Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs: Menaces or Linchpins?

Deanna Ogle examines Mark Zuckerberg, his peers in the tech industry and how their social impairments affect society and innovation.

Silicon Valley has seen a huge spike of cases of Asbergers of the last several years, many of which show up in the tech industry. Gawker has suggested that one of people likely to have the condition is Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook and subject of the 2010 Aaron Sorkin film “The Social Network”.

The first symptom is obsessiveness; his girlfriend refused to move to California with him until he guaranteed her one-hundred minutes of alone time a week. People have talked about being in the room with Mark and him asking their opinion, and as they talk he does not offer the social cues that other people do to indicate that his was listening, which is a classic example of impaired social interaction.

Are the social impairments of many of the tech giants such as Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Biz Stone and Craig Newmark important for society?

People like Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs have completely revolutionized social media and technology. Without them, the technological landscape would look completely different and much less sophisticated.  They are incredibly important for the moving forward of society but they come with double-edged swords.

Mike Daisey, a comedian and storyteller tells a story of how Steve Jobs had to fire a few people. His solution to this was, instead of calling the employees directly, to call up his employees’ secretaries and instruct them to schedule a calendar event called “Your Firing”. The employee then would walk around blissfully unaware of their demise until they saw the calendar event.

As Tom Matlack said in November, Steve Jobs was an assaholic. Some of the innovation people like Jobs and Zuckerberg are responsible probably come from their naturally lower inhibition centers. This allows them to see beyond the normal mental limits that other people are constrained to. However, because they have achieved so much, it seems to give people who don’t suffer from Asbergers or other social impairments an excuse to clobber people and act like jerks to accomplish what they think is best.

What do you think? Are people like these infamous tech giants important to society? Or do they indirectly do more damage to the people around them in the long run? Would Steve Jobs been able to have accomplish as much without his tyranny? Would Facebook be where it is without Mark’s social impairments?

Photo credit: Flickr / Andrew Feinberg

About Deanna Ogle

Deanna Ogle hails from the greater Detroit area and her work has appeared in The Good Men Project, The Printed Blog, and Provoketive Magazine. She is studying journalism and religious studies, and writes at her personal blog Soul like a Spider. Loves: carnations, iced espresso, and watching movies with her husband. Find her at Twitter, Google and Facebook.


  1. Have any of the people mentioned in this article been formally diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder? It’s not something you should assume just because someone is socially awkward, savant-like, obsessed or an arsehole.

    Having gone through the diagnosis process with one of my children, I can assure you it is subtler and more complex then just being nerdish. The way it was explained to me there are something like 100 different criteria that a person is measured on and they have to meet something like 80 of them to be considered on the spectrum. Most people meet 20 or so (but not necessarily the same 20) and some can meet 40 or 50 and still not be considered an aspie or autie. (On average, cats meet about 50. 🙂

    Having a child with Asperger, it can certainly be at the forefront of my mind and I’m as prone to playing “spot the aspie” as anyone, but outside of musings in my own head, I don’t think we should be cavalier in throwing such a misunderstood term as “Aspergers” around, especially if you base your opinion on Hollywood “bio-pics”.

    • Deanna Ogle says:

      I made sure not to say that they do for sure have Asbergers, because I know that (a) they could just be socially awkward aside from anything biological, (b) I don’t want to be insensitive to people like yourself whose children deal with the actual condition and (c) all of these things exist on a continuum of severity.

      Gawker was simply pointing out familiar symptoms and remarking at the prevalence of people like Mark in Silicon Valley:

    • Deanna Ogle says:

      Also, I wasn’t basing it on the biopic. That’d be silly. I was basing it off the article and what I have read of other people’s interactions with him (per the link I included in my last comment).

  2. Re: Asperger’s Syndrome and Steve Jobs…

    According to my husband’s friend who works at Apple, Steve Jobs was a scary dude…no one wanted to get on the elevator with him at Cupertino…he would just turn to some random guy, ask who he was, and then just fire him! Assaholic, indeed! (And BTW, my husband’s friend is an asshole, too, but he and everyone else were scared of Steve!)

  3. This blog is part of the Good Men Project, which describes itself as: “is a glimpse of what enlightened masculinity might look like in the 21st century.”

    Do I take it, then, that in your view the 21st century man (or woman, for that matter) should be so neutered that he/she is free of any “social impairment,” the type of “social impairment” that has driven most of the greatest men and women of history? What a boring and unproductive 21st Century THAT would produce!

  4. I’m going to halfway agree with Peter on this one, in my opinion both were/are much better marketers than innovators.

    If I was browsing through the DSM looking for a mental disability to attach to either I might lean towards cluster C personality disorders. In both cases there seems to be a distinct disconnection between what is good for the self and what is good for the world at large.

  5. Peter Houlihan says:

    I’d say menace, but nothing to do with their neurology. In each instance the individuals in question established a monopolistic structure aimed at exterminating competiton. None of them contributed anything that didn’t already exist on the marketplace.

    • Agreed.

      Author of this article does not seem to be technically inclined. Neither Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg are in any way socially inept — Their business success is not because they’re exceptional programmers. There are millions of people who are much more technically adept than either Jobs or Zuckerberg. Their success comes from their business deals, social connections, class, and luck.

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