Autism Acceptance, Rocket Reuse, and Robot Replacements | Vol. 4 / No. 23

Instead of the “puzzle piece” that suggests we’re a problem to be solved, here’s an Autism Pride Flag | Photo: chasduncan via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 4.0

It’s Autism Acceptance Day! So we’re starting with that before moving on to SpaceX’s amazing news this week and the impending threat of the robiticization of the workforce. Add to that the weekly linkspam and a trailer for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, and you’ve got the news roundup for April 2, 2017!


Autism Acceptance

Today, April 2, is commonly known as “Autism Awareness Day” (with the whole of April being the same but with the word “month” replacing “day”). But given that most people are pretty aware of the existence of autism, here’s a few things to remember to not only be “aware” of autism, but accepting of it, especially if you’re not autistic.

  • Terminology: These aren’t set in stone, but currently the preferred terms are:
    • Autistic: on the autism spectrum
    • Allistic: not on the autism spectrum
    • Neurotypical: exhibiting “typical” brain architecture
    • Neurodiverse: exhibiting brain architecture with often codified differences from “typical,” including but certainly not limited to autism, ADHD, dyxlexia, synaethesia, etc. A person can be allistic and neurodiverse simultaneously.
  • Person-first language: There’s an ongoing debate right now, but in the circles I run in, people on the autism spectrum often prefer “autistic person” over “person with autism,” because their autism often defines so much of who they are that it’s a primary part of their identity. There’s also concern that “person with autism” suggests that their autism is a disorder that requires fixing.
  • “Curing” and/or “fixing”: Autistic people don’t need a cure because autism isn’t a disease, we aren’t an “epidemic.” Autistic people instead need (in vastly overgeneralized terms) recognition and acceptance of their differences, as well as coping strategies to be adopted by both autistic and allistic people alike. Autistic people don’t need pity, ableism, “high-” and “low-functioning” labels, or bizarre anti-science crusades against vaccines.
  • VACCINES DON’T CAUSE AUTISM: enough said there, I think.

The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism has a great resource up if you want to take a look, and of course you could always get a copy of NeuroTribes. Oh, and stay away from Autism Speaks.


The Second Successful Launch of No. 21 | Photo: SpaceX CC0 (public domain)

Rocket Reuse

They did it. On Thursday evening of this week, SpaceX reused a Falcon 9 first stage to send the SES-10 communications satellite to orbit, marking the first time a private company has reused a rocket to send something to space. It’s also the first time anyone’s ever propulsively landed a rocket that sent something to orbit, then turned it around and used it again—and then propulsively landed it a second time. As I wrote about earlier this week, it could drop their launch prices below $50 million, which is (to put it mildly) a little insane. And on top of that they recovered one of the two fairings (the two halves of the nose-cone that protect the payload during launch) which can themselves run into the millions of dollars. According to Spaceflight Now, Elon Musk said of the fairings, “At one point, we were debating whether we should try to recover it […] Imagine you had $6 million in cash in a pallet flying through the air, and it’s going to smash into the ocean. Would you try to recover it? Yes, you would.” The next step for the company is to get the turnaround time down—Musk is aiming for 24-hours. Either way it’s going to be an amazing ride to watch them progress. You can read more at Spaceflight Now.


Teslas being made by — you guessed it, robots | Photo: Steve Jurvetson, CC BY 2.0

Robots to Replace Us

Last month, the treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin said that “in terms of artificial intelligence taking over the jobs, I think we’re so far away from that that it’s not even on my radar screen […] I think it’s 50 or 100 more years.” This is, to my mind (and many others’) somewhat blind. Take for example the news that BlackRock is removing roughly 13% of its employees from its payroll by implementing AI algorithms. Or perhaps the new study out from PwC (formerly Pricewaterhouse Coopers) that says 38% of US jobs could be vulnerable to robotic replacement in just the next 15 years. From manufacturing to truck drivers to investment bankers to lawyers, roboticization is happening, and it’s happening now. A lot of those jobs will be replaced by new jobs—if more skilled ones—but if the past is anything to go by, there will be only one new job for every 6.2 replaced by robots. There are, of course, things we could do. We could decide to start paying people for labour we don’t typically pay for—things like child-rearing, volunteering at NGOs, and so on—or we could even pay people a Universal Basic Income to supplement the part-time and temporary work we’re all being forced into. But if we do nothing at all and pretend, like Steve Mnuchin, that the problems are decades to a century away, we’re going to end up in one hell of a recession. Maybe we could start by ditching supply-side fantasies and making the minimum wage a living wage.



Here’s what we got up to here this week, just in case you missed it:

Go check those out if you missed them!


Best of the Rest

And of course no week would be complete without your weekly linkspam:

That’s it for today, except for the fact that a horrifying statue of famous footballer Cristiano Ronaldo’s face has gone viral (seriously, go look, you’ll laugh), and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets dropped a new trailer (and there appears to be plot!). You can check out the latter below.

Have a great week.


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Richard Ford Burley is a human, writer, and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as Deputy Managing Editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.