that crosses the line into mistreatment, though Schroth had good intentions. It is entirely possible to teach skills to a high level without neglecting safety or creating a hostile environment.

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Certainly not MY management style, and I don't think this would work very well in America today...but this was circa 1930 and in Germany. Today we've gone way too far in the other direction, with too much expectation that the workplace needs to revolve around everyone's emotions and psychological as well as physical 'safety' needs.

I do wonder if Schroth might have been harder on Neumann than on a regular apprentice because (a) Neumann was college-bound, rather than planning to work as a tradesman, and (b) Neumann came from an affluent background, and Schroth might have thought he needed toughening up.

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With Amazon Warehouse workers dying and being maimed from the lack of safety protocols, and Amazon still actively lobbying against government regulation around safety protocols, I vehemently disagree with the assertion that there is 'too much' expectations around physical safety needs.

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2019/11/amazon-warehouse-reports-show-worker-injuries/602530/

Regarding emotional or psychological safety, I've seen my white collar colleagues overuse and abuse these terms. Sometimes when they talk about emotional and psychological safety, what they really meant is that "people are scared of their projects getting cancelled or they get laid off or their startup funding running dry, and they have a big mortgage to pay so they are scared shitless which affects their productivity on the job", which are completely natural and reasonable emotional reactions, but a more suitable term probably would be job safety.

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Interesting perspective, thanks for sharing.

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Nah that's just labor abuse, we should all be grateful that OSHA exists.

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Jun 8Liked by Ruxandra Teslo

“in which I argued there is a trend wherein Weird Nerds are being driven out of academia by the so-called Failed Corporatist phenotype”

Reminds me of Camille Paglia’s “Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders: Academe in the Hour of the Wolf.”

https://www.bu.edu/arion/files/2019/10/Arion-Camille-Paglia-Junkbonds-Corporate-Raiders.pdf

I’m just old enough to have caught the tail end of academia as a haven for weirdo intellectuals and nerds.

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Jun 8Liked by Ruxandra Teslo

The last interesting humanities professors were Paglia and Harold Bloom. The former has aged out and the latter is dead. I was foolish enough to have gone ABD in English and can unfortunately testify to the intellectual quality of humanities profs: https://jakeseliger.com/2012/05/22/what-you-should-know-before-you-start-grad-school-in-english-literature-the-economic-financial-and-opportunity-costs/

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agreed and I think Humanities have suffered more than Sciences actually

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Thanks for the link. I vaguely recall seeing the title but don’t remember the text. She’s in fine form there!

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I think it was Camille Paglia who said that much of the interesting academic work was done by conservatives.

This is not because conservatives are naturally so much smarter and their ideas so much better, but because they have to steelman their work in advance, since it is all but guaranteed to attract criticism from a host of people looking for any flaw in evidence or reasoning. By contrast, academic work from a leftist perspective can count on being greeted with hosannas, no matter how weak. Hence the infamous Peter Boghossian gay dog park paper.

A lesbian academic remarked that something similar could be said about academic work by gay men, but not lesbians.

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Weird Nerds are not the same as autistic. There is a higher percentage of autistic traits among "weird nerds" but being autistic is not a guarantee of being a weird nerd. Since autistic is quantifiable I suggest you quantify first.

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It could be that all weird nerds are autistic (or at least have a significant proportion of the traits) but not all autistics are weird nerds.

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I think tis is accurate, but it's because "Weird Nerds" are outliers on two distinct axes of variation. Autism is actually orthogonal to intelligence (I tend to think of it as "inability to self-deceive, but it can have any definition you like), and people who are autistic are just those who are especially high in AQ (analogous to IQ in that it's a "normally" distributed trait). So, nonverbal autistics are those who are low IQ, "typical" autistics are normal IQ, and Aspergers was the former diagnosis of those who are high IQ and high AQ. Let's say you need to be 95th percentile or above on AQ to be diagnosed/considered autistic. Then, you have a big group of people who are above 80% AQ who are just considered socially awkward, shy, etc. Someone high in IQ and high in AQ would be [Scott Alexander, Greta Thunberg, and Elon Musk all occurred to me], while high IQ and low AQ would be Taylor Swift (or whomever your favorite smart celebrity is).

If you think of the corner of a distribution plot that is high IQ and high AQ as "nerdy," then Weird Nerd can just be a particular range of the distribution. Maybe it includes everybody 95+% on both IQ and AQ. Maybe it includes just those 99% in IQ and anything above 90% AQ (emphasizing the Nerd). But maybe it includes anyone who is 99% AQ and above 80% IQ (emphasizing the Werd). I don't think neurotypicals (those within 3 standard deviations of both IQ and AQ) can really distinguish between someone who is 6 standard deviations high in IQ from someone "only" 4 standard deviations above normal, but they probably CAN distinguish someone 6 standard deviations high in AQ from someone "only" 4 standard deviations high. In Kariko's case, it sounds like her high IQ was at least important than her high AQ in making her a "genius," in terms of dogged persistence doing work because she saw it Important when no one else did.

I think Ruxandra is gesturing at something important, which is that academia used to be (or at least was perceived as) conducive to people who were high IQ and high AQ. For a variety of reasons, academia has become less accommodating to those especially high in both traits, and therefore you can see the types of questions academics work on and their mode of work change. Since I think the work Kariko did was a massive improvement to the world, and there's probably thousands of proto-Karikos who never get or stay in academia because they get filtered out by politics or temperament, I'm willing to say this is Bad (or at least sub-optimal). What is the defining feature of the Weird Nerd is up for debate, but I think the benefits of their contributions are unquestionable.

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Interesting take. However, there are some serious flaws in AQ being a monotype.

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There are plenty of “Weird Nerds” that are not autistic. I would submit that the core commitment is to expand the body of Knowledge in an area by using techniques to unify the experimental knowledge. This will usually mean mathematical but not always.

In this sense, one does not have to be autistic, which is a different way of ordering the functions of the brain but it does mean that autistic people have a greater chance of being “weird nerds” because they already know that there is more out there than is dreamed of in your science, Horatio.

It also means that failed corporate types have a similarity to weird nerds but there is a difference that a failed corporate type wants things to be organized on their say-so rather than scientific rigor. This means there is a conflict in many cases if the failed corporate types take over, and remember that “genius is rare” and therefore the odds are in favor of the field corporate type rather than the weird nerd.

Again, vector algebra would be useful in making a four-quadrant diagram that shows the differences and similarities between weird nerds and failed corporate types.

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A good understanding of autism:

Frasier-Robinson, Michele, and Aimee Graham. “Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Guide to the Latest Resources.” Reference & User Services Quarterly 55, no. 2 (2015): 113–17. https://www.jstor.org/stable/refuseserq.55.2.113.

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Categorization and pedantic fine tuning of types is a symptom of high focus. Unfortunately it is not applicable to social interactions, one tends to correct grammer during an informal conversation and to get stuck on the process of translating language to concepts. This is a beneficial trait in some contexts, mostly solitary ones, but not good in others, especially group interactions where harmony is a plus. Thus the reaction to her comments. Context. This is where Feynman's disdain for philosophy falls down. We need to understand the nature of truth and truthseeking through language, through social context, through history, at least at the meta level. The issue is that to be given the latitude to do research one usually has to navigate the social waters that are toxic to the mental state required to practice it and vice-versa. Professions and professional training has adapted to this, and the education associated with professions reprograms individuals to become adept at both having confidence in their competence and projecting that competence. We need to treat science as a profession, or at least to provide training for would-be scientists to manage these disjunctions.

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Much of the resentful anger at Kariko (and your recent writings) comes from former Weird Nerds. They suppressed their own interests and personalities to Make It. Now they see that Kariko kept her soul, skipped the hazing, and succeeded more than they did, and it gives them envy. In other words, the biggest enemy of Weird Courageous Nerds can sometimes be Weird Cowardly Nerds. And thus, this conflict is not only about neurotype and human capital identification, but also about character and human moral formation. And so it has societal-wide implications: how aircraft manufacturers treat whistleblowing engineers, whether factory workers with clever ideas get a hearing from management, how news organizations react to reporters who observe things that contradict desired narratives, etc. I'd go so far as to argue that what you're writing about is one facet of what Ted Kaczynski described as oversocialization in his infamous manifesto.

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Jun 8Liked by Ruxandra Teslo

Thank you, Ruxandra. Seeing academia being overtaken by politics and “ladder-climbers” has been unsettling and deleterious to collective intelligence and knowledge.

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There's one big issue not being discussed: teaching. In a modern research university, we need faculty to teach as well as do research. And extraverted, agreeable people are often just better at undergraduate teaching than weird nerds.

You can solve this problem by creating teaching tracks to job security, but that only exacerbates the already pervasive caste system in academia. So what is to be fine?

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"And I believe the conversation here starts with accepting a simple truth, which is that Weird Nerds will have certain traits that might be less than ideal, that these traits come “in a package” with other, very good traits"

Or maybe we could try education? The weird nerds are very good at learning through formal education, but bad at picking up vague social cues through subtle hints, and they're not in the right circles to be taught explicitly. We could try just... teaching them the sort of social skills they need to survive, instead of letting the nerds get dominated socially by the charming natural-born demagogues.

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In almost all cases, various caregivers and teachers have already made strenuous attempts at that.

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There are some weird nerds in poli sci who figured the social games out.. to some extent. The dictator's handbook reads like a social game theory from weird nerds' perspective. Its also quite unique. I'm looking for more books like this one.

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Unfortunately, social rules are anti-inductive, so even if you did teach them, the "rules" will likely not be the "real" rules, and even if they were, they likely will change within the life of any academic. Plus, your "charming natural-born demagogues" are now going to know how the weird nerds were educated, and may be more able to manipulate them in subtle ways. This is not to say that more education would be totally fruitless, just that it is highly unlikely to overcome "weirdness" on a mass scale. I don't think there's any way around the fact that some people are "inherently" difficult to work with, but that historically, it's well worth it for institutions and society to accommodate those people because they can accomplish things that most others are unable or unwilling to do.

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I think there is some truth to this, and I do think social dynamics can be studied even if they are not intuitive. I think what the essay does well is highlight the trade-offs, some people end up becoming very good at very detail oriented pursuits because they tune out a lot of social games and just focus on their work. If I ever went back into academia I’d have to learn how social games work and be more alert to dishonesty and people trying to stab me in the back. I would also have to learn to walk a more delicate line between not disrupting a popular narrative and feeling bothered that someone isn’t pointing out the holes in it. Learning to navigate these things isn’t so interesting to me, but I’d do it if I really had to. I am not sure I do have to though, there are other things I can do with my life and less toxic fields to work in!

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One problem is that weird nerds are absolutely horrible at creating systems that favor weird nerds.

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Very interesting piece. There is no doubt some truth in what you’re saying. I do, however, also want to point out another wrinkle in this which is very related. I think it’s important to not underestimate humanity’s ability to exploit systems for our own benefit. One of the pernicious ways this manifests in academia is people learning they can just be egotistical assholes, with very little consequence. “I’m so smart they are lucky to have me, so I don’t need to play nice.” “If people think I need to change my personality, they simply can’t comprehend my genius.” I think there is a fine line between autistic bruskness and sociopathic dickishness. So when you say “the good comes with the bad”, I of course agree on some level, but I also disagree on another. I think kindness and cooperation are among the most positive-sum forces on the planet. Designing institutions that are able encourage and exploit positive sum interactions is quite hard, but also worth it. I think the constant need to people-please in these institutions is a more a function of the fact that the people who run them have very huge but fragile egos than anything else. If kindness and good will were the norm in scientific places, I think this could actually benefit the meek autist with few social skills (conditional on them not being a total asshole).

I just see the “asshole genius” trope all over the place throughout history. And my opinion is that the assholery is actually learned or socialized to a much greater extent than we realize, merely because it has been allowed and excused. This has also led to all sorts of abuse, which, unfortunately has also been excused. Nearly everyone would be an egotistical asshole if we faced no consequences, but it’s only the “geniuses” whose assholery we tolerate, leading to this never ending loop.

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I think we are sort of talking about parallel things. There is a difference between brashness and psychopathy/evil. Listen to Kariko: she sounds like a very moral person. Of course, some people use autism as a way to hide what is actually psychopathy. But non-autistic, personable people are very often psychopaths, too!

I agree you can encourage people to be kind/tolerant, but I am afraid that this has come at the expense of selecting for people who are not that kind but can mimic it better.

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I will only add that I think these are more related than independent, as I see your main thesis as being “we should tolerate more difficult people in science”. You have a very particular type of “difficult” person in mind, but the way these things get institutionalized is very imprecise. I am afraid the nuance you have in your piece is likely to be flattened to my (simple, if uncharitable) interpretation of your thesis in a bureaucratic setting. If we instead prioritize the goal of fostering kindness and collegiality as our institutional objective, I think it could allow for the acceptable kind of weirdness you describe while also discouraging the sociopathy which is likely to slip through the cracks otherwise.

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Are there any reports on how Kariko is as a boss? That would give us a clue on what she is like when she is behind closed doors. There are plenty of PIs, for example, who appear one way in public but behave in a completely different (and usually worse) way towards their own lab members.

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This is an underrated point. There is a difference between tolerating/embracing social awkwardness and excusing hostile behavior and indeed making this distinction will benefit weird nerds, who in fact are more likely to be the victim of bullying and not the perpetrators. I will note though that not all such behavior comes from weird nerds - most of it comes from their opposite, the narcissistic self-promoters. But we shouldn’t tolerate hostile behavior from weird nerds because that behavior will drive people, including other weird nerds, away from science and it results in a loss for society.

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