Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Blogging

I haven’t had the anxiety or pain budget to do much in-the-trenches advocacy and DEI work with y’all, but I manage to publish some neurodiversity and DEI related posts as I go about my reading. Here are a few months of highlights.


I particularly recommend the study I quote in “Neurominorities, Spiky Profiles, and the Biopsychosocial Model at Work” to all DEI and HR workers.

Neurominorities, Spiky Profiles, and the Biopsychosocial Model at Work

Selected quote:

The aim of occupational accommodations for neurominorities is to access the strengths of the spiky profile and palliate the struggles.


A “design for equity, inclusion, and pluralism” cheatsheet, of sorts, that I use to remind myself:

Just Sayin’

Selected quote:

There is no path to equity that does not involve a direct confrontation with inequity.

Inequities are primarily power and privilege problems.

Source: Basic Principles for Equity Literacy


Cognitive diversity exists for a reason. Selections on neurodiversity evolutionary history with dollops of positive niche construction, collaborative morality, and cultural evolution:

Cognitive diversity exists for a reason.

Selected quote:

Human cognitive diversity exists for a reason; our differences are the genius – and the conscience – of our species.

Source: A Thousand Rivers – Carol Black


The fidgets that got me through 2020:

Favorite Fidgets 2020


Image work diversity fails our realities.

Image Work Diversity vs. The Reality of Me

Selected quote:

“They wanted to have my presence, but not me exactly. They wanted to have the idea of me being at Google, but not the reality of me being at Google,” Gebru said.

Source: Researcher Timnit Gebru Says Google Wanted ‘My Presence, But Not Me Exactly’ : NPR


Are we using the right amount of strategic essentialism with our Employee Resource Groups?

Strategic Essentialism and Employee Resource Groups


We all need some digital sociology if we’re gonna be in the platform business.

The need for digital sociology is now.


“Nothing about us without us” is an ethical prime directive.

Dr. Gebru, NAUWU, and DEI

Selected quote:

I first heard the expression “Nothing About Us Without Us” in South Africa in 1993. Michael Masutha and William Rowland, two leaders ofDisabled People South Africa, separately invoked the slo- gan, which they had heard used by someone from Eastern Europe at an international disability rights conference. The slogan’s power derives from its location of the source of many types of (disability) oppression and its simultaneous opposition to such oppression in the context of control and voice.

Source: NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US: Disability Oppression and Empowerment


“Do not be the oppressor” is another guiding star. Check this talk for how to do more than image work diversity.

Do Not Be the Oppressor: Unlocking the Power of Employee Resource Groups

Selected quotes:

“Show me the money, and I’ll show you the outcome.”

“How are you gonna drive a DEI strategy with absolutely nobody in place to maintain continuity and accountability?”

“If you don’t have a dedicated person, how do you further this work?”

Obviously and exactly, yet so many companies lack a DEI head, including my own.


None of us should be in the behaviorism business.

The Problem with Behaviorism

Selected quote:

Skinner won; Papert lost. Thorndike won; Dewey lost. Behaviorism won.

https://rnbn.blog/2020/10/10/2121/


A reflection on past iterations of me:

Tech Ethics, Roaming Autodidacts, and the White-Male Effect

Selected quote:

I very much resemble the roaming autodidact. Tech and open source are full of us. It took longer than I’d like to admit for me to recognize the white-male effect in my own thinking. “A form of cognition that protects status” is an apt summary, especially for roaming autodidacts who’ve lived and believe the meritocracy myth.


So much whelm.

Titrating the Whelm: Perceptual Capacity and Autistic Burnout

Selected quote:

The divergent ways in which we process the world around us can also leave us fatigued and sapped of energy, as autistic people have “higher perceptual capacity” than our neurotypical counterparts, meaning that we process greater volumes of information from our environment. Autistic people commonly use the concept of ‘spoon theory‘ to conceptualize this experience of having limited energy resources.

Source: Doing More by Doing Less: Reducing Autistic Burnout | Psychology Today


So much stress.

Autism, Trauma, and Stress

Selected quote:

Recently it has been suggested that individuals with ASD are at an increased risk of experiencing potentially traumatic events and being significantly affected by them (Haruvi-Lamdan et al., 2018; Kerns et al., 2015).

Source: Autism Spectrum Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: An unexplored co-occurrence of conditions – Nirit Haruvi-Lamdan, Danny Horesh, Shani Zohar, Meital Kraus, Ofer Golan, 2020


Hannah Gadsby on social anxiety, social exhaustion, routine, masking, autism and gender norms, being perceived as angry, getting feedback, observing patterns, competition, autistic stereotypes, processing time, autistic appreciation of comedy, diagnosis and misdiagnosis, functioning labels, toxic masculinity, thinking in terms of neurobiology instead of gender, eugenics, patriarchal devices, storytelling, comedy and trauma, neurodivergence in comedy, cruelty in comedy, fitting in, shame, failure and success, and religion:

https://rnbn.blog/2020/12/19/2165/

Selected quote:

What is yourself? It’s a way of being in the world that doesn’t feel exhausting.


I discovered “Uncomfortable Labels: My Life as a Gay Autistic Trans Woman” through the Queer ERG at work. Here’s a selection on internet socialization:

https://rnbn.blog/2020/12/19/2169/

I added that to my “Written communication is the great social equalizer” post:

https://rnbn.blog/2020/12/21/2173/

And another relatable quote, this one on isolation and sensory overwhelm:

Overwhelm and Isolation: It’s pretty hard to feel alone in a world this constantly loud.

The whole book is full of relatable moments.


Currently reading:

Selected quotes.


What DEI stuff are y’all reading and blogging?

Just Sayin’

Design for real life.

Design for pluralism.

Solve for the infinity.

Foreground complexity as the baseline.

Multiplicities are an intention: We build the best collaboration, the deepest learning, when we expand the opportunities for complex vision.


Design is tested at the edges.

Compassion is not coddling.


Human cognitive diversity exists for a reason; our differences are the genius – and the conscience – of our species.

To face the challenges of the future, we’ll need the problem-solving abilities of different types of minds working together.

Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general.

Difference is not our deficit; it’s our operating system.


The right to learn differently should be a universal human right that’s not mediated by diagnosis.

Written communication is the great social equalizer.

To not presume competence is to assume that some individuals cannot learn, develop, or participate in the world. Presuming competence is nothing less than a Hippocratic oath for educators.

Noncompliance is a social skill.

It’s not about behavior.

Design learning where there is no option for oppression.


There is no path to equity that does not involve a direct confrontation with inequity.

Inequities are primarily power and privilege problems.

You cannot counter structural inequality with good will. You have to structure equality.

We are all accountable to the urgent work of building a more just, more equitable world.


By focusing on the parts of the system that are most complex and where the people living it are the most vulnerable we understand the system best.

When we make things for people at their worst, they’ll work that much better when people are at their best.

Everything we do publicly can be made more inclusive and uplifting with intersectionality, and everything we do can become exclusionary and oppressive without it.

When we build things – we must think of the things our life doesn’t necessitate. Because someones life does.

A mismatched interaction between a person and their environment is a function of design. Change the environment, not the body.


Fix injustice, not kids.

Free, life-changing, and available to everyone.

Provide freedom to those who deal with a world that’s built to be hostile toward them.


Nothing about us without us.

We exist as friction.


Embracing pluralism is good citizenship. Democracy demands equal accommodation.

Default to open.


Do not be the oppressor.

People suffer, and when they do, it’s for a reason.

Cognitive diversity exists for a reason.

if neurodivergence is essentially disablement, why do we keep replicating the gene pool?

Source: Neurodiversity at work: a biopsychosocial model and the impact on working adults | British Medical Bulletin | Oxford Academic

Human cognitive diversity exists for a reason; our differences are the genius – and the conscience – of our species.

Source: A Thousand Rivers — Carol Black

“Great minds don’t always think alike.” We already understand the value of biodiversity in a rainforest. The presence of a wide variety of life forms — each with its own distinctive strengths and attributes — increases the robustness and resilience of any living community as a whole, and its ability to adapt to novel conditions. The same is true of any community of human minds, including workplaces, corporations, classrooms, and society as a whole. To face the challenges of the future, we’ll need the problem-solving abilities of different types of minds working together.

Source: The Best Books on New Books on Autism | Five Books Expert Recommendations

Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general.

Source: Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity | IndieBound.org

neurodiversity: the notion that conditions like autism, dyslexia, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) should be regarded as naturally occurring cognitive variations with distinctive strengths that have contributed to the evolution of technology and culture rather than mere checklists of deficits and dysfunctions.

Source: Silberman, Steve. NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity (p. 16). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Rather, the neurodiversity perspective posits that autistics are part of humanity because our differences have been critical to the advance of our species.

Neurodiversity is an argument that autistics evolved naturally, for the benefit of the species, just like other forms of diversity.

Those findings buttress the neurodiversity argument that autism is a stable part of our genome.

Source: Scientific Research Supports a Neurodiversity Model of Autism | The Mighty

In natural selection, the environment represents a static entity to which a species must either adapt or fail to adapt. In niche construction, however, the species acts directly upon the environment to change it, thereby creating more favorable conditions for its survival and the passing on of its genes. Scientists now say that niche construction may be every bit as important for survival as natural selection (Lewontin, 2010; Odling-Smee, Laland, & Feldman, 2003).

Source: Reimagining Inclusion with Positive Niche Construction |

So holds a provocative new theory of genetics, which asserts that the very genes that give us the most trouble as a species, causing behaviors that are self-destructive and antisocial, also underlie humankind’s phenomenal adaptability and evolutionary success.

Source: The Science of Success – The Atlantic

The idea of neurodiversity suggests a much more complex system, a more deeply heterogeneous social system, than most people realize. This neurodiversity is what makes human society so dynamic and creative. The lack of it in other social species it what keeps them relatively stagnant in comparison.

My diagnosis, then, has had a significant impact on the way I think of myself and on the way I think about social issues. When you begin to realize that so many important people in the past and present were on the autism spectrum, and that autism is over-represented among creative people, you start thinking about creativity and social evolution quite differently. You also think about the importance of autism in society differently.

Source: Adult Diagnosis: Now What? – An Intense World

As part of the broader picture of neurodiversity, any cognitive difference that interferes with or weakens social learning (subconscious imitation) enhances creativity. Since autism is characterised by differences in social motivation and by weakened subconscious social learning, autistic people tend to be at the core of many deep innovations.

Source: The evolution of evolution – Autistic Collaboration

A subtle change occurred in our evolutionary history 100,000 years ago which allowed people who thought and behaved differently – such as individuals with autism – to be integrated into society, academics from the University of York have concluded.

The change happened with the emergence of collaborative morality – an investment in the well-being of everyone in the group – and meant people who displayed autistic traits would not only have been accepted but possibly respected for their unique skills.

It is likely our ancestors would have had autism, with genetics suggesting the condition has a long evolutionary history.

But rather than being left behind, or at best tolerated, the research team conclude that many would have played an important role in their social group because of their unique skills and talents.

“We are arguing that diversity, variation between people, was probably more significant in human evolutionary success than the characteristics of one person, “said Penny Spikins, senior lecturer in the archaeology of human origins, at the University of York.

“It was diversity between people which led to human success and it is particularly important as it gives you different specialised roles.

“We are arguing that it is the rise of collaborative morality that led to the possibility for widening the diversity of the human personality.”

“There has been a long-standing debate about identifying traits of autism in Upper Palaeolithic cave art.

“We can’t say some of it was drawn by someone with autism, but there are traits that are identifiable to someone who has autism. It was also roughly at that time that we see collaborative morality emerging.”


Source: Autism and human evolutionary success

The ability to focus on detail, a common trait among people with autism, allowed realism to flourish in Ice Age art, according to researchers at the University of York.

Many have argued that psychotropic drugs were behind the detailed illustrations. The popular idea that drugs might make people better at art led to a number of ethically-dubious studies in the 60s where participants were given art materials and LSD.

The authors of the new study discount that theory, arguing instead that individuals with “detail focus”, a trait linked to autism, kicked off an artistic movement that led to the proliferation of realistic cave drawings across Europe.

Lead author of the paper, Professor Penny Spikins from the Department of Archaelogy at the University of York, said: “Detail focus is what determines whether you can draw realistically; you need it in order to be a talented realistic artist. This trait is found very commonly in people with autism and rarely occurs in people without it.

“We looked at the evidence from studies attempting to identify a link between artistic talent and drug use, and found that drugs can only serve to disinhibit individuals with a pre-existing ability. The idea that people with a high degree of detail focus, many of which may have had autism, set a trend for extreme realism in ice age art is a more convincing explanation.”

The research adds to a growing body of evidence that people with autistic traits played an important role in human evolution.

Source: How our ancestors with autistic traits led a revolution in Ice Age art

There was an articlethat came out last year that argued that the presence of autism could be important for the health of groups and thus would arise through group selection. This argument is not dissimilar to observations I have made hereand here. The bottom line is that neurodiversity is vital for the health of any society. There have to be a large majority (around 80%) who act to stabilize the system, and there have to be a small group (around 20%) who destabilize the system through creativity and innovation.

The article makes this point as well. Those groups that tolerated autistics seem to be those better able to survive. Of course, creative innovators, those who challenged the status quo in technology or culture, have always been at best “tolerated.” But the more tolerant a culture has been to such people, the more innovative and wealthier that culture has been.


Source: Autism and Group Selection – An Intense World

Evolutionary Neurodiversity

Theoretically this theory proposes that throughout history we evolved working together in villages and communities. The core majority were a group of similar-minded individuals that could get along easily and keep the peace. They evolved to process and prioritize information for sociability. They were adept at imitation, following the crowd and working with others. Because we know from the work of Dr. Fisher and Dr. Michael Lesser that these personalities were dispersed in such a way as the periphery were the more rare personality types. More interested in things and tinkering, exploring, telling stories and taking up causes. These different groups, or personalities, processed information uniquely and had different priorities and motivations. They were innovators, explorers, protectors, leaders, scientists, geeks, artists and creatives (Lesser and Kapklein, 2003). These neurodiverse outliers processed and experienced the world very differently than the more sociable core. However, because of both the core and the diverse Peripheral Minds we thrived with each unique personality bringing value to cooperative goals (Bergmüller et al., 2010; Smaldino et al., 2013).

This diversity is stable across the world, as shown in personality and evolutionary studies (van Oers and Miller, 2010; Crespi, 2017; Quinn et al. 2016). Personality studies additionally inform us that these diverse groups are uniquely vulnerable to stress (Matthews, 2016). Personalities, or character traits, are shown to have unique genetic, neurobiological and neuroendocrine underpinnings. As described in studies linking serotonin, dopamine, testosterone and estrogen to both personality (Fisher 2015) and stress resiliency (Van Bodegom et al., 2017; Arnold et al., 2014; Boersman and Tamashiro, 2015; Boyce, 2016).

When considering the “what ifs” of autism and the BAP, “what if” these phenotypes are more sensitive because they are more evolutionarily adaptive and plastic?

Studies on the genetics of autism have suggested just this. That the genes involved in autism include signatures for both positive and negative selection (Shpigler et al., 2017). They are part of the essential genes we need to survive and thrive (Xiao et. al., 2016).

Autism as a platform has the potential to teach us quite a lot about stress and evolution. What happens, both positive and negative, to our minds and interrelated systems when we stress our diversity of talents and thinking types. And the answer could be a gateway to new understandings of human behavior, potential and limitations. In a recent 2016 paper in Scientific America by science writer and computational biologist Jim Kozubek, new research from CRISPR (gene editing technology) has currently led us to the conclusion that “there are no superior genes, only genes that provide advantages with a tradeoff for other disadvantages” (Kozubek in Scientific American, 2016)

Source: Is Autism a Stress Adaptation? – The Peripheral Minds of Autism

One way to understand neurodiversity is to remember that just because a PC is not running Windows doesn’t mean that it’s broken. Not all the features of atypical human operating systems are bugs. We owe many of the wonders of modern life to innovators who were brilliant in non-neurotypical ways. Herman Hollerith, who helped launch the age of computing by inventing a machine to tabulate and sort punch cards, once leaped out of a school window to escape his spelling lessons because he was dyslexic. So were Carver Mead, the father of very large scale integrated circuits, and William Dreyer, who designed one of the first protein sequencers.

Source: Neurodiversity Rewires Conventional Thinking About Brains | WIRED

A new idea was brewing at events like Autreat and in the myriad of autistic spaces taking root online. It turned out to be an idea as old as Hans Asperger’s notion that people with the traits of his syndrome have always been part of the human community, standing apart, quietly making the world that mocks and shuns them a better place.

Autistic people have always been part of the human community, though they have often been relegated to the margins of society. For most of the 20th century, they were hidden behind a welter of competing labels— “schizoid personality disorder,” “childhood schizophrenia,” “children with circumscribed interests,” the initial diagnosis of “minimal brain damage,” and many other labels, such as “multiplex personality disorder,” which have fallen out of use.

In recent years, researchers have determined that most cases of autism are not rooted in rare de novo mutations but in very old genes that are shared widely in the general population while being concentrated more in certain families than others. Whatever autism is, it is not a unique product of modern civilization. It is a strange gift from our deep past, passed down through millions of years of evolution.

“Neurodiversity” advocates propose that instead of viewing this gift as an error of nature—a puzzle to be solved and eliminated with techniques like prenatal testing and selective abortion—society should regard it as a valuable part of humanity’s genetic legacy while ameliorating the aspects of autism that can be profoundly disabling without adequate forms of support.

Source: The neurodiversity movement: Autism is a minority group. NeuroTribes excerpt.

The extremely important role that culture has played and still plays in human evolution represents a transformational change in the mechanisms available to evolution…

Cultural evolution allows the behaviour of human societies to evolve much faster than the behaviour of other complex life forms, to the point that our collective knowledge and medical technologies allow us to engage in an evolutionary arms race with various strains of microbes that used to represent a serious threat to human health.

Whilst in some domains humans have been able to harness our capacity for culture for the benefit of all humans, in other domains our capacity for culture has been used to establish and operate highly oppressive and stratified societies.

Wherever autistic people go, they expose social power games. Pathologisation is the push back from a sick society. Autistic people should be recognised as the agents of a well functioning cultural immune system within human societies.

Source: The evolution of evolution | Autistic Collaboration