Sci-Fi episode about civilization that decides optimal career at birth?
February 17, 2018 1:09 PM   Subscribe

I have such a vague memory of a tv episode - I think it was something like Star Trek TNG or of that timeframe (1990's). The group visits a place where all of the citizens have their ideal career path chosen for them, calculated since birth.

The idea is that whatever career was determined would both be the work you'd be most talented doing and the work that you'd enjoy deeply. These people were all super happy with this practice until the visitors start asking if you could also be happy doing something else instead, and if the act of choosing your path for yourself is a contributing factor to happiness and life purpose. My memory is that this was a Star Trek TNG episode and the main character focus was on Deanna Troi. However, I've searched through past episodes and nothing seems to match up. My hope is that someone else will recall something like this! It's a great concept to explore and I'd love to see where this memory came from.
posted by belau to Society & Culture (10 answers total)
There was an Orson Scott Card story, "Unaccompanied Sonata", set in a world with this premise, but I do not know if it was ever adapted to TV or film.
posted by thelonius at 1:39 PM on February 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

It's TNG. Season 5 episode 15 The Masterpiece Society
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 1:43 PM on February 17, 2018 [13 favorites]

Which somewhat embarrassingly I knew the name of without googling.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 1:51 PM on February 17, 2018 [22 favorites]

Homo neanderthalensis has it. I remember that ep focusing more on Geordi though.

If you play video games, this is kind of the basis for the Qunari society in Dragon Age, with a more fantasy-world spin. They are raised communally, and then assigned the work they would do best (as determined by those that do the choosing). It mostly works except when it doesn't. And it's terrifying to all the other countries who don't 'follow the Qun'.

It's also the backstory for a character in Peter F. Hamilton's Commonwealth books. She was born on a world that genetically selects for specific traits as the society need them. Some activists kidnap her and some other such children in protest, and raise her as their own child. What they didn't know is she'd been designed to be one of the few law enforcement officers... so when her parents tell her where she came from on her sixteenth birthday, the first thing she does is turn them in for kidnapping. (But then when she tries to go back to her birthworld, she doesn't fit in there either.)
posted by lovecrafty at 1:59 PM on February 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

Futurama borrows this conceit with its career chips. They show up in a couple of episodes you could google if you were interested in seeing other ways this idea gets explored.
posted by mrmurbles at 2:14 PM on February 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

Lovecrafty- it was a dual focus episode. One part of the episode was definitely Geordi's frustrations with a "perfect" society that would have aborted him because of his congenital blindness, and the subsequent smugness when its technology from his visor that saves the colony, but there *was* a fairly large Troi component throughout, as she was instructed by Picard to get friendly with the leader of the society in order to convince him *at first* that they meant no harm but were here to help, as they were isolationists, but later when members of the "perfect" society want to leave to convince him that that's okay too. She was sort of the point of view character acting as ambassador for the Enterprise and the Federation. I believe there was also a *sigh* romantic element to Troi's friendship with the leader of course.

Also to my great shame I remember all of that without checking the stupid memory alpha link I linked.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 2:38 PM on February 17, 2018 [5 favorites]

I seem to remember this being a feature of "the giver" too.
posted by cosmicbandito at 2:44 PM on February 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh my gosh, thank you everyone! I searched through every episode description and googled this multiple ways but could not find this. Looking forward to watching this again and I will also check out the other stories suggested.
posted by belau at 7:34 PM on February 17, 2018

There's also the Asimov novella, Profession, which features a future where each individual has their job uploaded into their mind at 18. The job chosen I'd supposed to be the best for each particular mind.
posted by Jaclyn at 7:51 PM on February 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

There’s also this sci-if novel by Ian McDonald, one particular line of which has stuck with me for a looooong time. Won’t spoil the line, but here’s a description of the story:

Out on Blue Six is set in the great city of Yu. An environmental catastrophe has forced the implementation of order upon society in order to prevent the complete devastation of life and a massive wall has been built around the city. The control of pain considered the lowest common denominator, the ruling Compassionate Society psychologically profiles people at birth, and until death imposes profession, caste, and partner.
posted by invincible summer at 6:34 AM on February 18, 2018

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