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Book Review: ‘The Pattern Seekers’- A New Theory of Human Invention


Simon Baron-Cohen (a British psychologist and director of Cambridge University's Autism Research Centre) theorise that autism characteristics may provide the key to human inventiveness.


The book refers to the story of two autistic boys, Al and Jonah, both with social difficulties and late speaking but with interest from an early age, in technology, and in particular, in how things such as electric switches, machines and cars work.


In Chapter Two, Baron-Cohen presents the idea of the systemising mechanism (“question, hypothesise, test and confirm, modify”), which evolved in the human brain nearly 100,000 years ago. According to Baron-Cohen’s perspective, this unique thought process, of homo sapiens, makes people consider the world not just as a combination of objects and events, but as a system, controlled by “if-and-then patterns”.


Baron-Cohen’s supports the notion that the genes for this systemising mechanism (if-and-then patterns) overlap with the genes for autism. The considerable research of Baron-Cohen into autism has demonstrated that 'moderately' autistic people are significantly more disposed of in thinking with “if-and-then” patterns in comparison with those who are neurotypicals. Nevertheless, non-autistics have a higher emotional capability of sympathising with others as well as with what is happening near them. Thus, it is the combination and mainly the balance of empathy and the skill of systemising things that determine our ability to invent or the lack of it. For this reason, autistic people may appear occasionally self-centred, apathetic and inconsiderate. However, the ability of systemising things is not limited to humans as some animals can do it, but to a considerably lower degree.


Another groundbreaking consideration of Baron-Cohen is that autism, or the predisposition for invention, is especially prevailing in modern technology hubs like Redmond in Seattle or Silicon Valley. Autistic scientists and researchers are mixed with like-minded people. These people often marry and therefore their children, are noticeably more likely to inherit the same “autistic" genes, which may contribute and play a critical role in the world’s scientific and technological development.


Overall, the book 'The Pattern Seekers' is based on the theory that autistic genes lead to the evolution of human invention and according to this idea, someone can say that one has to be born inventor, and whose abilities can be developed but cannot be taught from the beginning. 'The Pattern Seekers' asks undoubtedly noteworthy questions such as why do so many significant innovations and technological/scientific developments arise to those who have systematically and extremely different mental processes? What can the cognitive distinctiveness they all show to use to explore the world tell us about the furthermost reaches of knowledge exploration and research? And what can we discover from these unquestionably charismatic people?



The Pattern Seekers: A New Theory of Human Invention by Baron-Cohen, S. (2020).





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