TED Conversations

Theodore A. Hoppe


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Is autism, or some types of autism, an evolutionary effect.

This is an uninformed notion I have had, and this is the first time I have found support for it.
Toward the end of this TED talk Enriquez provides some numbers on the rate at which autism has increased in a decade, 78%.

He says, "We are trying to take in as much information in a day as people use to take in in a lifetime."
Is autism a rapid evolution of the brain?

Topics: autism evolution

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    Jun 14 2012: Interesting; I happened upon this discussion in almost identical fashion - I started from the Enriquez talk "Will our kids be a different species", a piece that resonated with me as deeply related to recent philosophical discussions and personal writing topics. When he mentioned that the norm for human evolution is that you have multiple species sharing the same overlapping time windows, I began to look for evidence of this.

    Part of this led me down the path of looking at Autism, a condition that always struck me as being... different...a syndrome at most, but certainly not a true disorder. This is a very subtle difference in the realm of abnormal psychology that is often misunderstood, in that the study of *unusual* patterns & behaviors does not always lend itself to the diagnosis of a disorder or disease.

    The problem is that terms like "abnormal" and "syndrome" carry with them a negative connotation - so the entire language of discussion has the propensity towards a feeling that there is a defect in play - some underlying pathology that must be identified and later "corrected". I've always found issue with this because, as history shows, the observation of "normal" vs. "abnormal" is a slippery, slippery slope. Regardless, Autism is currently classified as developmental disorder - a problem that begs prevention and treatment.

    Ami Klin's talk "A new way to diagnose autism" struck a chord towards the end when he mentions that the goal is not to cure autism - and that, in fact, individuals with autism have a unique perspective on life. This is the point that sticks with me along the lines of a potential evolution that is simply not well understood or in the early developmental stages.

    A simple hypothesis - what if, as humans grow closer and closer to global interdependence, nature is simply selecting for cognitive specialization? To me then, something like Autism could instead be viewed as an efficient, pattern-based organizational behavior *advantage*.
    • Jun 14 2012: George, that is a really interesting viewpoint and even more profound question - I like it.

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