I just returned from one of the classes that I am taking this semester and I needed to decompress a bit so after watching a rather disturbing episode of South Park in which the entire class had lice, I decided to cruise the internet and look for some breaking science news. After reading an article on the Science Daily site which can be found at www.sciencedaily.com/news/ about how children learn differently depending on how old they are, I read an article about correlating IQ test scores with MRI imaging. A researcher at Caltech working with patients in the brain lesion registry from the University of Iowa administered the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale to 241 neurological patients who all had some degree of cognitive impairments from a variety of different ailments. The researcher was able to correlate the region of the patients’ brain injuries with scores on each of the four Wechsler subtests. Other than processing speed, which seems to be a skill that is not localized in the brain, the other three subsections of the test seem to depend on very specific regions of the brain. The article talks a bit about revamping the test because verbal comprehension and working memory seem to be skills that rely on the same area of the brain.
Okay at this point I had to take a big deep breath.
I have been filling out job applications to become a teacher again after a four year hiatus. Some of the job applications that I have filled out include things like credit checks, police background checks, multiple essay questions, and personality inventories in addition to the standard application, resume, and references.
I could see a day in the future when a job applicant might be asked to have a standard MRI completed to submit with his or her application. Or the technology might go farther and be coupled with a personality inventory so that responses in areas of the brain could be mapped to ensure that the applicant would be a suitable employee. And perhaps an applicant will have to swab the side of his or her cheek and submit a DNA sample on top of the MRI and personality inventory in order to be proven to be an acceptable candidate. Perhaps all hiring will be done based on these methods and suitable candidates will be determined from statistical norms that indicate what type of personality profile, brain map, and genetic propensity best are suited to the type of employment.
Beyond the nightmare of trying to place this scenario within any context concerned with privacy rights, how does this integrate into ideas concerning discrimination? Also consider that the synergy that can happen within a work environment when people who think differently come together, mix different ideas, and approach problems in different styles will be entirely lost. Further, factors of motivation for why people do the work that they do would have no bearing. But the work force will be much easier to control potentially.
Of course this technology is just one step away from designing the perfect worker for whatever need if you combine it with rapidly advancing techniques in genetic engineering. And for that matter an entire utopian society could be created based on having everyone suited perfectly to their station in society. Different species of humanoid could even be created to codify castes or worker roles.
I will never argue that we should not do research and strive to learn as much as we can about ourselves, our environment, the universe, whatever, –but I do think that as a society we need to consider how the information might be potentially used and if this is a use that will benefit our species as a whole. Information for information sake is one thing, but we need to critically examine that information, its potential uses, and its ramifications. Further, we need to make active and aware decisions of how the information will be used.