The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was designed to outlaw discrimination on the basis of race across the United States with the stroke of a pen. But given the lingering biases ingrained throughout America, more was needed to ensure members of the African-American community were afforded equality of opportunity. Paving the way in 1961, President John F. Kennedy issued an executive order requiring Government contractors to take Affirmative Action to ensure equal opportunity in the workplace and in higher education.
Today, over half a century later, however, there are some that feel the only way to truly stop discriminating on the basis of race, is to stop discriminating on the basis of race. Some suggest that what began as a well-intentioned effort to actively level out the playing field has spawned a results-driven culture focused not on individuals as individuals, but as members of a caste or category - precisely what the 14th amendment to the United States Constitution was seeking to prevent.
Still, others remain adamant that racial identity is such an important part of what it means for a public institution to be adequately representative that the only means to preserve racial integrity across all such sectors of society is to enforce evenhanded and quantifiable results grounded on proportionality.
Regardless of our perception on the evolution of racism or where one may stand on the issue of race-based determinations today, the application of such laws may soon be viewed as a saving grace not only for minorities, but for human beings as a species.
Earlier this year, for instance, The South China Morning Post reported that electronics manufacturer Foxconn (supplier for behemoths Samsung® and Apple®) was making efforts to improve substandard working conditions and cut down on labor costs by investing in automated manufacturing robotics. Such a move is calculated to result in the displacement of 60,000 human employees. While some workers would engage in more important tasks, such as quality control or research and development, Foxconn's workforce would ultimately be reduced from 110,000 to 50,000 because of the new technology.
With this in mind, are the underlying precepts behind the Affirmative Action movement applicable here?
Even if the proper human:computer ratio could be agreed upon, are limits on singular forms of technology even feasible given what we know about the ever-expanding functional capabilities of one operating system vis-à-vis one human brain?
What if hiring the best candidate means not hiring any(person) at all?
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