How autism drives human invention
Science & Cocktails is proud to present an episode with Simon Baron-Cohen, world expert in autism research and author of many books including "Pattern Seekers: How autism drives human invention". Simon will explain the workings of autism and its role in society. Just before, Analogik takes you on a musical journey through jazz, electronica and reggae, and afterwards Berrin Bas spins some records.
Is there a link between autism and invention? Is autism a unitary condition? Is autism more common in regions of the world that are rich in STEM (science-technology-engineering-mathematics)? Is autism genetic? Is autism a disorder, a disease, a difference, or a disability?
70,000 to 100,000 years ago, there was a cognitive revolution in the brain, transforming the behaviour of Homo Sapiens such that today we dominate the planet. The Systemizing Mechanism allowed our species alone to search for if-and-then patterns in the world, enabling generative invention; and the Empathy Circuit allowed our species alone to imagine the thoughts and feelings of others, enabling complex social interaction, including deception and self-reflection.
The archaeological record provides some of the evidence for the evolution of these two new engines in the mind and cognitive neuroscience is pinpointing their neural basis. But 3 studies also demonstrate a link between the autistic mind and the capacity for invention.
First, big data shows that those who work in STEM have a higher number of autistic traits. Second, areas of the planet which are enriched for parents who work in STEM have higher rates of autism among their children. Finally, genome wide association studies reveal that the genetic common variants associated with strong systemizing overlap with those associated with autism, suggesting the link between autism and invention lies in our DNA.
Society owes a huge debt to autistic people for the contribution that their genes have played in driving the evolution of human progress, and yet autistic people are excluded from society at multiple levels, including education and employment, and resulting in their poor mental health. It is time to redress this, through autism-friendly educational and occupational practice.
Event held in English, with the generous support of the Novo Nordisk Foundation.
Event image Designed by vector_corp / Freepik.
Sir Simon Philip Baron-Cohen is a British clinical psychologist and professor of developmental psychopathology at the University of Cambridge. He is the director of the university's Autism Research Centre and a Fellow of Trinity College. In 1985, Baron-Cohen formulated the mind-blindness theory of autism, the evidence for which he collated and published in 1995. In 1997, he formulated the fetal sex steroid theory of autism, the key test of which was published in 2015. He has also made major contributions to the fields of typical cognitive sex differences, autism prevalence and screening, autism genetics, autism neuroimaging, autism and technical ability, and synaesthesia.
Baron-Cohen was awarded the 1990 Spearman Medal from the BPS, the McAndless Award from the American Psychological Association, the 1993 May Davidson Award for Clinical Psychology from the BPS, and the 2006 presidents' Award from the BPS. He was awarded the Kanner-Asperger Medal in 2013 by the Wissenschaftliche Gesellschaft Autismus-Spektrum as a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to autism research. Baron-Cohen was knighted in the 2021 New Year Honours for services to autistic people. He is also the author of many books including "The essential difference" and "Pattern seekers: how autism drives human invention".
Analogik is a Danish band from Aarhus. The group members are: Asger Strandby on turntables and laptop; Jesper Kobberøs on guitar, flute and air organ; Theis Bror on saxophone; and Magnus Damgaard on bass guitar and the double bass. Sometimes they are accompanied on stage by Jonathan Feigh on the violin or Max Buthke on percussion. The band formed in 2002. Their first album Søens Folk came out in 2006. Their latest album Havnens Perle received positive reviews.
Their music mixes elements including jazz, electronica, reggae and Balkan music. Their style has also been called 'Congo Jutland'. Breakbeat, electronica, jazz, hip hop and Balkan are their genre.