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Future Imperative

What if technology were being developed that could enhance your mind or body to extraordinary or even superhuman levels -- and some of these tools were already here? Wouldn't you be curious?

Actually, some are here. But human enhancement is an incredibly broad and compartmentalized field. We’re often unaware of what’s right next door. This site reviews resources and ideas from across the field and makes it easy for readers to find exactly the information they're most interested in.


The future is coming fast, and it's no longer possible to ignore how rapidly the world is changing. As the old order changes -- or more frequently crumbles altogether -- I offer a perspective on how we can transform ourselves in turn... for the better. Nothing on this site is intended as legal, financial or medical advice. Indeed, much of what I discuss amounts to possibilities rather than certainties, in an ever-changing present and an ever-uncertain future.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Asberger's -- Next Evolutionary Step? -- Bio, Soc

A discussion recently broke out on Betterhumans.Com regarding whether Asberger's syndrome represents some kind of "evolutionary advance" for humanity. The argument boiled down to the point that despite major social handicaps, Aspberger's "victims" actually enjoy a few advantages over other people...

Over the years, as I have learned more about my son and others who struggle with AS and other communications related disabilities, I have noticed that, though these individuals are often at a disadvantage in one or more areas of their lives, particularly socially, they often seem to be more able to withstand frenetic clamorous stimuli, particularly in the form of television, video games and music. In fact, they often seem to prefer it.

This has led me to wonder if, due to the increasingly varied and easy exposure to information in its various forms, i.e., the internet, TV, Video games, innovations in sound and music, virtual reality, etc., the *sufferers* of AS and other communications disorders are really sufferers at all..or if they are the misunderstood vanguard of the next step of the evolution of man.

Are these the people, or the parents of the people who will take humanity to the stars? Will my son and other, high functioning AS sufferers, be..or breed the first colonists and ambassadors able to face the rigors of the journey; to leave our world and be the next human pioneers?

Rich Shull in his blog Pre Rain Man Autism makes another argument... that those who have Asberger's think in pictures and are thus dramatically more capable at certain mental tasks -- but frustratingly stymied in their ability to convey the resulting insights.

This raises another interesting question which plays into a larger issue for the human augmentation field -- whether an intended augmentation is cybernetic, pharmaceutical or genetic in nature, or even the result of non-invasive, stimulatory mindtech or accelerated learning. The larger question is this one: Is it possible to create mental or physical advantages that come with hidden flaws? And if so, how do you first detect those weaknesses and secondarily determine whether the benefits outweigh the associated drawbacks?

Now admittedly, we shouldn't over-generalize and assume that high-functioning people with Asberger's are typical of all autistics. There are plenty of people out there who definitely need our help (a point made endearingly here). But we should also consider that many high-functioning people without any particular conditions may be indistinguishable from those who are autistic or who have other extreme mental conditions -- the so-called "Geek Factor."

I personally shy away from the idea that high intelligence must come with some kind of inherent drawback, much less that great creativity is necessarily linked to insanity. But the potential consequences of extreme manipulations of the mind should be borne in mind -- not because great gifts must somehow be "paid for," but because certain gifts may be the result of shortcuts we don't want, such as extreme specialization and a disinterest in social relationships in favor of personal hobbies pursued with obsessive zeal.

Future Imperative


Anonymous Alan Pritt said...

Hi Ralph,

I have made an extensive comment about this on my website



January 21, 2006 7:17 AM  
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March 09, 2006 11:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The spelling "Asberger's" is incorrect. The correct term/spelling is "Asperger Syndrome" or, as it is sometimes called, "Asperger's Syndrome".

May 17, 2006 2:32 PM  
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Best regards from NY! »

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