Robert X. Cringely, in Mean Time Between Failures:
People fail just like machines do. We break for any number of reasons -- mechanical failure, fatigue, bad programming. But unlike machines, people are not subject to statistical quality control, though maybe they should be. There are probably signs of impending failure we could see if we were looking. Only we don't look, because it never seemed necessary.
When Cringely mentioned "statistical quality control" on humans, it reminded me of Greg Bear's Slant. One of its topics is a perspective on the changes a rigorous scientific perspective into sanity would bring out in society. People were divided into four categories:
- Untherapied: Individuals with a mental illness that had not been treated.
- Therapied: Individuals with a treated mental illness.
- Naturals: Individuals who had no known mental illness, but were statistically capable of having a break.
- High Naturals: Individuals who had no known mental illness, and were statistically unlikely to have a break.
The measurement and discrimination of people on the basis of their mental faculties was pervasive in the fictional society. Elected positions, civil service, military command, and other positions of power were either explicitly or implicitly reserved for naturals. The therapied were relegated to menial labour - the untherapied often found themselves on the dole. In trade, productivity and peacefulness was widespread. It also stands to reason that over the course of generations, the naturals would be genetically selected through fitness.
I am far from a natural. But, I have always had a suspicion that mental illness can be likened to the addition of hardship in most learning systems. (communities, organisms, etc.) That is, without its presence, the system becomes less hardy and competitive. It's a stereotype that some of humankind's greatest minds have been a little crazy and a lot eccentric. However, is it true? If not, then it would seem we have much to gain by applying Monte Carlo Analysis to segregate people.
I kid, I kid.