Neurodiversity and Operating Systems

Admit it, you want this bad ass mofo kicking alien butt in your game, too.
Admit it; you want this bad ass mofo kicking alien butt in your game, too.

Steve Silberman said in his book Neurotribes, “just because a computer is not running Windows doesn’t mean that it’s broken.” I’ve seen the comparison before, but I can’t remember where. According to the analogy, neurotypical people run Windows. Some artsy types run iOs. But autistics? We run Linux. It’s just as good as the other two, but fewer people use it, and therefore, it’s less commonly accepted.

I’ll take it a step further: autistic people, when trying to appear neurotypical, are running WINE. For those who don’t know, WINE is a Linux program that allows you to run Windows programs. However, there is a cost. You require more memory and processing power to run a program in WINE than you would if you ran a regular Linux program, or, if you ran that Windows program in the Windows operating system.

Oftentimes, I am that computer trying to run Windows programs in WINE. For the most part, the programs work, but they might be a bit slower. Sometimes, if I try to run too many Windows programs at once, I might crash, and need time to recover. Usually, I can feel this coming on, and try to retreat to solitude in order to reboot.

I’ve been thinking of this a lot lately, while trying to play XCOM2 on my desktop computer. While it doesn’t run WINE, the Steam game loading program acts in a similar manner in that it pretends to be a Windows machine in order to play some games. I noticed that I was having trouble loading one of the most fun functions of the game, the character pool. I’ve had a couple of friends create badass versions of me that I’d like to have running around in my game.

After fiddling around with files for hours, I gave in and installed Windows outright.

I’ve often wished, and tried, to do the same to my own brain. To train myself to forget about being Linux-y and install Windows, so I could run it all the time, and have access to all the cool stuff the rest of the world has.If only it were so easy. It turned out not to be that easy for my computer, either. After a couple of days, the display blanked out, and nothing, short of reinstalling Linux, seemed to work.

(Yes, I know the analogy is flawed; Windows is not WINE, and in most cases you can have a machine dual boot with both operating systems. On my machine, each OS failed to recognize the other OS, and I had to format in order to install them. However, that would mean splitting your hard drive into different partitions, so… )

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