One of the most universally “autistic” struggles I undergo is requiring a certain level of precision of language in order to be able to process the new information I’m receiving in a meaningful way.
Because I don’t have a lot of the same basic social/cultural context most humans do, partly because I avoid mainstream media/news, partly because the autistic brain doesn’t intuit or infer stuff in the same way the allistic (non-autistic brain) does. Autistics typically require things to be clearly articulated & spelled out in ways that allistics can find redundant or overkill. The ability to be able to just “get” something without a ton of extra details & clarification can literally seem like some sort of magic osmosis process to autistics.
I realized that one of the issues I run into a lot when attempting to have important conversations with allistics is that they’ll often accuse me of interrupting them a lot, which is true & I do hate to do it, but it’s because I’m requiring additional information/further clarification on points being made. This can seem nitpicky or pedantic & people will accuse me of arguing over semantics.
The reality of the situation is that I’ve come to realize that my brain runs similarly to a computer, which is why I relate to robots/AI a lot. I have a base framework that I’m operating in. I have no ability to understand or relate things back to what hasn’t already been pre-programmed. If I come across a new set of data that I’ve never encountered before & have nothing to relate it back to, my processing speed will come to a halt until I acquire additional information to help me assimilate this data. The same thing happens if someone is using inaccurate or imprecise terminology. Because I, & afaik most other autistics, denote rather than connote, which means use words according to how they’re defined in the dictionary as opposed to how they’re used in common parlance if there’s a difference, and because allistics tend to do the opposite, there is a lot of confusion & miscommunication between allistics & autistics even on subjects that seem super simple & straightforward.
This is where the autistic literalism comes into play. It’s not that we’re overly literal. It’s that we are using different context than the majority of the world, so most humans are very uncertain as to why we are having difficulty understanding what to them are basic jokes, expressions, and statements people typically seem to just “get.” This is where the stereotype of autistics being slow or lacking in humor comes from. We’re not slow. We just don’t have the same framework we’re operating under. We find plenty of things funny. They just not be the same things most people find funny.
My mom & I came up with an expression that I can now use going forward when I feel that I’m struggling to understand what an allistic person is trying to communicate to me & require additional information to be able to process the conversation. When I need someone to clarify what they mean when using certain words or phrases, I’ll say that I’m “Asimoving” or having an “Asimov” moment. I could potentially even use “Asimov” as an interjection, depending on the person, as a way to say, “wait! I need further clarification here because I’m confused as to what it is you’re trying to say right now.” Obviously, this will all be dependent upon the CONTEXT lol I’ll be testing this new expression out with some friends of mine who I trust to give me good feedback.
If you want to know why I chose “Asimov” to be the word I’ll use in these situations going forward, the reason is because it was inspired by SciFi writer Isaac Asimov’s short story, “The Last Question.” In this story, humans asked a supercomputer that had the processing power to theoretically solve any problem a question it couldn’t answer. As the years went by & the tech progressed, the supercomputer continued to not be able to solve the problem, and when asked the question again & again, would continue to answer the same way,
“There is as yet insufficient data for a meaningful answer.”
When I heard that phrase, it was like something resonated inside of me super deeply. That’s how it feels when I’m trying to follow conversations sometimes. My brain is going going going, doing its thing processing all the new info coming in, then suddenly it goes to a full stop. It’s in these moments when I can get frustrated &, in turn, start to frustrated my conversational companion as I interrupt them every two sentences to ask for clarification. I don’t want to derail the convo or cause too many tangents to happen, but I genuinely will get so lost & confused that I’ll totally forget what the original point was to begin with. Hopefully explaining this & my intended usage of the word “Asimov” will help others to have a bit more patience with me when it comes to my request for extra attentive precision of language. I know not everyone will be willing to compromise & meet me halfway here, but at least I’ve devised a method on how to ask going forward.