Monthly Archives: May 2013

How an Entirely New, Autistic Way of Thinking Powers Silicon Valley

the autistic brainReading an interview with Steve Jobs, I came across this quote: “The thing I love about Pixar is that it’s exactly like the LaserWriter.” What? The most successful animation studio in recent memory is “exactly like” a piece of technology from 1985?

He explained that when he saw the first page come out of Apple’s LaserWriter — the first laser printer ever — he thought, There’s awesome amounts of technology in this box. He knew what all the technology was, and he knew all the work that went into creating it, and he knew how innovative it was.

But he also knew that the public wasn’t going to care about what was inside the box. Only the product was going to matter — the beautiful fonts that he made sure were part of the Apple aesthetic. This was the lesson he applied to Pixar: You can use all sorts of new computer software to create a new kind of animation, but the public isn’t going to care about anything except what’s on the screen.

He was right, obviously. While he didn’t use the terms picture thinker and pattern thinker, that’s what he was talking about. In that moment in 1985, he realized that you needed pattern thinkers to engineer the miracles inside the box and picture thinkers to make what comes out of the box beautiful.

I haven’t been able to look at an iPod or iPad or iPhone without thinking about that interview. I now understand that when Apple gets something wrong, it’s because they didn’t get the balance between the kinds of thinking right.

The notorious antenna problem on the iPhone 4? Too much art, not enough engineering.  Contrast this philosophy with Google’s; the minds behind Google, I guarantee you, were pattern thinkers. And to this day, Google products favour engineering over art.

After I gave a talk at one high-tech firm in Silicon Valley, I asked some of the folks there how they wrote code. They said they actually visualized the whole programming tree, and then they just typed in the code on each branch in their minds. I recalled my autistic friend Sara R. S. Miller, a computer programmer, telling me that she could look at a coding pattern and spot an irregularity in the pattern. Then I called my friend Jennifer McIlwee Myers, another computer programmer who is autistic. I asked her if she saw programming branches. No, she said, she was not visual in that way; when she started studying computer science, she got a C in graphic design. But she did think in patterns. “Writing code is like crossword puzzles, or sudoku,” she said. (Crossword puzzles involve words, of course, while sudoku involves numbers. But what they have in common is pattern thinking.)

Once I realized that thinking in patterns might be a third category, alongside thinking in pictures and thinking in words, I started seeing examples everywhere. (At this point, this third category is only a hypothesis, though I’ve found scientific support for it. It has transformed my thinking about autistic people’s strengths.)

‘Pattern Thinking’

I’m certainly not the first person to notice that patterns are part of how humans think. Mathematicians, for instance, have studied the patterns in music for thousands of years. They have found that geometry can describe chords, rhythms, scales, octave shifts, and other musical features. In recent studies, researchers have discovered that if they map out the relationships between these features, the resulting diagrams assume Möbius strip-like shapes.

The composers, of course, don’t think of their compositions in these terms. They’re not thinking about math. They’re thinking about music. But somehow, they are working their way toward a pattern that is mathematically sound, which is another way of saying that it’s universal. The math doesn’t even have to exist yet.

The same is true in visual arts. Vincent van Gogh’s later paintings had all sorts of swirling, churning patterns in the sky — clouds and stars that he painted as if they were whirlpools of air and light. And, it turns out, that’s what they were! In 2006, physicists compared van Gogh’s patterns of turbulence with the mathematical formula for turbulence in liquids. The paintings date to the 1880s. The mathematical formula dates to the 1930s. Yet van Gogh’s turbulence in the sky provided an almost identical match for turbulence in liquid.

Art sometimes precedes scientific analysis, and the relationship can go the other way too: Scientists can use art to understand math.

Even the seemingly random splashes of paint that Jackson Pollock dripped onto his canvases show that he had an intuitive sense of patterns in nature. In the 1990s, an Australian physicist, Richard Taylor, found that the paintings followed the mathematics of fractal geometry — a series of identical patterns at different scales, like nesting Russian dolls. The paintings date from the 1940s and 1950s. Fractal geometry dates from the 1970s. That same physicist discovered that he could even tell the difference between a genuine Pollock and a forgery by examining the work for fractal patterns.

“Art sometimes precedes scientific analysis,” one of the van Gogh researchers said. And the relationship between art and science can go the other way too: Scientists can use art to understand math. The physicist Richard Feynman revolutionized his field in the 1940s when he devised a simple way to diagram quantum effects. Equations that took months to calculate could suddenly be understood, through diagrams, in a matter of hours.

And then there’s chess. There’s always chess. For a century now, chess has been the petri dish of choice for cognitive scientists. What makes a chess master a chess master? Definitely not words. But not pictures, either (which is what you might think). When a chess master looks at the board, she doesn’t see every game she’s ever played and then find the move that matches the move from a game she played three or five or twenty years earlier or from a nineteenth-century chess match that she’s studied closely. The stereotype of a chess grand master is someone who can think many moves ahead. And certainly, many chess players do strategize that way. But the grand masters retrieve from their memories not more possibilities but better possibilities because they are better at recognizing and retaining patterns or what cognitive scientists call chunks.

Michael Shermer, a psychologist, historian of science, and professional skeptic  – he founded Skeptic magazine — called this property of the human mind patternicity. He defined patternicity as “the tendency to find meaningful patterns in both meaningful and meaningless data.”

What all these examples tell me is that in society, the three kinds of minds — visual, verbal, pattern thinkers — naturally complement one another. When I recall collaborations in which I’ve successfully participated, I can see how different kinds of thinkers worked together to create a product that was greater than the sum of its parts.

Three kinds of minds — visual, verbal, pattern — naturally complement one another. Yet society puts them together without anybody thinking about it.

Yet society puts them together without anybody thinking about it.

But what if we did think about it? What if we recognized these categories consciously and tried to make the various pairings work to our advantage? What if each of us was able to say, Oh, here’s my strength, and here’s my weakness — what can I do for you, and what can you do for me?

Let’s apply this same principle to the marketplace. If people can consciously recognize the strengths and weaknesses in their ways of thinking, they can then seek out the right kinds of minds for the right reasons. And if they do that, then they’re going to recognize that sometimes the right mind can belong only to an autistic brain.

We have a lot farther to go, of course. Ignorance and misunderstanding are always difficult to overcome when they’ve become part of a society’s belief system. For instance, when the movie The Social Network came out, in 2010, the New York Times op-ed columnist David Brooks wrote this assessment of the onscreen character of Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook:

“It’s not that he’s a bad person. He’s just never been house-trained.”

The “training” of the fictional character, however, would have had to somehow accommodate a brain that can’t process facial and gestural cues that most people easily assimilate and that finds its greatest fulfillment not in the fizzy buzz of forming a personal relationship but in the click-clack logic of writing code.

WHAT HAPPENS IN HEAVEN WHEN WE PRAY?

Janet gave me this earlier today, just had to re-post it, this is one of the nicest e-mails I have seen : 

I dreamed that I went to Heaven and an angel was showing me around. We walked side-by-side inside a large workroom filled with angels. My angel guide   stopped in front of the first section and said, ‘This is the Receiving   Section. Here, all petitions to God said in prayer are received.  I looked around in this area, and it was terribly busy with so many angels   sorting out petitions written on voluminous paper sheets and scraps from   people all over the world.

Then we moved on down a long corridor until we reached the second section. The angel then said to me, “This is the Packaging and Delivery Section.   Here, the graces and blessings the people asked for are processed and   delivered to the living persons who asked for them.” I noticed again how   busy it was there. There were many angels working hard at that station, since   so many blessings had been requested and were being packaged for delivery to Earth.

Finally at the farthest end of the long corridor we stopped at the door of a   very small station. To my great surprise, only one angel was seated there,   idly doing nothing. “This is the Acknowledgment Section, my angel friend   quietly admitted to me. He seemed embarrassed. “How   is it that there is no work going on here? I asked.”

“So sad,” the angel sighed. “After people receive the blessings that they asked for, very few send back acknowledgments.”  “How does one acknowledge God ‘s blessings? “I asked.

“Simple,” the angel answered. Just say, “Thank you, Lord.”  “What blessings should they acknowledge?” I asked.

“If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof   overhead and a place to sleep you are richer than 75% of this world.  f you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish,   you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy, and if you get this on your own computer, you are part of the 1% in the world who has that opportunity.”  “If you woke up this morning with more health than illness.. You are more blessed than the many who will not even survive this day.”

“If you have never experienced the fear in battle, the loneliness of   imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation… You are ahead of 700 million people in the world.” “If you can attend a church without the fear of harassment, arrest, torture or death you are envied by, and more blessed than, three billion people in the world.”

“If you can hold your head up and smile, you are not the norm, you ‘re unique to all those in doubt and despair…….”

“OK,” I said. “What now? How can I start?”

The Angel said, “If you can read this message, you just received a double blessing in that someone was thinking of you as very special and you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world who cannot read at   all.” Have a good day, count your blessings, and if you care to, pass this along to remind everyone else how blessed we all are……….

ATTN:Acknowledge Dept.
“Thank you Lord, for giving me the ability to share this message and for giving me so many wonderful people with whom to share it.”

If you have read this far and are thankful for all that you have been blessed   with, how can you not send it on? I thank God for everything, especially all my family and friends

Why Do Old People Get So Hairy?

Scientists explain what causes hair to grow everywhere but the head as we age…  I saw this amazing article this afternoon by Alissa Zhu, had to re-publish it…

You’ve seen it at the local pool, at the beach, or even on your own grandpa. Old grizzled men with enough back hair to knit an afghan. Rampant tufts of hair springing out of dark nasal and ear cavities and eyebrows that look Cro-Magnon. What causes hair to grow everywhere but the head as we age?

why are old men so hairyScientists don’t exactly know what causes hair to sprout excessively from places like the ears and nostrils but Dr. David Liebovitz, an associate professor of Medicine at Northwestern University, guesses that it has to do with hormones and the lifecycle of hair.

Hairs grow in three stages: anagen, catagen and telogen. First, hair cells grow and divide in the anagen phase. Head hair naturally remains in the anagen phase for an extended period of time, up to several years. Hair on your arms, however, will move on to the catagen phase in a matter of weeks. This is when the hair stops growing and transitions to the dormant telogen phase. The hair stops lengthening and eventually falls out naturally through shedding or external trauma such as pulling.

Liebovitz says some types of hair develop anagen sensitivity as we grow older. The long term exposure of hair follicles to hormones such as testosterone will disrupt and lengthen their growing period. That’s why nose, ear, and eyebrow hair can reach troll-doll proportions without regular trimming as we age.

Hair growth can be extremely sensitive to male hormones, according to Dr. Sarah Baker, an instructor of Dermatology at Northwestern University. “Testosterone is produced in hair follicles and different areas of hair on the body respond to testosterone differently,” Baker says. According to Baker, testosterone causes hair to grow in the beard, pubic, and underarm area, and it causes hair to shrink on the scalp, which develops into hair loss or hair thinning.

According to Dr. Liang Ma, a professor of Dermatology at Washington University at St. Louis, there’s no evidence backing up the idea that older people become excessively hairy. Body hair type and density vary across different ethnicities: “Asians have almost no body hair. Black people have curly hair and Asians have straight hair. Some isoforms in the structural form of the hair differs between ethnic groups that cause varying appearances.”

If your grandpa needs a remedy for his hairy situation, he has plenty of options. Razors, waxes and laser hair removal are all resources for those who don’t want to rock the Chewbacca look.

Opening of Frimhurst Enterprises

Frimhurst lauch mayor of surrey heathFrimhurst Enterprises was launched on Saturday 11th May 2013 in Frimley Green by The Lord-Lieutenant of Surrey and the Mayors of Surrey Heath & Guildford.  This is an amazing project by Pauline Robertson to provide jobs and careers for our mentally handicapped young people.  Her story is compelling and the house is a must-see part of Surrey Heath.

Here you can see a short video of the introduction day Sunday 12th May 2013

Frimhurst Enterprises, OFFICIAL LAUNCH Saturday 11th May 2013

Frimhurst Enterprises are holding their official launch party on Saturday 11th May  2pm till 5pm

We are pleased to announce that Aggie Mackensie ( Good housekeeping Magazine) has agreed to come along to share afternoon tea with us and enjoy entertainment from Bagshot concert band.
We have lots of display stands from other providers of services to young adults with learning disabilities and are inviting students from local schools and colleges to come and enjoy Frimhurst as well as supporters from the local community. Tombola and raffle and other attractions.
Later on in the evening 7.30 till 11pm we will be holding a disco and live music event with Mardi Grass back by popular demand and also travellin Rose playing in the lounge.  E-Dreamz disco and laser show will be playing in the games room, licensed bar. Tickets £10 on door paid accompanying carers free.

Dates of discos/ live music for rest of year….. 27th July, 14th Sept and 16th Nov. Tickets £10 on door, paid carers free

In the evening we are having a house party with Mardi Grass band and also  E-Dreamz Disco with Pete and Scottie in the Games Room.  7.30 pm-11pm Tickets £10 on the door accompanying paid carers free.