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An instruction manual for life, love, and relationships by a brilliant young scientist whose Asperger's syndrome allows her--and us--to see ourselves in a different way...and to be better at being human Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of eight, Camilla Pang struggled to understand the world around her. Desperate for a solution, she asked her mother if the An instruction manual for life, love, and relationships by a brilliant young scientist whose Asperger's syndrome allows her--and us--to see ourselves in a different way...and to be better at being human Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of eight, Camilla Pang struggled to understand the world around her. Desperate for a solution, she asked her mother if there was an instruction manual for humans that she could consult. With no blueprint to life, Pang began to create her own, using the language she understands best: science. That lifelong project eventually resulted in An Outsider's Guide to Humans, an original and incisive exploration of human nature and the strangeness of social norms, written from the outside looking in--which is helpful to even the most neurotypical thinker. Camilla Pang uses a set of scientific principles to examine life's everyday interactions: How machine learning can help us sift through data and make more rational decisions How proteins form strong bonds, and what they teach us about embracing individual differences to form diverse groups Why understanding thermodynamics is the key to seeking balance over seeking perfection How prisms refracting light can keep us from getting overwhelmed by our fears and anxieties, breaking them into manageable and separate "wavelengths" Pang's unique perspective of the world tells us so much about ourselves--who we are and why we do the things we do--and is a fascinating guide to living a happier and more connected life.


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An instruction manual for life, love, and relationships by a brilliant young scientist whose Asperger's syndrome allows her--and us--to see ourselves in a different way...and to be better at being human Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of eight, Camilla Pang struggled to understand the world around her. Desperate for a solution, she asked her mother if the An instruction manual for life, love, and relationships by a brilliant young scientist whose Asperger's syndrome allows her--and us--to see ourselves in a different way...and to be better at being human Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of eight, Camilla Pang struggled to understand the world around her. Desperate for a solution, she asked her mother if there was an instruction manual for humans that she could consult. With no blueprint to life, Pang began to create her own, using the language she understands best: science. That lifelong project eventually resulted in An Outsider's Guide to Humans, an original and incisive exploration of human nature and the strangeness of social norms, written from the outside looking in--which is helpful to even the most neurotypical thinker. Camilla Pang uses a set of scientific principles to examine life's everyday interactions: How machine learning can help us sift through data and make more rational decisions How proteins form strong bonds, and what they teach us about embracing individual differences to form diverse groups Why understanding thermodynamics is the key to seeking balance over seeking perfection How prisms refracting light can keep us from getting overwhelmed by our fears and anxieties, breaking them into manageable and separate "wavelengths" Pang's unique perspective of the world tells us so much about ourselves--who we are and why we do the things we do--and is a fascinating guide to living a happier and more connected life.

30 review for An Outsider's Guide to Humans: What Science Taught Me about What We Do and Who We Are

  1. 5 out of 5

    Dan Connors

    Camilla Pang was diagnosed with autism at age 8, and later diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, (ADHD) and generalized anxiety disorder, (GAD). With those strikes against her, this young woman has become a biologist, writer, and autism activist. Pang, in her mid-twenties, wrote this fascinating book that looks at life from the perspective of an autistic person and science nerd. From her unique perspective, the author talks about how the world of math and science has given he Camilla Pang was diagnosed with autism at age 8, and later diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, (ADHD) and generalized anxiety disorder, (GAD). With those strikes against her, this young woman has become a biologist, writer, and autism activist. Pang, in her mid-twenties, wrote this fascinating book that looks at life from the perspective of an autistic person and science nerd. From her unique perspective, the author talks about how the world of math and science has given her models to help interact with the messy world of humans, most of whom she has a hard time understanding with their complex emotional behaviors. Challenged by her conditions, Pang has used models to help guide her, and it all makes sense even from a non-autistic perspective. In eleven brief but science-laden chapters, Pang presents convincing evidence that much of our world can be understood from the perspective of tiny molecules, particle waves, and the laws of thermodynamics. It's not easy reading if you don't like science, (and even if you do), but if you take the trip with her it's a fascinating way to look at things. Here is a brief summary of the eleven scientific principles she expands to regular life. 1- Machine learning and artificial intelligence can help us build helpful models of the world that use decision trees and divergent thinking to come to better decisions. Thinking in boxes of certainty doesn't get you near as far. 2- Protein molecules are complex and diversified substances that cooperate with each other in many ways to create life. They serve as a good example of the many diverse and important variations of humans who make up a society. 3- Entropy is a basic law of physics that says that things tend to get more disordered unless outside forces are brought in. Perfectionism is a fear of disorder, and we need to accept entropy sometimes and choose wisely when to counteract it. 4- Prisms separate bright light into many different colored wavelengths. This is a good model of how to deal with anxiety- make yourself a prism and separate the different components of anxiety to make it more manageable and understandable. 5- Waves move in many ways all around us. To find harmony with others we need to be aware of their wavelengths and amplitudes, and to help ourselves with inevitable extremes, we need to find others to help balance them out. 6- Molecules are almost always in motion. Ergotic theory means that everything eventually moves with the universe's motions. Outliers are needed to refresh, challenge, and extend overall consensus or a bland homogeneity results- which is why we need individuality to survive. 7- There's something called the gradient descent algorithm that tells us how to find our paths using math, quantum physics, and network theory. I have no idea what I've just written, but it somehow shows a middle pathway between living in the now all the time and living for tomorrow and planning ahead. 8- Probability and estimates are a better way to navigate uncertain human relationships rather than making assumptions at the beginning. Observe people's behavior and adjust your assumptions about them as you go along, getting a clearer picture with every step. 9- Chemical bonds within molecules give us a model for how to make bonds between other humans. Sometimes people choose those who are just like themselves, (covalent bonding), and sometimes they choose people who are opposite but complement them (ionic bonding). Knowing why you choose people helps you understand their place in your life and when to let go if necessary. 10- Feedback loops, both positive and negative, are ways to use your neural networks to create desired outcomes or get rid of bad ones. Positive loops reinforce themselves with success, and negative ones extinguish bad behaviors before they can do real damage. 11- Etiquette, which is a minefield for autistic people, can be explained by game theory. Like in chess, you need to be able to anticipate reactions of other people and choices they might make in reaction to your own. This is a tough read, but if you want to look at life from new perspectives, this book has plenty. The world of science is full of theories, algorithms, and logical explanations, while the world of people is chaotic, full of unwritten rules, and always changing. I applaud Ms. Pang for her brilliant takes on all of us at such a young age and unique position. She is an original thinker and we certainly need many more of those in these challenging times.

  2. 4 out of 5

    MB (What she read)

    As per this interview: https://cupofjo.com/2020/12/what-auti... As per this interview: https://cupofjo.com/2020/12/what-auti...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Marcy

    If you want to understand what it's like to get in the mind of a neurodiverse person, this is the book for you. Pang has authored an inspiring book that takes you inside her thinking process by explaining scientific concepts from bioinformatics to machine learning. Through these metaphors, she shows readers how she has managed to understand neurotypical habits and behaviors and adapt. If you want to understand what it's like to get in the mind of a neurodiverse person, this is the book for you. Pang has authored an inspiring book that takes you inside her thinking process by explaining scientific concepts from bioinformatics to machine learning. Through these metaphors, she shows readers how she has managed to understand neurotypical habits and behaviors and adapt.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Zaitoon

    This book felt like a couple of neuro-diverse friends getting together and sharing notes on how they've unlocked some secrets to normie life. I enjoyed it. I felt Ms Pang wasn't allowed to be as scientific as she would have liked to be. I would have loved more diagrams and deeper science. This book felt like a couple of neuro-diverse friends getting together and sharing notes on how they've unlocked some secrets to normie life. I enjoyed it. I felt Ms Pang wasn't allowed to be as scientific as she would have liked to be. I would have loved more diagrams and deeper science.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tammy

    The author compares human relationships to scientific phenomenon. It was interesting, but didn't seem particularly helpful to me. So some relationships are like covalent bonds and some are like ionic. Is that helpful to a child trying to make friends in school? Maybe for some. There are hand-drawn figures throughout the book. I'm an engineer and I understood what she was talking about in the text, but the figures were just confusing to me. Too much going on, I think. The author compares human relationships to scientific phenomenon. It was interesting, but didn't seem particularly helpful to me. So some relationships are like covalent bonds and some are like ionic. Is that helpful to a child trying to make friends in school? Maybe for some. There are hand-drawn figures throughout the book. I'm an engineer and I understood what she was talking about in the text, but the figures were just confusing to me. Too much going on, I think.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Elle

    An Outsider's Guide to Humans by Dr. Camilla "Millie" Pang is a look at human interactions and relationships through the eyes of a brilliant scientist who has Asperger's Syndrome. As the parent of three sons on the autism spectrum (ranging from severe non-verbal to highly gifted Asperger's Syndrome) as well as a teacher of students with autism (I have taught genius level students who were multiple grade levels ahead of their typically developing peers). I admit to being very excited to add this An Outsider's Guide to Humans by Dr. Camilla "Millie" Pang is a look at human interactions and relationships through the eyes of a brilliant scientist who has Asperger's Syndrome. As the parent of three sons on the autism spectrum (ranging from severe non-verbal to highly gifted Asperger's Syndrome) as well as a teacher of students with autism (I have taught genius level students who were multiple grade levels ahead of their typically developing peers). I admit to being very excited to add this book to my collection. I was hoping to pick up some tips on how to better understand and help my sons and students who can have an extremely difficult time with developing positive social relationships with the people around them (to include friends, parents, teachers, and employers). I have helped many individuals through meltdowns because there was a misreading of social cues. As someone who is possibly on the spectrum myself and who has social anxiety, I understand that there is a great need for people to understand and accept individuals who do not always understand the intricacies of social relationships. Dr. Pang did not always understand social situations and why people act in certain ways, so she decided to become her own science experiment by using scientific principles and applying them to the humans around her. Science is something that Dr. Pang could understand easily and typically follows predictable patterns, whereas humans can be very unpredictable, especially in different situations. Dr. Pang does an excellent job of explaining herself and it does all makes sense, but I think if I understood science a bit better, this book would have been better for me. I have not studied any science in about 30 years, so I was having to re-learn scientific terminology as I read the book. Overall, I do feel this was an excellent read, but there were times that my focus was too much on understanding the science that it distracted from my ability to learn from and enjoy the book. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to get a peek inside what the world looks like to Dr. Pang and how she navigates the world. It is always fascinating to learn about autism through the voice of someone who is on the spectrum themselves. I especially recommend it to individuals who are on the autism spectrum themselves as it may help them navigate social situations better by looking through the lens of scientific principles. Overall, a truly fascinating read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Turtleman

    Camilla Pang is on the autism spectrum, has ADHD and anxiety issues. She also has a PhD in bioinformatics. Not being able to "read" people she has crafted together tools to better understand human behaviour using scientific principles (thermodynamics, wave theory, quantum physics, chemical bonds, machine learning and game theory, to name just a few). At times the linkages between hard science and human behaviour are strained, or at least unhelpful to this reader, but often the author pulls off r Camilla Pang is on the autism spectrum, has ADHD and anxiety issues. She also has a PhD in bioinformatics. Not being able to "read" people she has crafted together tools to better understand human behaviour using scientific principles (thermodynamics, wave theory, quantum physics, chemical bonds, machine learning and game theory, to name just a few). At times the linkages between hard science and human behaviour are strained, or at least unhelpful to this reader, but often the author pulls off remarkable insight into understanding people and relating to them. Many people struggle with perfection. Using thermodynamics and entropy, Pang shows the futility of such an approach: "There is something liberating about accepting the limits of how much order we can create in our lives. Once you've accepted that it's no more possible to live the perfectly planned life than it is for a sandcastle to resist the tide, it's easier to focus on the things you can control" (p. 67). I particularly enjoyed the chapter on empathy, where Pang demonstrates how she uses Bayesian probability to try and predict what people are feeling because too often people don't say what they mean for a variety of reasons. By paying more attention to behaviours we can become better at understanding hidden mental states: "Becoming better observers will make us better Bayesians -- and ultimately more empathetic partners" (p. 162). Pang also has a wicked sense of humour: "If you've ever worried that you struggle too much with this dilemma, quantum mechanics -- the study of subatomic particles, the smallest we know about, and a subset of theoretical physics -- is here to reassure you" (p. 125). Highly recommended for those with a good science background and an interest in understanding humans.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    I am soooo not the target audience for this, it turns out. I thought I was, since I am the parent of an adult daughter with Asperger's Syndrome and the author is also on the spectrum and only a few years older than my daughter. I started the book thinking it might be of use to my daughter and I could then recommend it to her. It's only helpful if you are a big science buff and are fascinated by long detailed explanations of scientific terms. The last science class I took was in 1985. I found read I am soooo not the target audience for this, it turns out. I thought I was, since I am the parent of an adult daughter with Asperger's Syndrome and the author is also on the spectrum and only a few years older than my daughter. I started the book thinking it might be of use to my daughter and I could then recommend it to her. It's only helpful if you are a big science buff and are fascinated by long detailed explanations of scientific terms. The last science class I took was in 1985. I found reading this book painful in how boring it was. It took me 2 weeks to read a book that is less than 250 pages. It was liking pulling teeth, making myself pick it . I would have DNF but because of the fact the author is on the spectrum and might at some point write something useful, I did not. I should have because she never wrote anything that would be helpful to my daughter who loves art and literature and history - basically the polar opposite of the author. If you adore reading descriptions of scientific terms and are on the spectrum, then this is the book for you! #Popsugar Reading Challenge 2021/a book with fewer than 1,000 reviews on Goodreads

  9. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin Claunch

    This book draws metaphorical parallels between scientific phenomena and human behavior, while also a memoir of Pang’s experience as a neurodiverse person and a self-help book. To me personally, the metaphorical application of the science got a bit frustrating, but there are definitely interesting insights in this book and it’s helpful to learn more about challenges and strengths of neurodiversity.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Joe J

    Camilla Pang was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at a young age and always felt like an outsider and eventually, she became a scientist. I think that would also be a good book to see how she reached that point. In this book, she using her feeling of being an outsider and scientific principles to analyze human interaction and how she is able to think about everything in that manner. It can or is a little boring at times, but overall a good listen and with a lot of interesting ideas.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Cate Triola

    Full review available here. I enjoyed the personal stories the author shared, but the further I got into each chapter, the less I understood. I think this is great for readers with a science background looking for a memoir to read. Full review available here. I enjoyed the personal stories the author shared, but the further I got into each chapter, the less I understood. I think this is great for readers with a science background looking for a memoir to read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Brooke Antonio

    I’m sure this book would resonate with someone who has more of a science background or interests of that nature but it just wasn’t for me. some of the chapters made sense but some seemed like a stretch.. that could be my limited understanding of the subjects though.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    This book has some good insights into the way the mind of a person on the autism spectrum works.

  14. 4 out of 5

    John

    A bit of a stretch at times in terms of the correlations that the author makes, but still, interesting reading.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Luciano Elementi

    Interesting take, not all the physics examples fit into the paradigm of human but it really uncover a lot of the behavioral idiosyncrasy we all display. I enjoyed her writing

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alex Kogay

    This was an interesting mix of deep dive neuro science and quirky behaviours. Definitely has a few handy tips of organizing your thoughts / life and seeing things from a different perspective.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Karl Nehring

    Only negative about this book is the lack of the Oxford comma.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Moosemom

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. fascinating how her mind works

  19. 5 out of 5

    Marce

  20. 5 out of 5

    David Bird

  21. 5 out of 5

    Katie

  22. 5 out of 5

    Shunji

  23. 4 out of 5

    Brian

  24. 4 out of 5

    Noah

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tatiana Harvey

  26. 4 out of 5

    Heike

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

  29. 5 out of 5

    Iva Velickovic

  30. 4 out of 5

    A Durkin

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