Engineering autistic/idiot savant capabilities

From: Cliff Stabbert (
Date: Thu Jul 04 2002 - 04:12:24 MDT

[I just joined this list. Rather than a separate JOIN message,
I'll just briefly state I've been reading/thinking about the
Singularity and related subjects ever since reading Vinge, and have
been a technophile/neophile as far back as I can remember. I also
have opinions/ideas for AI that I haven't seen elsewhere -- which is
not to say they haven't been thought of before by others. In any
case, what follows is IA, not AI, related.]

I recently came across this article, which meshes/overlaps some
thoughts I've had on Intelligence Enhancement:

It's a very brief outline, and I haven't tracked the actual scientists
and papers behind it, but the basic idea seems to be using
transcranial magnetic stimulation of some sort to 'activate' the right
brain, and with it some skills shared by some autistic people.
However, as with so many science "stories" in mainstream media, the
headline is a lot more enticing than the body of the article, which
in this case indicates they've used it only to improve drawing skills
(which a two hour session using lessons from the book Drawing on the
Right Side of the Brain could probably achieve just as nicely). I'd
be more interested in the full range of skills displayed by "idiot

In any case: having experimented with psychedelic drugs in my past and
experienced what seemed like enhanced mental acuity in certain areas;
and being interested in "willed" as well as technologically achieved
brain change; and having dreamed about superpowers since reading
comics, and mental superpowers since reading Dune as a boy -- I've
long wondered if it's possible to acquire savant-level skills in math,
drawing, instant-counting, etc.

Such powers clearly appear to be inherent possibilities of the brain;
perhaps there are evolutionary reasons why their appearance in the
general population has not occurred -- but if the potential for these
skills exists in our brains, shouldn't we be trying to unlock it?

Is anybody aware of research -- whether based on technology, Lilly's
"metaprogramming" via drugs, Crowleyan "willed brain change", or for
that matter any method or combination of methods -- that's been done
in this direction?

[I took a brief gander at some of the archived messages here and
didn't offhand see any discussion of this; if I missed any, kindly


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