This long profile of Mark Zuckerberg in the New Yorker includes a litany of descriptions that bothered me. Consider the following:
- Zuckerberg is described as "a strange mixture of shy and cocky"
- Zuckerberg is described as "wary and private," someone who doesn't enjoy speaking to the press or speaking in public.
- People complain that Zuckerberg is "a robot"
- Zuckerberg "sometimes talks like an Instant Message--brusque, flat as a dial tone"
- Zuckerberg is called "the poorest rich person I've ever met in my life" by Tyler Winklevoss, because he does not spend money on consumption.
Then, the author contrasts Zuckerberg's insufficiently social and outgoing personality with his status as the creator of a social networking website that is apparently hell-bent on forcing people to divulge private details about their lives. That's called irony I guess.
It seems to me that when someone has traits we sometimes associate with Asperger's (I define that term somewhat more loosely than the clinical definition, in the spirit of Tyler Cowen), and that person is in a position of vulnerability (e.g. a child, or the person you ignore in high school), then those traits are dealt with in a sympathetic way. But when that same cognitive profile produces a billionaire, then those traits are turned on their head: They become unsympathetic, sinister, even evidence of some kind of hypocrisy.
You often see the same cognitive profile in the world of money management. In fact, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that Asperger traits are found in many of the world's best stockpickers. And truth be told, you often see the same kind of subtle discrimination, especially as the world of hedge funds becomes more institutionalized. I don't think I exaggerate when I say that simple social polish can sometimes mean the difference between managing a $2 billion fund and a $200 million fund, even when the latter is a much better investor.
I think the best venture capitalists and hedge fund manager selectors practice a kind of Asperger arbitrage. Like the kid in high school who was friends with both the jocks and the nerds, he/she can navigate both the world of institutional investors who allocate to VC funds and hedge funds of funds, and also the much different social world of the tech founders and hedge fund managers themselves. The author of the Zuckerberg profile is not one of those people.