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The Pattern Seekers: How Autism Drives Human Invention [Deleted]


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VictorR submitted a new resource:

The Pattern Seekers: How Autism Drives Human Invention - A thesis about the history of invention

For tens of thousands of years, humans have filled the lives with astonishing feats of invention. We see the obvious evidence for inventiveness everywhere we look. But where does that come from?

In The Pattern Seekers, Cambridge University psychologist Simon Cohen-Baron makes a bold new claim: human invention results from the same traits that cause autism. At the hear of Baron-Cohen’s argument is what he calls the systemizing mind, our unique ability to identify special patterns in...

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Not sure what happened, but anyways... review for

Simon Baron-Cohen
The Pattern Seekers: How Autism Drives Human Invention
Basic Books


Review #28

Simon Baron-Cohen is one of the better known names in the autism world. A longtime academic and researcher of autism in Britain, his hundreds of journal articles date back to the 1980s, when he completed his PhD with Uta Frith as his supervisor. One of his articles, co-authored along with his colleagues at Cambridge, in 2001, gave us the Autism Quotient test that is commonly used as a screening tool.

When I looked that the reviews for this book, I was impressed that it seems to be well regarded. But take a closer look at the wording of the reviews – like John Elder Robison’s "Simon Baron-Cohen has long been a champion of autistic people, and The Pattern Seekers -- a thought-provoking book - makes a significant contribution to the emerging literature on neurodiversity." and we see what is really just a really some generic filler without any real substance.

And so I’m not pulling any punches here – this book was, overall, a disappointment. But let’s dive into the contents:

Chapter 1 was quite captivating, introducing us to a contemporary autistic youth and someone from a century earlier who was developmentally delayed and struggled in school but turned out to be a brilliant but eclectic inventor – Thomas Edison, whose profile I had recognized as I had done a presentation on him back in grade school.

Chapter 2 introduces us to his thesis, which is that “if and then” pattern seeking is what drove human innovation around 70,000-100,000 years ago to increasingly advanced technological advances, ultimately leading to modern civilization.

Chapter 3 is a rehash of his “extreme male brain” theory… which I’m not going to get into since it’s kind of controversial.

Chapter 4 segues into some profiles of people like Bill Gates and Glen Goud, though Baron-Cohen notes that we should take caution not to label others.

Chapters 5 go into human history and anthropology and form the core of the thesis.

Chapter 6 is a weird side discussion about human superiority over other animals.

Chapter 7 picks up where chapter 5 left off.

Chapter 8 revisits the Eindhoven study (that there seems to be a correlation between engineers and autism).

And finally, Chapter 9 talks about autism again, but on a very superficial level.

Chapter 9 ends at page 176. After that, there’s a copy of the SQ-R-10, EQ-10, and AQ-10 (shortened versions of the Systemizing-Quotient-Revised, the Empathy Quotient, and the Autism Quotient and then there’s almost 50 pages of endnotes and some other stuff.

While the book is available discounted now, the list price (US$28) seems rather high given that this book doesn’t really accomplish much – virtually of the stuff in it on autism you would have seen elsewhere. And he seems to be trying almost too hard to throw in random citations and notes – I don’t think I’d imagine, before reading this, a book where the endnotes include such diverse references including to Wrong Planet, David Attenborough, and Atlas Obscura.

I’m not saying this is a bad book, and it’s actually written quite well and the citations are well done. But considering the pedigree of the author, it’s lackluster and reads more like an anthropology thesis drawn out to hit a certain page/word count that then got sandwiched between some tidbits about autism so that it could be sold as an autism book, when a much more concise version would have been suitable for publishing as an journal article.

Score: 3.0/6.0 (which is the lowest score I’ve given to date)

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