Thursday, December 17, 2020

CAMILLA PANG Shares AN OUTSIDER’S GUIDE TO HUMANS: an instruction manual for life, love, and relationships. She 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

When Camilla Pang was five years old, she asked her mother if there was an instruction manual for humans—a guidebook, something that could explain why people behave the way they do. In her mind, she was an alien within her own species, someone who understood the words but couldn’t speak the language. In this powerful and intuitive debut, she lays out a guide to human nature using scientific principles and theories as her roadmap.

Pang—who holds a PhD in bioinformatics from University College London and is a postdoctoral scientist—is neurodivergent. She has ASD (autism spectrum disorder), ADHD (attention deficit anxiety disorder), and GAD (generalized anxiety disorder). Together these might make everyday life for her impossible, but in AN OUTSIDER’S GUIDE TO HUMANS she explains how her studies made clear the ambiguous, often contradictory, and hard to understand actions she sees humans make every day. The book is the life manual she longed for as a child—accessible to anyone, neurotypical or neurodivergent, who has wondered why we behave the way we do.


Camilla Pang offers insights into:
  • How she claimed her neurodiversity as her superpower: Pang’s neurodiversity may have created so many questions about how humans interact, but it also gave her the unique tools to answer them. In her book, she teaches readers how to use those same tools to live a happier and more connected life.

  • How machine learning -- a branch of AI -- can help us make more rational decisions—without requiring us to get more organized: It’s time to admit that our computers thinks more outside the box than we do—but the good news is that they can also teach us how to do same.

  • What proteins can teach us about embracing individual differences and forming diverse groups: The protein model of teamwork shows us that, far from uniformity being helpful, it is diversity that is essential to collaboration and success.

  • How the visual of a prism refracting light can help us from getting overwhelmed by our fears and anxieties, breaking them into manageable and separate “wavelengths”: Minimizing fears—using the denial approach—doesn’t just make us feel less afraid. It makes us miss opportunities and stymies creativity and inspiration.


In AN OUTSIDER’S GUIDE TO HUMANS, Pang applies scientific principles to the problems of human relationships, the perils of perfectionism, and the pitfalls of social etiquette—and the result is a joyous, funny, incisive, and important work from which anyone can learn.

You can listen to Pang in conversation here to learn more about her work.

About the Author:

Camilla Pang holds a PhD in bioinformatics from University College London and is a postdoctoral scientist. Her career and studies have been heavily influenced by her diagnoses of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and ADHD and she is driven by her passion for understanding humans and how we work. Pang is also a volunteer cancer researcher at the Francis Crick Institute, and volunteers on socio-psychological projects for mining communities in Africa. She is an active contributor to art and science initiatives and often partakes in mental health and decision making research projects.

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