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Does this mean I am autistic?

  1. Jan 2, 2012 #1
    I considered myself to be fairly intelligent guy.

    But after reading about an interesting test in "Black Swan" by Nassim Taleb, I am worried that I might be far from intelligent, maybe even autistic.

    Taleb says autistic people are handicapped in social situations because they can't put themselves in the shoes of others and are unable formulate or understand simple (this is crucial here, that he said it is simple) idea such as "he knows that I don't know that I know."

    "He knows that I don't know that I know."

    I am completely dumbfounded here. I have no idea what this phrase suppose to mean.

    Can anyone explain to me?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 2, 2012 #2
    21 views and not a single reply
  4. Jan 3, 2012 #3
    Could you have the phrasing wrong? Maybe instead 'you don't know that he doesn't necessarily know what you know'.

    For instance, I always seem to assume that everyone is as drunk as me (after a certain point) when I'm at social gatherings. Which is not always good.
  5. Jan 3, 2012 #4


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    First rule of psychiatry...don't try to self-diagnose or else you'll have every disorder in the DSM-IV.

    There are tons of "simple" tests to diagnose everything under the sun, and they're generally all worthless.

    And, no, I have no idea what that phrase means either. It looks like a misprint of the one that goes, "I know that you know that I know..." Another variation could be, "I know that you don't know that I don't know." The version in the OP is nonsensical though.
  6. Jan 3, 2012 #5


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    The phrase seems nonsensical to me, so I must be autistic also.

    broken down:
    I know: easy enough
    I don't know that I know: a contradiction?
    He knows a contradiction: what?

    Or perhaps the editor left out a comma:
    "He knows that I don't know, that I know."

    Mr Taleb is as far as I can tell, schooled in economics and mathematics, so his one sentence test as to whether or not we are both autistic seems a bit dubious. I wouldn't worry about it.
  7. Jan 3, 2012 #6


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    You've given people 16 minutes to think about the issue before posting that huffy response because you don't think anyone has regarded your question worthwhile to answer?... It is, at least, a sign of impatience!

    The phrase you have 're-quoted' makes no sense to me. As f-moon asks; you sure that's what he wrote? ( - respond within 16 minutes, SVP!!) ;)

    Either way, he's just trying to say that autists may not realise that something they know is not known to everyone.
  8. Jan 3, 2012 #7
  9. Jan 3, 2012 #8
    Consider the exchange between Captain Amazing and Casanova Frankenstein in the first part of this clip from the movie, Mystery Men:


    Maybe this doesn't pertain to your question, but it's amusing, imo, nonetheless.

    Anyway, regarding the autistic person's apparent inability to " 'formulate or understand' a 'simple idea' such as, 'he knows that I don't know that I know' ", I don't think that such an inability would necessarily make one autistic. In fact, the statement seems contradictory.

    What the statement in question seems to be saying is that, in an interaction involving two participants (A and B), then B (the candidate for autism) is unable to 'formulate or understand' the idea that A knows that B doesn't know something that A knows that B knows. Or, put another way, A knows that B knows something that B doesn't know that he (B) knows. Or something like that.

    Ok, it appears that I'm either autistic, or linguistically and logically challenged, or just confused. Maybe all three? In which case add extremely depressed to the list.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  10. Jan 3, 2012 #9
    Judging by the overall consensus, I am relieved that I am not being categorized as autistic right off the bat.

    Since Taled mentioned it to be "simple" I figured the responses would be immediate. I was not being impatient.

    My english prof always taught that good writing is when the reader does not have to stop and ponder about what he/she just read.

    Taleb's style is somewhat cumbersome, doesn't really flow well, that I have to admit.

    I appreciate the responses. Thanks guys
  11. Jan 3, 2012 #10
    As Moonbear says, a self-diagnosis of autism is worthless, but, autism is a neurological disorder, not a psychiatric one. The DSM-IV does give a diagnostic for autism but it ain't official till the fat neurologist sings.

    DSM-IV criteria for a diagnosis of autism.
  12. Jan 3, 2012 #11
    After learning just a little bit about Taleb's stuff ... I must say that it doesn't seem particularly enlightening or even interesting. If your purpose was to talk about his ideas here at PF, then go for it.
  13. Jan 3, 2012 #12


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    As if it was a real opposition.

    I might be far from blue, maybe even underweight.
  14. Jan 3, 2012 #13


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    Question for selfmade; is the following correct?:

    [Taking human male height as 5'10" and standard deviation 3"] Anyone taller than 6'8" has a 'shortness deficiency' as likely as autism, so does this make them far from intelligent?

  15. Jan 3, 2012 #14


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    This is a relatively simple phrase that's best explained in a scenario;

    Alice is Bob's student. She is working on a problem that has her stumped, she has tried for a long time but has yet to see the answer. Bob encourages her and guides her on the right path but does not tell her the answer; he has seen her tackle similar problems many times and knows that all that is stopping her is that she has not taken into account X. He knows that she hasn't realised that she does know the answer.

    Also whilst this is the General Discussion forum standard forum rules still apply including the fact that we do not give medical diagnosis here. If you are worried about your health then go and see your doctor
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