Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Small Groups

Small, mostly isolated groups of people have historically tended to be a major source of innovation and evolution for culture (for example: art, technology, social systems) as well as biology. Modern communication and transportation have made it increasingly difficult for these groups to incubate new ideas before being forced to “compete” with other groups, thus watering down their uniqueness. Unfortunately, dangerous innovations which might destroy an isolated group, like viruses can now diffuse into the population at large and imperil us all.

There are several ways to empower small groups. The safest way is to provide new places for them to settle where they can experience the necessary isolation; this can be done through the exploration and settlement of space. Another safe, but less attractive approach is to attempt to filter harmful innovation and control behavior (as I advocated earlier). Unacceptable alternatives include the culling of Earth’s population and the disabling of globalizing technologies, which are on the verge of being taken if they are not already underway.

The reason I have not more forcefully advocated space settlement as a solution to this problem is my reluctant realization that we may not have enough time to develop the large-scale technology necessary to transport enough people off our planet before the unacceptable alternatives fully assert themselves. Space settlement, at best, can provide the means for establishing a few (more realistically, one) small breeding populations in other, relatively isolated locations, primarily as an insurance policy for the survival of the species if Earth becomes uninhabitable.

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