It’s remarkable how hard it can be to keep up with the technology needed for success in science. It seems that almost weekly I am being forced to change software programs for manipulating DNA, proteins and so on. Part of it results from computer crashes, changes between PC and Mac, new updates and systems, etc. Other issues are the programs themselves that continue updating and “improving” until they get to the point where I can no longer just sit down and use them to churn out a graph or table.
On the other hand, I am awed by my offspring’s generation, and how rapidly they can adapt to any computer-based technology. My son, simply as a spare-time hobby, has so mastered every function available on the program Adobe Photoshop that I am seriously considering having him come in to the lab on a day off of school to demonstrate to my students and postdocs how to properly make figures in this program. His level of skill is so advanced, that he recently boto(x)-shopped me (see “young and old Steve”):
Yes, well, I once had fewer wrinkles. But kidding aside, of course this illustrates how easy it might be for someone to get away with scientific fraud. It also raises some interesting questions on ethics at the periphery of science.
For example, would it be ethical to send such a boto(x)-shopped picture in a resume? After all, advertisers and political campaigners do it all the time. Admittedly, at least in the US, photos are not part of a professional resume (nor is age). But hypothetically? I’m sure many of you would say “No!” And I wouldn’t disagree. But then would it be ethical to send a “non-boto(x)-shopped picture” taken 3 years ago? 5 years ago? 10? 15? I suspect that here the line might become blurry.
If we are discussing hypothetical situations and going to extremes, then what about in vivo appearance altering methods, such as hair color to get rid of gray? A wig? Actual plastic surgery? Obviously I’m not implying that these personal methods of keeping up appearances can or should be regulated, but just trying to tie them into the spectrum and point out that perhaps things are not as clear as we might immediately envision. I personally know of a former colleague who began to dye his hair all of the sudden; it turned out later that this was for the purpose of several job interviews. At the time this never would have occurred to me (even now it wouldn’t), but obviously there is at least a perception that appearing older might be detrimental for job interviews.
I suspect that these will be issues that continue to crop up as technology further blurs the line between reality and the impossible. And I will continue to age and prefer that to physical or virtual boto(x)-shopping.