Progress, Diversity, and Innovation

Diversity. It is one of the great buzzwords of our time. Yet, why should this be? Diversity seems naught but an aesthetic preference. Why should we prefer it to homogeneity?

The usual response to this is some variant of the equation “diversity of sex/race/religion=diversity of experience=diversity of ideas”. In other words, the justification for aesthetic diversity is that it promotes the kind of intellectual diversity needed to drive innovation and creativity.

You’ll note that these aren’t overwhelmingly idiotic assumptions. Diversity of experience, after all, can lead to diversity of ideas. I recall an instance in which I was able to draw on my experience in martial arts to point out certain patterns of action that completely reframed the discussion on a problem in epistemology that I was having at the time. It broke ground on a new way of looking at the matter and helped us make substantial progress in resolving the issue.

So yes, diversity of experiences can lead to diversity of ideas which can lead to increased problem-solving ability.

Yet, on a practical level, there is something suspicious about how these results fail to appear. Why is it that diversity tends to lead not to better problem-solving, but to more and more cries for diversity and societal rights for the “diverse” ones?

Remember, the strength of intellectual diversity is its ability to generate a wider range of possibilities to act upon. Picking certain of these new ideas without testing them and then imposing them as a new homogeneity is the opposite of proper diversity.

When we actually subject diversity to focused analysis, we see that the discrepancy between input and results makes diversity a bad investment. As much as the multiculturalists might wish to convince themselves otherwise, diversity doesn’t work the way they want it to. The imposition of diversity thus serves not as an enhancement, but a modern day sin tax, for the sin of accomplishing things without the aid of at least one representative from each of the protected classes.

It is said that diversity + proximity = conflict. This is true even on the level of ideas. However, in the realm of ideas, it is this conflict that gives rise to innovation and the marketplace of ideas (it it helps, think of this dynamic as intellectual diversity + creativity = innovation).

This is what we ought to be promoting. To promote diversity instead of innovation is to confuse the sign with the substance. On top of that, when one considers the evidence that multicultural diversity reduces intellectual diversity, it is very easy to see why diversity fails to deliver on its promises.

To conflate intellectual diversity and multicultural diversity is to confuse exactly what factors drive creativity and innovation. It is a fundamental failure to grasp that most basic principle we rely upon to identify patterns: cause and effect.

Effect is not cause, and causation is a one-way street. Some things cause other things. Some things do not cause other things. Get the chain of causation right, and you can create wonders beyond even your wildest imagination. Get it wrong, and watch as everything you have built comes crashing down.

The only option left to save the right kind of progress is to stop promoting the wrong kind of diversity.




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