A computerized personality test

Sam Smith, 1964 – They’ve got a computer up at the Mayo Clinic that takes a patient’s answers to 550 true-false questions and uses the information to indicate whether he should see a psychiatrist. The machine comes up with diagnoses such as: “Patient is probably somewhat eccentric, seclusive and withdrawn. Has many internal conflicts. Consider psychiatric evaluation.”

And, according to a news report, “it picks out not only the patient in mental trouble but can also print: “Patient quite well organized in thinking. Follows instructions.’ ”

It is, I suppose, to be expected of a creature of the machine age that it scorn eccentricity, seclusion, withdrawal and internal conflicts in favor of “following instructions.” It lives a life without philosophical or moral complexity so it is only natural that it believe we should also.

The computer makes its judgment based on the results of the true-false test, called the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. Faithfully obeying instructions, the question never arises in its transistorized mind that men who invent tests called the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory may not be the best qualified to judge the thinking processes of others. The thought never occurs to it that some people prefer the company of interesting eccentrics to that of jargon-ridden psychologists.

I would recommend that the doctors at Mayo not take this machine too seriously. I suspect it of jealousy. It couldn’t be eccentric if it wanted to. They’d have an IBM repairman down there within minutes and soon it would be happily following instructions again. It knows no internal conflict arid thus is totally incapable of speculative thinking and critical examination of itself and the world. It cannot make a Thoreauan withdrawal while doctors are shoving thousands of Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventories through it.

In brief, my diagnosis is this: This machine suffers from extreme anxiety transferred and rationalized through a subconscious degradation of the human being whom it secretly ad- mires but feels incapable of emulating. Further, there is reason to believe that the machine has a serious neurosis brought on by its sexual impotence. Consider psychiatric evaluation.

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