High-Tech Mental Illness
Iain McGilchrist in his book The Master and his Emissary describes the mental diseases of Industrialization, beginning on page 404. High-tech is post-industrial, but shares many of these same diseases, which are
- Anorexia nervosa
- Multiple personality disorder
Based on my experience in high-tech, or the computer/software/internet complex (CSI), I would rank these differently. I would place Autism (including Asperger’s syndrome) first. As he says, this includes:
- An inability to tell what another is thinking (lack of ‘theory of mind’)
- A lack of social intelligence – difficulty in judging nonverbal features of communication, such as tone, humour, irony; an inability to detect to detect deceit, and difficulty understanding implicit meaning
- A lack of empathy; lack of imagination
- An attraction to the mechanical
- A tendency to treat people and body parts as inanimate objects; an alienation from the self (autistic children often fail to develop the first-person perspective and speak of themselves as ‘he’ or ‘she’
- An inability to engage in eye contact or mutually directed gaze
- An obsession with detail
As I have recently learned all over again, this is typical of software developers. To put it bluntly: they are inhuman. But each of them is different, and only exhibits some autistic features – just as I do.
There are also many substance abuse addictions – as we now so delicately put it. But these effect nearly all of the population – as does depression.
I even have my category of mental illness, based on my exe’s illness (which was labeled as schizoprenia): an inability to be – or to be functional; the inability to have a life that makes sense; that holds together – or to put it bluntly: a life that just plain works.
You can also see this in organizations of all kinds. A well-run organization (a company, for example) is extremely rare.