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Broad Autism Phenotype (BAP) in children of old parents is a feature, not a bug

Is autism the legacy of humans evolving the ability to innovate? (cbc.ca)
86 points by davesailer 18 hours ago | hide | past | favorite | 87 comments
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26449890

jozvolskyef 16 hours ago [–]

This article fills a gap in my vocabulary for someone who shares some traits associated with ASD but doesn't suffer from any negative effects, i.e. is not in the scope of the medical autistic spectrum. The word is systemizing or being systematic.
Autistic spectrum disorders then manifest in systemizing behaviour, but that doesn't mean only people with autism are systematic.
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skissane 15 hours ago [–]

This article fills a gap in my vocabulary for someone who shares some traits associated with ASD but doesn't suffer from any negative effects, i.e. is not in the scope of the medical autistic spectrum
Another phrase you could add to your vocabulary to describe that is "broad autism phenotype" (BAP). People with BAP have significantly more autistic traits than the average person does, but not to the extent that a diagnosis of ASD is warranted.
BAP is very common in two groups of people (i) close blood relatives of people with ASD (parents, unaffected siblings, etc); (ii) people in STEM professions. (Of course, those two groups are overlapping–ASD is more common in children of STEM professionals than in the general population)
The term "systematising" is specifically associated with Simon Baron-Cohen's theories of the nature and causes of ASD, which are controversial. By contrast, the term "BAP" is much more neutral, it doesn't presume any particular theory about what ASD is or where it comes from.

Autism is correlated with advanced parental age. Perhaps that improves the evolutionary adaptiveness of a child with a systematizing mindset who will innovate long-term benefits.

Consider it. What do old parents imply? Long life expectancy, social stability, slow life strategy. A systematizing kid with low EQ will do well in such a small tribe. Relationships will be simple and long term investments will pay off.

Now look at how fatherless kids turn out well-adapted for a fast life strategy. That's probably a basic mammalian trait for social species with pair-bonding. Look at how young male elephants are feral unless properly led by old bulls.

But I bet the tendency for autism from old parents is is exclusive to humans and maybe chimps. Systematizing is clearly something old and related to the tool using / problem solving we see in birds and octopi as well as primates. But why would that be related to old parents in other species? Could it be? One could make a slow-life-strategist argument for it, but it would be weak.

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