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The Pattern Seekers: How Autism Drives Human Invention

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In The Pattern Seekers, Cambridge University psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen makes a case that autism is as crucial to our creative and cultural history as the mastery of fire. Indeed, Baron-Cohen argues that autistic people have played a key role in human progress for seventy thousand years, from the first tools to the digital revolution. How? Because the same genes that ca In The Pattern Seekers, Cambridge University psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen makes a case that autism is as crucial to our creative and cultural history as the mastery of fire. Indeed, Baron-Cohen argues that autistic people have played a key role in human progress for seventy thousand years, from the first tools to the digital revolution. How? Because the same genes that cause autism enable the pattern seeking that is essential to our species's inventiveness. However, these abilities exact a great cost on autistic people, including social and often medical challenges, so Baron-Cohen calls on us to support and celebrate autistic people in both their disabilities and their triumphs. Ultimately, The Pattern Seekers isn't just a new theory of human civilization, but asks people to consider anew how society treats those who think differently.


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In The Pattern Seekers, Cambridge University psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen makes a case that autism is as crucial to our creative and cultural history as the mastery of fire. Indeed, Baron-Cohen argues that autistic people have played a key role in human progress for seventy thousand years, from the first tools to the digital revolution. How? Because the same genes that ca In The Pattern Seekers, Cambridge University psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen makes a case that autism is as crucial to our creative and cultural history as the mastery of fire. Indeed, Baron-Cohen argues that autistic people have played a key role in human progress for seventy thousand years, from the first tools to the digital revolution. How? Because the same genes that cause autism enable the pattern seeking that is essential to our species's inventiveness. However, these abilities exact a great cost on autistic people, including social and often medical challenges, so Baron-Cohen calls on us to support and celebrate autistic people in both their disabilities and their triumphs. Ultimately, The Pattern Seekers isn't just a new theory of human civilization, but asks people to consider anew how society treats those who think differently.

30 review for The Pattern Seekers: How Autism Drives Human Invention

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jenna Michelle Pink

    The Pattern Seekers by Simon Baron-Cohen review. I request this book on @netgalley last month. As an autistic person the title jumped out at me and I wanted to know more, although I admit I was quite dubious about what the content might entail due to its author. Simon Baron-Cohen is a controversial person amongst the autistic community. He is a leading expert in his field, having dedicated most of his psychologist career to studying autism. He is however the father of the "extreme male brain" th The Pattern Seekers by Simon Baron-Cohen review. I request this book on @netgalley last month. As an autistic person the title jumped out at me and I wanted to know more, although I admit I was quite dubious about what the content might entail due to its author. Simon Baron-Cohen is a controversial person amongst the autistic community. He is a leading expert in his field, having dedicated most of his psychologist career to studying autism. He is however the father of the "extreme male brain" theory of autism that suggests that autists lack a therory of mind. To my suprise this book is pro-neurodiversity. Simon presents the case that autistic people overwhelming have high systemising brains and that it is these brains that are responsible for many of the world's technological advancements. He speaks of encouraging a society that allows autistic people to flourish in these areas. His theories as to why some autistic people have learning disabilities and his theories around comorbid disabling aspects of autism not being a core aspect of being autistic are insightful and thought provoking and he presents a strong case for his theories. This book is not without critisms however. It is quite long winded and dull in places by giving similar examples over and over again through out. I also question where I would fit into Simon's theories on autism as an autist who does not score high on his emotional not his systemising quotents. Never the less I was pleasantly suprised by this book and I do not think it should be dismissed as easily as some of the autistic community would have it dismissed.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    Intriguing Theory. Full disclosure up front: I *am* Autistic, and thus these types of books tend to demand my attention as I attempt to understand my own mind and body. That noted, Baron-Cohen (no apparent relation to the actor of the same surname) here proposes a theory that those who are "high systemizers" - those he defines as people driven by a process many in programming will recognize as a version of Agile Programming - are the ones who have driven human innovation from the dawn of the spe Intriguing Theory. Full disclosure up front: I *am* Autistic, and thus these types of books tend to demand my attention as I attempt to understand my own mind and body. That noted, Baron-Cohen (no apparent relation to the actor of the same surname) here proposes a theory that those who are "high systemizers" - those he defines as people driven by a process many in programming will recognize as a version of Agile Programming - are the ones who have driven human innovation from the dawn of the species. It is a theory that has at least some degree of merit, but perhaps has a few weaknesses that the author omits - though he does make a point of discussing some competing theories, it is possible that there are other explanations that fit at least some of the data better according to Occam's Razor. Still, he makes a repeated point that even those suspected of being Autistic should not seek a diagnosis unless their abilities are somehow causing problems, which is a point that many in the Autism literature - at least that which I have read - fail to make or even contradict, and for that reason alone this book is a refreshing change of pace. (It also opens with one of my favorite quotes, from The Imitation Game - the story of Alan Turing, the father of Computer Science and a suspected Autistic - that "Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things no one can imagine.") Overall a a must-read book for those seeking to understand Autistics, as it really does make a lot of very solid points - points that were affecting me nearly as much as my first viewing of The Imitation Game. This is yet another one that I will absolutely be recommending those seeking to work with me professionally read, as it can give them many clues both how to understand me - and how to use me much more effectively. Very much recommended.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nostalgia Reader

    Definitely MUCH more clinical than I thought it would be. I only read the first two chapters (about 20%) and did the little quiz charts at the end. I was jarred by the assumed strict dichotomy between systematizers (those who seek patterns) and empathizers--I apparently am a Type S, which means more systematizer and empathizer, based on my quiz scores, but also am too empathetic to quiiiite count as autistic on the chart. Systematizers are billed as the toxic trope of Rain Man-esque math geniuse Definitely MUCH more clinical than I thought it would be. I only read the first two chapters (about 20%) and did the little quiz charts at the end. I was jarred by the assumed strict dichotomy between systematizers (those who seek patterns) and empathizers--I apparently am a Type S, which means more systematizer and empathizer, based on my quiz scores, but also am too empathetic to quiiiite count as autistic on the chart. Systematizers are billed as the toxic trope of Rain Man-esque math geniuses and company founding savants, rather than those of us who are not at all STEM minded, but still happen to easily find patterns in things we do enjoy (for me, finding the pattern of ISBNs for publishers, course codes at work, standard yardages for skeins of yarn). I am not at all numerically minded, but the patterns jump out at me, but not in the way that is USEFUL. I still agree with the general idea of the "if and then" theory, however it was just presented as if all those theories were experiments that led to inventions or discoveries. I guess you can consider noticing the pattern that those digits in a row mean that this book is from this publisher count as a "discovery," but not the apparent groundbreaking way it's presented. Maybe I read too much into it from the start and didn't give it a chance, but I just... was not a fan of the tone, the obvious male-centeredness, and the assumption that autistic people are emotionless robots who lOvEs TeH mAtHs. Let's. Get. Passed. This. Toxic. Assumption. Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy for review!

  4. 5 out of 5

    April Taylor

    I am autistic, but this book just frustrated me. Primarily that’s because the author kept hammering it home again and again that animals can’t experiment, don’t have a theory of mind, etc. This may not have been proven conclusively to be false yet, but it has been shown to be in question enough times that the author shouldn’t make any definitive statements about it. I also didn’t care for the book because it never really got going. All it did, over and over again, was talk about these three thin I am autistic, but this book just frustrated me. Primarily that’s because the author kept hammering it home again and again that animals can’t experiment, don’t have a theory of mind, etc. This may not have been proven conclusively to be false yet, but it has been shown to be in question enough times that the author shouldn’t make any definitive statements about it. I also didn’t care for the book because it never really got going. All it did, over and over again, was talk about these three things, followed by these five things, etc. It was frustrating, especially as a girl on the spectrum. Due to this, I DNF’ed it at 20%. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing an ARC. This review contains my honest, unbiased opinion.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Brian Clegg

    There are two main concepts in this book - one is that the thing that makes humans special is what Simon Baron-Cohen refers to as a systemizing mechanism in the brain, and the other is that two of the spectra all humans sit on is how much we are systemizers and how much we are empathisers. Although it's possible to be strong on both spectra, many who are particularly strong on one are not very strong on the other. And although they aren't the same thing, people diagnosed on the autism spectrum a There are two main concepts in this book - one is that the thing that makes humans special is what Simon Baron-Cohen refers to as a systemizing mechanism in the brain, and the other is that two of the spectra all humans sit on is how much we are systemizers and how much we are empathisers. Although it's possible to be strong on both spectra, many who are particularly strong on one are not very strong on the other. And although they aren't the same thing, people diagnosed on the autism spectrum are more likely than the average person to be strong systemizers. We'll come back to the detail of the invention part of the subtitle, but in some ways, the aspect of the systemizing as what makes humans different is not particularly original. I've seen plenty of examples (including What Do You Think You Are?) of books that suggest our uniqueness comes from the interplay between seeing the world through patterns and the ability to ask 'What if?' Baron-Cohen uses a rather clumsy formulation of the process as 'If-and-then', but for me that felt artificial. One of his many examples is 'If he closely examined the sole of his basketball boot and shaved off a few millimetres then he would achieve an improvement.' This seems little more than a convoluted way of saying 'If he shaved a few millimetres off the sole of his basketball boot then he would achieve an improvement' - the classic computing IF... THEN. Of course, as he points out, you can add in more ANDs, but I'd argue that the basic format really is If... then. However, this niggle apart, I was impressed by both the assertion that invention was a result of being a strong systemizer - hence trying it out all sorts of different possibilities and structuring the outcome to be most likely to come up with something really original - and that this makes modern Homo sapiens different from both the other animals and other hominids, such as Homo erectus and Homo neanderthalensis. Baron-Cohen gives many examples to overcome the obvious argument that a good few other animals (for example chimps and crows), plus these other hominids use or used tools. He shows convincingly that while this is true, both the animal and early hominid use of tools seemed to be a result of learned behaviour. So, for example, hand axes were used well over a million years ago - but they remained the same. There was no invention, no development. What was likely to be an accidental discovery was sustained but never developed. Human invention, which seems to have started around 70,000 years ago, is a totally different phenomenon, because, Baron-Cohen argues, of the systemizing mechanism. Given his speciality, it's no surprise that Baron-Cohen spends a fair amount of time covering the difficulties those with a diagnosis of autism face, and how these can be overcome, pointing out that the overlap between this and being strong systemizers means that with the right support, there is an opportunity for more of those with a diagnosis to have satisfying and useful employment, something that is relatively rarely the case at the moment. I did have one issue with the book - it felt more like a long article that had been stretched to fit book form. There is a significant amount of repetition of different examples of 'if-and-then', and it's quite a shock to get to page 148 of a 230-page book and find it ends (the rest is appendices, notes and index). However, I've no doubt that this is an interesting and valuable contribution both to the discussion of invention and what makes humans different, plus our understanding of human neurodiversity.

  6. 4 out of 5

    MH

    For anyone wondering, the author is Sascha's cousin. Interesting theory about neurodiversity and how the tendency to have a brain partial to systematizing (vs empathizing) is linked to autism. By empathizing, the author is referring to theory of mind rather than caring about people. Midway through the book, he posits that an autistic person is the mirror image of a psychopath, as psychopaths have high empathy brains (giving them the ability to manipulate others) but blunted "affective empathy," For anyone wondering, the author is Sascha's cousin. Interesting theory about neurodiversity and how the tendency to have a brain partial to systematizing (vs empathizing) is linked to autism. By empathizing, the author is referring to theory of mind rather than caring about people. Midway through the book, he posits that an autistic person is the mirror image of a psychopath, as psychopaths have high empathy brains (giving them the ability to manipulate others) but blunted "affective empathy," which is essentially being kind to others. I docked off a star because I found portions dry, even though they definitely supported the theory the author is putting forward. An idea i found particuarly interesting: the author makes a case for creating a more supportive world for folks with autism, particularly through employment. He argued that the traditional interview process eliminates many autistic people from employment where they could essentially bring fresh, innovative ideas to the table. I personally hope this idea gathers steam, especially with only 16% of autistic adults being employed.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Johnny Andrade

    I really loved this awesome book. Psychology professor, and leading expert in Autism research, Simon Baron-Cohen, is one of my favorite authors. I preordered this book earlier this year and have been excitedly waiting for it come. This is definitely one of my top favorite books now. This book takes autism out of its popular culture misconception of being some new illness to be treated, pathologized, or institutionalized, and puts autism in its proper biological, archeological, and historical pla I really loved this awesome book. Psychology professor, and leading expert in Autism research, Simon Baron-Cohen, is one of my favorite authors. I preordered this book earlier this year and have been excitedly waiting for it come. This is definitely one of my top favorite books now. This book takes autism out of its popular culture misconception of being some new illness to be treated, pathologized, or institutionalized, and puts autism in its proper biological, archeological, and historical place: at the center of human evolutionary success, the driver of human invention, technological innovation, scientific discovery and the cognitive engine of human progress. While neurotypicals compete amongst each other for socioeconomic status, fight for political power, gossip about the sex lives of celebrities, go on dates, give each other incurable cooties, and argue with each other about their social constructs, autistics are quietly making new scientific discoveries and inventing new technologies that continue to drive civilizations and humanity into the future. And it’s been this way for thousands of years.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Oxana Tomova

    The Pattern Seekers takes a close look at the human ability to systematise and thus invent, and draws a parallel with autistic people, many of whom fall into the category of (extreme) systemizers. While I find the subject of the book quite intriguing, I felt like the book wasn't particularly interesting. It wasn't exactly what I expected and I found it to be a bit too over-saturated with unnecessary information - I think good 10-15% of the text can be taken out, without hurting the content of the The Pattern Seekers takes a close look at the human ability to systematise and thus invent, and draws a parallel with autistic people, many of whom fall into the category of (extreme) systemizers. While I find the subject of the book quite intriguing, I felt like the book wasn't particularly interesting. It wasn't exactly what I expected and I found it to be a bit too over-saturated with unnecessary information - I think good 10-15% of the text can be taken out, without hurting the content of the book. I still did get to learn more about how humans started inventing and about systemizing vs empathizing brains. Overall, not a bad book, but I'd recommend it only to people who don't mind the book being a bit longer and heavier. *Thanks to NetGalley and Perseus Books, Basic Books for providing me with an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.*

  9. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Hurley

    This book is an odd one...it's sort of fragmented and jumps around a bit. The claims are also a bit strong for my taste (as a fellow academic). The book starts off with an interesting compare/contrast with two individuals who are "pattern seekers" and cleanly lays out the central thesis of the book to conclude the first chapter. The first 3 chapters are basically devoted to describing the two individuals (Ch. 1), describing systemizing and if-and-then reasoning (Ch. 2), and describing the 5 "bra This book is an odd one...it's sort of fragmented and jumps around a bit. The claims are also a bit strong for my taste (as a fellow academic). The book starts off with an interesting compare/contrast with two individuals who are "pattern seekers" and cleanly lays out the central thesis of the book to conclude the first chapter. The first 3 chapters are basically devoted to describing the two individuals (Ch. 1), describing systemizing and if-and-then reasoning (Ch. 2), and describing the 5 "brain types" based upon scores for both systemizing and empathizing. The author then shifts gears to focus in invention throughout history, and to try to tie in the need for the if-and-then "systemizing" as an integral component of invention. He (somewhat clumsily, in my view) tries to refute several competing hypotheses for the capacity for invention. I say somewhat clumsily, because most of the competing theories described are seemingly sub-components of an if-and-then system (idea integration, hypothetical thinking) or facilitate such a system (larger working memory), yet the author claims that "Systems-thinking (if-and-then reasoning) had to come first." This struck me as quite odd, considering that it's rare that a more complex system of reasoning (systems-thinking, in his terminology) would arise independently from and before its sub-components. The book then sharply veers back into the autism realm, where the author investigates whether super-systemizers are more prone to have autistic children, and then concludes with a chapter on how to better support autistic individuals and integrate them into the workplace to allow them to showcase their immense skillsets in environments that are more conducive to their minds. It is heartening to see the thought and care put into this chapter, and that Baron-Cohen continues to be an advocate for autistic individuals, but the end result just seemed to be a highly-fragmented book based upon how sharply it turned in different directions. Regarding Baron-Cohen's claims being too strong (as alluded to in the first paragraph)...he often claims that a study he conducts "proves" a point. Studies can truly only offer evidence supportive of a point of view, not "prove" something...so while this may make for a bit of a stronger claim to many readers, to someone who is versed in the scientific method it comes across as an over-claim or unsupported claim. The author also seems to walk up to the line of offering a diagnosis of someone as autistic (clearly implying it for some of the individuals he discusses) and then whipsawing later in the book to (at multiple points) disparage "diagnosing someone - living or not - on the basis of fragmentary biographical information...since diagnosis should always include the consent of the person and be initiated by them." I think in these instances the needle he's trying to thread is a bit too fine for the common reader. Essentially, in his examples he goes to great lengths to point out how the individuals are "hyper-systemizers" and have low levels of empathy, which is entirely consistent with his description of many autistic individuals, but he doesn't formally say they are autistic (leading the reader to feel it is implied).

  10. 4 out of 5

    Fred Jones

    The argument that autism drive human invention is basically the same argument as that which was presented by Steven Sielberman in Neurotribes. It is of course true but it is nothing new As for the actual title, that idea is taken from Uta Frith, his PhD supervisor and the correlation made does not stand up to any form of cursory scrutiny. It is the ability to perceive details and to connect those details in new and interesting ways which enables one to invent and I say that as an inventor and as s The argument that autism drive human invention is basically the same argument as that which was presented by Steven Sielberman in Neurotribes. It is of course true but it is nothing new As for the actual title, that idea is taken from Uta Frith, his PhD supervisor and the correlation made does not stand up to any form of cursory scrutiny. It is the ability to perceive details and to connect those details in new and interesting ways which enables one to invent and I say that as an inventor and as someone on the spectrum Evidently as someone who has a lesser ability to see patterns, he has seen a pattern which isn't there, namely a greater ability on the part of autistic people to see patterns and has concluded that this explains their greater ability to invent rather than their ability to see and to correlate details. In other words, the ability to invent is due to a local processing bias as opposed to a greater ability to see patterns. A good example might be a new form of transport which I thought of (which incidentally the Chinese invented and developed independently of myself before I did). One could argue that old Beeching railway tracks could be reopened to be used by buses which would be guided by 5g. This would save on the cost of rebuilding any actual tracks, the maintenance of a road given that a railway trackbed is narrower than that of a road. It would also be safer than a road. The invention of this has nothing to do with the ability to see patterns but the ability to take small details, to correlate them in an interesting way and to form a new picture (or invention). He also mentions the difficulties, as experienced by those on the spectrum. These are however not for the most part "innate" but are due in large part to a lack of willingness of the part of the authorities (of which, as a fellow of Trinity College and member of the medical establishment, he forms part) to recognize the fact that they either cause harm to those on the spectrum or are unwilling to recognize the fact that others do. A claim that any problem experienced is down to the individual rather than the authorities would not be out of place in the Soviet Union. It is something which he along with the whole of establishment should recognize and accept even if some might argue, using documentary evidence, that he benefits from not recognizing this fact and in giving the impression that people on the spectrum tend to be guilty of naivety in some crime when they are in fact wrongly accused by those who are themselves guilty of that crime.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jeannette

    Full disclosure: I received The Pattern Seekers: How Autism Drives Human Invention by Simon Baron-Cohen from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for possibly writing a review. I was really interested in this book because my brother is on the autism spectrum, and I am always trying to educate myself on how to assist him. This book is written in a way that makes the science very easy to understand. I really appreciated that aspect. I also found some of the chapters and examples really fascinat Full disclosure: I received The Pattern Seekers: How Autism Drives Human Invention by Simon Baron-Cohen from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for possibly writing a review. I was really interested in this book because my brother is on the autism spectrum, and I am always trying to educate myself on how to assist him. This book is written in a way that makes the science very easy to understand. I really appreciated that aspect. I also found some of the chapters and examples really fascinating and would enjoy learning more. I took the brain survey that was mentioned and found out I'm a B (balanced). I wouldn't have thought that about myself but after reading the explanations, it makes sense.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kristine

    The Pattern Seekers by Simon Baron-Cohen is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early November. Baron-Cohen theorizes that pattern-seeking is an evolved human response and accurately describes the consistency, even-mindedness, and sense of complete cohesion that those on the autism spectrum crave, as well as the concept that human behavior, interaction, and communication occur far, far away from an orderly, disciplined realm as this.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Miller

    An interesting read with some excellent points in support of neurodiversity but as an autistic person I disagree with the assertion that: "A diagnosis should only be restricted to those who are struggling as a result of their autism." Society needs a true reflection of the extent of the abilities and achievements of autistic people across the entire spectrum to counter negative societal views of who we are and what we are capable of. Myself and many autistic children and young people I have work An interesting read with some excellent points in support of neurodiversity but as an autistic person I disagree with the assertion that: "A diagnosis should only be restricted to those who are struggling as a result of their autism." Society needs a true reflection of the extent of the abilities and achievements of autistic people across the entire spectrum to counter negative societal views of who we are and what we are capable of. Myself and many autistic children and young people I have worked with in a professional capacity have taken great encouragement from the achievements of others who are like us and belong to our neurotribe. Besides all autistic are entitled to know their true selves.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Henry Percy

    Page nos. refer to the hardback version, which I borrowed from my library. I sent these observations to Mr. Baron-Cohen but have not heard back. If he replies I will update this. Page 21 Stonehenge was built 5019 years ago? What’s the secret of such remarkably precise dating? Page 33 “Consider how Sir Isaac Newton inferred gravity as a cause from seeing an apple fall from a tree (in my college, Trinity, in Cambridge).” This reminds me of professors who tossed off asides about their time at Harva Page nos. refer to the hardback version, which I borrowed from my library. I sent these observations to Mr. Baron-Cohen but have not heard back. If he replies I will update this. Page 21 Stonehenge was built 5019 years ago? What’s the secret of such remarkably precise dating? Page 33 “Consider how Sir Isaac Newton inferred gravity as a cause from seeing an apple fall from a tree (in my college, Trinity, in Cambridge).” This reminds me of professors who tossed off asides about their time at Harvard or Yale. “The Dante Society used to meet at Longfellow House …” When students returned blank looks, he would add, “That’s just off campus from Harvard.” The strength of your argument should stand on its own. Page 35 “Last week … I noticed that someone had invented a different kind of seesaw … the plank could move in any plane in three-dimensional space.” My father installed one of those for me and my sisters in our backyard circa 1960. He did not invent it but had seen the plans somewhere. His consisted of a pipe, well greased, inserted into a slightly larger pipe that was set in concrete. Chapter 3, “Five Types of Brain” Type E, empathizing; Type B, balanced; Type S, systematizing; Type E Extreme, very empathizing; Type S Extreme, very systematizing. But these 5 go back to a binary division: you’re an empathizer or a systematizer. Why is it that grand schemes to explain everything always seem to rest on a simple binary foundation? I scored 15 on the Systematizing Quotient and 19 when I took it online. An engineer I know scored 4 on the SQ. She holds an MS in aerospace engineering from Churchill College, Cambridge, and an MS in aerospace engineering from Stanford (she dropped out of the PhD program because she was bored with the glacial pace at which university labs conduct research). She is now an analyst for an aerospace company, looking for patterns in rocket motor test data, and she’s good at her job. She wrote, “The SQ test had questions like ‘When I look at a mountain, I think about how precisely it was formed.’ That’s a question for someone like you. I don’t care, never think that.” I know that we are but two test takers; however, I’m left wondering what, precisely, the Systematizing Quotient Revised test tells us. Page 90 General Electric’s profit “grew by more than $1 billion” when they implemented Six Sigma. Yes, but since 2007 GE’s profits have shrunk from nearly $100 billion to less than $20 billion. Was that also due to Six Sigma? Post hoc ergo propter hoc, or, Six Sigma works until it doesn’t? Six Sigma has great tools, but they apply to manufacturing operations. I worked at a Fortune 50 company in the 90s when Six Sigma was forced into white-collar jobs. A large aerospace customer told us that their goal for our reports was 3.4 errors per million pages. Why should a page be the denominator? Why not paragraphs? Sentences? Words? Characters? Needless to say, we heard no more about that goal. Page 95 Here appears the most masterful use of apophasis I've seen in some time. After listing famous people who had many autistic traits (Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Andy Warhol, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Hans Christian Anderson, Bill Gates, Henry Cavendish, Albert Einstein), Baron-Cohen says, "Diagnosing someone—living or not—on the basis of fragmentary biographical information is unreliable and arguably unethical." So are we to forget what we have just read in the pages and pages (“unreliable and arguably unethical”) devoted to the autistic characteristics of Thomas Edison, Bill Gates et al.? Page 117 “If I take my ox, and castrate him, then he will be more obedient.” You’d have a hard time doing that. Better start with a bull, or better yet, a bull calf. Page 118 “The flywheel (to cast a fishing hook)”: A fishing rod has a reel, not a flywheel. I looked up “flywheel” in Oxford’s Learner Dictionaries and Collins English Dictionary, both online, to see if this is UK usage and found no indication the word is used for fishing gear. Page 134 “Although chimps make spears to stab their prey with, their hunting with sharpened branches is still just very simple tool use.” How can any of us know that the use of spears does not rest on an understanding of causality? Because they haven’t improved them, attaching a flint? Why would chimps use spears unless at some level they understand that the weapons make them more effective? Page 213, N37 Did early farmers really plant potato seeds? Or do you mean seed potatoes? It is far more common to cut a potato into several pieces, each with at least one eye, and plant those. That way the plants are all first generation, i.e., the potatoes are the same type. Plants grown from potato seeds (for research and hybridization) do not run true to type, resulting in a crop with exceedingly various tubers. Page 213, N38 This note is a paean to hunter-gatherers. Agriculture “led to babies developing more infections … [c]hild mortality increased … and because agriculture often failed as well as succeeded, this led to malnutrition.” Tell me, do game and wild fruits and berries never fail? “Agriculture also curbed the freedom of a nomadic lifestyle.” Why is it that students of early cultures are always enraptured by the joys of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle? Have they ever sustained themselves for, let’s say, a year by hunting and gathering? If the agricultural lifestyle was manifestly inferior, why did humans persist in it? “Agriculture did not lead to working less—rather, humans now had to toil on the land and their quality of life became far worse.” We live in an agricultural civilization now, in which we work very few hours per day to put food in our mouths while enjoying clean water, heated water, running water, central heating, antibiotics, and myriads of other things that our ancestors would have killed for. Page 225, N21 “There were some places on the planet that decided not to go into ‘lockdown’ [for Covid], such as Sweden, but lockdown was effective across huge populations including India and China.” The implication is that Sweden was irresponsible, that its mortality rate must be terrible. In truth, its rate per 100,000 is nearly identical to that of France and far better than 20 other countries, including the UK, which is still using strict lockdowns. See the Johns Hopkins ranking of countries, https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/data/mort... As for China, with a mortality rate of only 0.35/100,000, i.e., 454 times lower than that of the UK, do you find the statistics from China credible?

  15. 5 out of 5

    Darren Jones

    Honestly a little disappointed in this. I went in with high hopes but it felt very padded. The author himself said he could have summed it up far more quickly but his publisher wanted a book. What could have been a nice little read exploring how society has depended on neurodiversity to flourish, ended up starting well, ending well but the middle felt derivative in places, forced in others and dull in the rest. It’s well written and there are some interesting insights into the origins of neurodiv Honestly a little disappointed in this. I went in with high hopes but it felt very padded. The author himself said he could have summed it up far more quickly but his publisher wanted a book. What could have been a nice little read exploring how society has depended on neurodiversity to flourish, ended up starting well, ending well but the middle felt derivative in places, forced in others and dull in the rest. It’s well written and there are some interesting insights into the origins of neurodiversity but overall it felt like a well trodden path. I do feel frustrated when books on autism focus on the high achievers or gifted and don’t discuss those with autism who aren’t gifted inventors like Thomas Edison, or people who can’t see wave patterns to know where fish are.

  16. 4 out of 5

    William Ash

    I enjoyed Pattern Seekers. It presents a concise introduction to Baron-Cohen's work in his Extreme Male Brain theory and his empathizing/systematizing hypothesis. Basically, the ability to invent, which is defined as a iterative process of not only identifying a particular discovery, but also the ability to refine the idea, is the root of a psychological change in Homo Sapiens approximately 70,000 to 100,000 years ago. This genetic mutation is what gave our species the advantage over other anima I enjoyed Pattern Seekers. It presents a concise introduction to Baron-Cohen's work in his Extreme Male Brain theory and his empathizing/systematizing hypothesis. Basically, the ability to invent, which is defined as a iterative process of not only identifying a particular discovery, but also the ability to refine the idea, is the root of a psychological change in Homo Sapiens approximately 70,000 to 100,000 years ago. This genetic mutation is what gave our species the advantage over other animals. I thought the text was very accessible. Cohen-Baron builds his argument slowly through the book, weaving examples in psychology, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and cultural history in a fascinating narrative. The author believes the genetic advantage to systematize is found in autism, which give individual the ability to look for patterns at the expense of a social empathy, which developed to give humans the power to understand the minds of others, including the ability to deceive. If you are new to Baron-Cohen's work, this would be a good introduction. The text is only about 175 pages, with extensive back matter such as tests and notes. You can also take the test online at yourbraintype.com/take-the-test/. Personally, I found his book The Essential Difference giving a deeper dive into his ideas. Much of his research can be accessed online, both in papers and video lectures.

  17. 4 out of 5

    sam

    I feared this book would be a neurodivergence nightmare, but those fears never came to be. The first half spoke often and well about autism, often emphasizing it as simply a different neurotype and behaviors/though patterns which can be very valuable. I enjoyed the "Brain Types" and "if-and-then" systemizing presented by the author as well as the neurology, development, and psychology concepts in the first half of the book. I hoped more of the book would be about autism, considering the title. T I feared this book would be a neurodivergence nightmare, but those fears never came to be. The first half spoke often and well about autism, often emphasizing it as simply a different neurotype and behaviors/though patterns which can be very valuable. I enjoyed the "Brain Types" and "if-and-then" systemizing presented by the author as well as the neurology, development, and psychology concepts in the first half of the book. I hoped more of the book would be about autism, considering the title. The second half of the book seemed to deviate from this and focus much more on anthropology, early humans, and animal behaviors. I found some of the concepts in these areas frustrating because the author would state that things were a certain way because that's just how he defined them. That doesn't feel like much of a reason to me. Some of the examples for why animals are unable to systemize (use "if-and-then" concepts) felt like they could easily be reposed in if-and-then formats. There was some sort of strange taste left in my mouth. This book certainly presents a love for and a care to deeply understand the autistic mind and the way it has likely shaped human innovation for centuries and certainly will for centuries to come. Autistic people don't need to invent the lightbulb or create something that will change the world to be important. Their neurotype and interests and hobbies and behaviors are just right as they are, whether or not someone can make money off of them.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Gavin Felgate

    Simon Baron-Cohen (brother of Sacha) works at Cambridge University, as a Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, in the Autistm Research Centre. This book is all about different types of autistic mind (mostly focusing on "hyper-systemisers"), and the abilities of those with autism to recognise patterns, with an argument that people on the autism spectrum are largely responsible for many of our innovative and scientific discoveries. First off, I did find this to be quite a dense book, and I found m Simon Baron-Cohen (brother of Sacha) works at Cambridge University, as a Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, in the Autistm Research Centre. This book is all about different types of autistic mind (mostly focusing on "hyper-systemisers"), and the abilities of those with autism to recognise patterns, with an argument that people on the autism spectrum are largely responsible for many of our innovative and scientific discoveries. First off, I did find this to be quite a dense book, and I found myself reading it for about half an hour at a time, trying to focus on all the details, but I found it fascinating, particularly Baron-Cohen's evidence of how many famous inventors (Thomas Edison, for example) may have been on the autistic spectrum. I was particularly intrigued by the theory that a child with parents who are both very intelligent, and good at systemising, was more likely to be autistic. The book also gave a fascinating insight into how the human brain has evolved, and how we are different from animals in our ways of thinking. As someone who has been diagnosed with aspergers myself, I found it quite an encouraging read, particularly as it encouraged the reader to change their way of thinking about people who have autistic traits.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Theresa

    While I don't think I have autism, I believe I am closer to that end of the spectrum. So I tried to take the SQ and EQ tests on pages 178-9. Unfortunately, I discovered a flaw in the scoring of the tests. Perhaps the publisher should hire autistic people to the the proof reading as they would likely have caught this error. (Do publishers even hire proof readers or do they rely on computers that just look for spelling errors? Computers would not catch this error because it is not a spelling mista While I don't think I have autism, I believe I am closer to that end of the spectrum. So I tried to take the SQ and EQ tests on pages 178-9. Unfortunately, I discovered a flaw in the scoring of the tests. Perhaps the publisher should hire autistic people to the the proof reading as they would likely have caught this error. (Do publishers even hire proof readers or do they rely on computers that just look for spelling errors? Computers would not catch this error because it is not a spelling mistake.) The 2nd paragraph of the scoring section for each test says if you "slightly agree" you get one point. This should be "slightly disagree". I have checked at the Autism Research Centre's site which Baron-Cohen is associated with and have written the publisher. If you own this book, maybe this error will make it more valuable. :-) Otherwise, this theory seems quite plausible. However, the complexity of the world today and even in the recent past may make it more difficult for people to reach others with their ideas. A team may be needed for their discoveries to have an impact.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bruin Mccon

    The theory of Pattern Seekers is that a pattern-seeking brain, often seen in autistic people, was natural selection (a.k.a., autistic brains were an advantage) encouraging innovation and invention. This is totally plausible and probably could have been a journal article vs. an entire book. I’m giving it up at 27% because the whole male brain theory of the author’s is fairly lazy. The point of the book is that autistic people can see complicated patterns in huge data sets. Then the author falls bac The theory of Pattern Seekers is that a pattern-seeking brain, often seen in autistic people, was natural selection (a.k.a., autistic brains were an advantage) encouraging innovation and invention. This is totally plausible and probably could have been a journal article vs. an entire book. I’m giving it up at 27% because the whole male brain theory of the author’s is fairly lazy. The point of the book is that autistic people can see complicated patterns in huge data sets. Then the author falls back on a simple theory about male brain. Did he consider having autistic people study this? They could definitely come up with a better theory. Also, not sure why the author needed 55 examples for every small bit of the theory, other than as filler for what could have been a 20-page paper.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Pirooz

    Outstanding Well researched, clearly written and thought provoking. The title got my interest and the content kept it. Those who may not be as interested in the rationale or logic of the theory maybe not as interested in some of the middle chapters but worth to get through particularly to get to Chapter 9 that has many practical information. Thank you for all your hard work Professor and I’m so sorry for your loss.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    The author explains that inventors share traits that people with autism have. Not all inventors are autistic, and not all people with autism are inventors. I agree with the author's conclusion that people with autism do need to be more integrated fully into society, and that education can be adapted to realize an autistic student's strengths. I am now thinking of my autistic nonverbal son and how I can help him discover his strengths. The author explains that inventors share traits that people with autism have. Not all inventors are autistic, and not all people with autism are inventors. I agree with the author's conclusion that people with autism do need to be more integrated fully into society, and that education can be adapted to realize an autistic student's strengths. I am now thinking of my autistic nonverbal son and how I can help him discover his strengths.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Roy Foley

    It's a very good theory with sound reasoning, I do feel he may have glossed over the four other main theories of invention really too rapidly. I loved some of the ideas about the education system, some of which are implemented in special schools already with some amazing outcomes. Then, like this review, it was over 🤷🏽‍♂️ almost half this book is notes etc. It's a very good theory with sound reasoning, I do feel he may have glossed over the four other main theories of invention really too rapidly. I loved some of the ideas about the education system, some of which are implemented in special schools already with some amazing outcomes. Then, like this review, it was over 🤷🏽‍♂️ almost half this book is notes etc.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Otolith Library

    Autism is not a category, it's a continuum. Baron-Cohen identifies different preferences: empathizers, balancers, and systemizers. Learn from an expert on the value of systemizing versus empathy. We have integrated this book in a blog https://www.otolith.be/2020/12/misfit... Autism is not a category, it's a continuum. Baron-Cohen identifies different preferences: empathizers, balancers, and systemizers. Learn from an expert on the value of systemizing versus empathy. We have integrated this book in a blog https://www.otolith.be/2020/12/misfit...

  25. 4 out of 5

    Liz Etnyre

    Interesting premise, marred by a not particularly compelling, and imho somewhat over-reaching, presentation. Main 'pet peeve': bit to much 'this clearly proves' when it clearly does not 'prove' - strongly suggests, maybe - but not 'prove'. - nor is it always that clear. 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3 as I may not be target audience. (More a 'skimmed most of it' than an actual dnf.) Interesting premise, marred by a not particularly compelling, and imho somewhat over-reaching, presentation. Main 'pet peeve': bit to much 'this clearly proves' when it clearly does not 'prove' - strongly suggests, maybe - but not 'prove'. - nor is it always that clear. 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3 as I may not be target audience. (More a 'skimmed most of it' than an actual dnf.)

  26. 4 out of 5

    Fred Smith

    It repeats information in other books

  27. 4 out of 5

    Suzie

    Fascinating research on how the human brain works. Describes specific gifts that some, diagnosed as "autistic," have that enable inventions. Highlights inventors throughout history. Fascinating research on how the human brain works. Describes specific gifts that some, diagnosed as "autistic," have that enable inventions. Highlights inventors throughout history.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kay's Pallet

    This book was really interesting. Definitely a different look on autism.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mike E

    This is an interesting read about neuro diversity being at the source of great achievements.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lee W

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. As a “successful” autistic man, I was attracted to the premise of this book. However, I found it both highly repetitive and extremely didactic. In addition to the repetition, the fact that about a third of the book is essentially appendices, raises a few questions for me. I’d suggest reading some of the author’s other works and giving this one a miss.

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