I have not yet read What Technology Wants
by Kevin Kelly. I have a hold on it at the library and plan on picking it up this afternoon. All I know about it is what's in the blurb on Amazon and what I heard in five minutes of an interview with the author on NPR. The gist seems to be that technology evolves in a biological way, and that people and technology evolve together. In the piece of the interview I heard, Kelly was discussing that after early humans invented cooking, humans' bodies changed so that today we need
many foods to be cooked.
As far as I know this book says nothing about autism. But what little I've learned about this book has inspired in me a new hypothesis:What if the dramatic rise in diagnoses of autism since 1981 is actually a
result of the information age? What if autistics are the people of the future?*
Individuals with autism are uniquely suited to working with computers and are known for their ability to process data in an analytic way. There's a market out there for Aspie talent: Aspiritech
people with Asperger's to do software testing because of their unique attention to detail, laser-like focus, and ability to perform repetitive tasks. I can think of no previous time in history when autism was such a potential asset for society. Maybe the genes for autism are expressing themselves with more frequency now because the time is right. Where would our tech-driven culture be without the Mark Zuckerbergs and Bill Gateses of the world?
Perhaps autism is one of those mutations that doesn't help the individual reproduce and pass on his genes (social awkwardness often limits mating options), but which aids the society at large, and is therefore beneficial. I've heard similar arguments about homosexuality: gay individuals traditionally produce fewer children than their straight counterparts, but their social contributions benefit the larger population in such a way that their families are better able to reproduce and perpetuate the gay gene.
So yay for supportive lesbian aunts, and hurray for uncles with autism who have the potential to advance the technologies that improve all our lives.
* Please note I am pulling this out of the air. I have no scientific basis for what I'm saying. This post is pure distilled Truthiness.