Top positive review
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This book goes to the core of the problem behind autism.
on 30 September 1998
There are many books about autism and Asperger's syndrome, but they are all superficial. This is the only one that goes to the source of the problem itself: The brain at the hardware level.
What our consciousness 'sees' is not reality itself, but the output of battalions of highly specialized neurone co-processors that interpret reality in a distorted way engineered by Natural Selection to maximize our chances of surviving and reproducing.
We are blind to the existence of these unconscious perception mechanisms, and we confuse their perception of reality with reality itself. This is the reason why autism has been a mystery for so long, because it is not possible to understand autism without even knowing that these perception instincts exist.
Everything about this book is superlative. Autism is *very* *difficult* to understand even for us autistics, let alone Neurologically Typicals. This guy has the ability to explain autism with concepts that make things rather easy to visualize. Concepts so befitting that leave me wondering how he manages to invent them.
Let me give one example: As a kid, I didn't see people like objects, but I didn't quite see them as people either. They were there, but they were not very important. That is as far as I can go explaining how it was for me. The only thing I can add is that I am not giving you anything more than a faint idea of how it really was.
What does Simon Baron-Cohen do? He introduces the concept of "skinbags." Bags of skin that move and talk like people but that are not quite people.
"Skinbags" is precisely what people were for me. They moved and talked, but they had no feelings. It was not that I believed that they had no feelings; it was that it never crossed my mind to consider the possibility.
The book makes you realize right from the start that nothing really exists as we imagine it. Not even color exists. Color is only an invention of Natural Selection... "that allows us to identify and interact with objects and the world far more richly that we otherwise could." Bats could very well use colors to "see" ultrasound reflections the same way we use colors to "see" electromagnetic waves.
The warmth of a smile and the anger of a stare do not exist either. You feel them only because your unconscious perception mechanisms interpret a smile as "warm" and a stare as "angry" and feed the appropriate feelings into your consciousness.
It must be really wonderful to be able to look at a girl and *feel* the warmth of her smile. When I look at a girl smiling I feel nothing. No warmth, no nothing. Those perception mechanisms are burned out in us autistics, or for some reason they do not reach our consciousness, maybe because of a faulty wire someplace.
I read almost every book there was in the Library system, and I began to really understand autism *only* after I read "Mindblindness."