Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Autistic like We   posted by Razib @ 8/11/2009 09:53:00 AM

Tyler Cowen and Will Wilkinson in discussed Tyler's most recent book, Create Your Own Economy, in a recent Bloggingheads.tv. Tyler mentions how he believes there are a diversity of "cognitive profiles" out there, and that the autism spectrum oversimplifies and pathologizes one aspect of this reality. One feature of the modal human cognitive profile which Tyler seems to suggest might be somewhat suboptimal for information processing and gathering is the tendency to construct stories or narratives (because of the distortions that a general story arc might introduce into one's perception of the facts). What struck me was a personal datum which I've never thought too deeply about until now: I never read fiction outside of assigned schoolwork until I was 13. The only exception to this was Greek mythology (e.g., The Iliad). Of course I did read a lot, but it was all non-fiction. In later years I came to understand that this was atypical. When I did start reading fiction almost all of it was science fiction, fantasy or historical fiction. To this day I have a very attenuated interest in conventional mainstream fiction. I suspect a large number of readers of this weblog can recount similar experiences.

One point of Will & Tyler's diavlog which I might want to take issue with is the idea that specialization is a net benefit for most of humanity because they can find the particular occupational niche which leverages their strengths and satisfies their preferences. To some extent this is surely true, but to not put a too fine point on it I think the cost vs. benefit toward specialization is much greater for those on the "tails" of the cognitive spectrums; whether nerdy or arty. For a modal human who is more focused on concrete interpersonal dynamics I suspect "clocking in & out" at their job might not be unsatisfying since work is simply the time between socialization.