SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk revealed that he has Asperger’s syndrome while hosting Saturday Night Live (SNL) last week. Speaking publicly about his condition for the first time, the tech entrepreneur drew huge cheers and applause from the studio audience, although some of his comments have caused controversy.
“I’m actually making history tonight as the first person with Asperger’s to host SNL – or at least the first to admit it,” said Musk during his opening monologue. However, a number of social media users have pointed out that Dan Aykroyd beat him to that accolade when he hosted the long-running sketch show back in 2003.
Though once considered a distinct and separate condition, Asperger’s syndrome is now considered to be part of the autism spectrum, and is a label that some people find problematic. Among those who have been diagnosed with the condition, some choose to continue using the term Asperger’s while others prefer to identify as being on the autism spectrum.
Sharing its name with Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger, the condition was first described in the 1940s and differs from other types of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in that it usually doesn’t include learning disabilities or language deficits. However, those with Asperger’s syndrome may experience difficulties interpreting social cues or expressing their emotions.
According to the UK’s National Autistic Society, many people with Asperger’s find that the pursuit of certain “intense and highly focused interests” is fundamental to their happiness and sense of wellbeing. In an interview with the Daily Mail, Dan Aykroyd explained how this aspect of his condition helped him to come up with the concept for Ghostbusters.
“I became obsessed by Hans Holzer, the greatest ghost hunter ever. That’s when the idea of my film Ghostbusters was born,” he said.
During his appearance on SNL, Musk made numerous references to his own behavior patterns, including his tendency to make controversial comments on social media. "Look, I know I sometimes say or post strange things, but that's just how my brain works," he quipped.
"To anyone I've offended, I just want to say I reinvented electric cars, and I'm sending people to Mars in a rocket ship. Did you think I was also going to be a chill, normal dude?"
While the Neuralink CEO chose to publicly identify as having Asperger’s, some have suggested that the term should be phased out following recent revelations concerning the involvement of Hans Asperger with the Nazis.