To an individual, it is helpful to be similar to others. Movies are made to appeal to the average person, furniture is designed to fit the average size person and restaurants try to appeal to the average tastes. However, what is beneficial to the individual is not beneficial to society as a whole.
Ideas, once discovered, can easily be shared with others. Only a few people need to understand a concept before that concept can improve the world. Two people discovering an idea doesn’t help more than one person discovering it. Thus, a society reliant on innovation does best when people are highly varied in their ideas and thought patterns. Autism, ADHD, obsessive compulsion and other “disorders” may be harmful to the individual, but are highly beneficial to society because they expand the mental diversity and increase the odds of new ideas being generated.
Currently, American autism policy is devoted toward wiping out autistic traits. For example, the “S. 1094, the Combating Autism Act Re-Authorization Act” divotes most of the spending to eliminating autism and only 3% toward making life easier on autistic people. Understandably, raising an autistic child is difficult, but society as a whole gains greatly from their different perspective. Many of the great thinkers of the past and present exhibit autistic traits.
A type of mental functioning is not just a set of impairments. It comes with it a different perspective on life and cognitive strengths. Limiting ourselves to only what is “normal” is a mistake and hurts society.
Bipolar people are more creative
Dyslexics are more likely to be entrepreneurs
Autistic people are more likely to make consistent decisions and suffer less from framing effects
Tyler Cowen on autism as an academic paradigm
Wired on Big Pharma and normality
This guy improved the world a great deal more than the average person.