An assistant professor at Purdue University diagnosed with autism was recently accused of using artificial intelligence to write an email.
Rua Mae Williams, who teaches user experience design, shared a viral tweet illustrating how people often misunderstand people with autism by giving an example of someone critiquing their tone in an email.
Williams prefaces the tweet with a simple statement above two screenshots: “This is not an email I ever expected to receive or send.”
This is not an email I ever expected to receive or send. pic.twitter.com/5IBBhlvKcQ— Rua M. Williams (@FractalEcho) July 19, 2023
“The AI design of your email is clever, but significantly lacks warmth,” someone emailed Williams. “Would it be possible to be contacted by a human being moving forward instead of AI? Many thanks.”
Williams promptly corrected the person.
“It’s not an AI. I’m just Autistic,” Williams wrote. “See you next Friday.”
Though they shared the exchange on Twitter, Williams clearly hadn’t expected such a huge reaction from the general public.
“Wow I haven’t gotten this much attention since I told people to stop punishing students with late penalties,” they said.
The Daily Dot reached out to Williams via email for further comment. Many tweeted their support, sharing how they also get accused of speaking robotically or unemotionally.
“I can relate,” a user replied. “I get told I talk like an NPC not uncommonly haha. I have moderate to severe social anxiety disorder, so I say what I know will go over okay.”
“People perceive me the exact same way for the same reason!!” another person shared. “People say I hold my emotions close to my chest, but really I express my feelings when it is safe to and not a moment sooner. If that makes me so powerful I am mistaken for AI then like… That checks out.”
Other users pointed out how embarrassed Williams’ colleague must feel about their mistake.
“The flip side of this is thinking of the absolute horror the person who wrote this probably is experiencing. Because good lord, that is crawl-into-the-center-of-the-earth levels of shame on their part,” a user explained.