Cognitive Eugenics

A cognitive eugenics born of genetic testing (and selection) for intelligence is almost upon us. Except – intelligence is not only a matter of genetics. Environmental influences, opportunities, sociological feedback mechanisms, the creatively adaptive development of unique cognitive methods – these are all factors in human intelligence. Cognitive eugenics – let’s call it what it is – might appear seductive because it appears to offer a sense of control and certainty of knowledge that align well with the linear momentum of psychologically-reflexive self-definition provided by a radically mechanistic worldview. Such certainty is an illusion and the long-term consequences of genetic screening for intelligence are nothing if not dystopian – has no one read Huxley’s “Brave New World”? This will be a stupid use of smart technology.

Context: DNA tests for IQ are coming, but it might not be smart to take one

Tests, of course, and as much as individual intelligence or collaborative scientific paradigms, are artefacts of a particular cultural time and place. We assert benchmarks, milestones, thresholds, metrics and comparative statistical analyses as a consequence of what we consider or believe intelligence to be at any particular historical moment and all as viewed through the perceptual filter of the dominant conceptual paradigm.

The tests themselves are not culturally (or even ideologically) neutral – they reflect and reflexively, recursively reinforce the value systems and biases of an era and in no small measure – shape the future trajectory and possibility-space of that historical moment.

Can we ever unproblematically and objectively measure that which in the very act of formalizing a system of measurement must somewhat arbitrarily predefine the most valuable metrics; thus becoming implicitly subjective? It is an interesting question which in answering projects an arc of most possible and probable futures.

One reply on “Cognitive Eugenics”

I remember that point being raised when I was studying psychology and intelligence tests back in the late sixties. If memory serves me correctly, there were attempts to come up with culture-free or culturally neutral IQ tests. Someone found a relatively high correlation between IQ scores and sensitivity to changes in the amount of light in a room as measured in lumens or some such. The nerds among us would compete to see who noticed a flicker in a lightbulb first.

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