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Engineering diversity [e.g. via DNA alterations] to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and mitigate disasters


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#1
starspawn0

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We don't often think of encouraging "diversity" as a way to cut costs, but it really can do just that. Here is one simple example: imagine you have a cloud computing resource that everyone can use. In a society without a lot of diversity, where everyone behaves roughly the same, you might expect that certain times of the day everyone will try to use the cloud servers at the same time. Unfortunately, there are limitations to how many user requests it can fulfill at once. It would be better if people were more diverse in their gaming habits, say, so that the utilization were much closer to a flat, uniform distribution throughout the day.

Another example is banking: similar to the cloud computing example, banks work because not everyone needs to withdraw all their money at once. Obviously, there are examples where the individual optimal, rational choice might lead everyone to withdraw at the same time; but there are also cases where a large number of people act irrationally, together, and cause a run on the bank. If we had a more behaviorally-diverse population, perhaps these financial meltdowns would happen less often, even if people didn't act perfectly rationally.

Now, of course, too much diversity might also cause additional problems, like political gridlock, where you have a thousand different factions going in a thousand different directions, with too little agreement. Some balance between efficiency and gridlock might need to be struck, to find the optimal mix for society.

Assuming we want more diversity, how might we engineer it? Perhaps through fiddling with the human genome. Think of it: in the interest of reducing costs and increasing efficiency, the government requires the genomes of newborns to be randomized a little bit -- a few genes added, a few subtracted -- enough to keep the genetic diversity of the population in the optimal range (as determined by weighing lots of benefits and costs), to reduce uniformity of behavior.

Addendum: And I should point out that this is not eugenics, in the normal sense, where people are not allowed to have kids. Everyone would be permitted to have kids. And, this doesn't speak to unfairly enhancing one group over another -- everybody gets the same randomization. It's kind of orthogonal to enhancement. Perhaps, also, we could do away with making this mandatory, and give tax incentives for people undergoing the procedures. The savings will pay for themselves, anyways. Society will be richer for it.

#2
tomasth

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Why change genetics if the reason a society don't have behaviorally-diverse population , is the society discouragement of that ?
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#3
starspawn0

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Excellent question.

We can start by convincing people why more diversity is a good idea. It is a well-known fact in machine learning that, for example, more diverse training, diverse environments, and more diverse ensembles, lead to better performance; and there are thousands of ways diversity improves efficiency and security -- in resource utilization, and in preventing things like bank-runs. It will take a while before people come to accept this.

There is more than one solution to how to foster diversity, besides genetic engineering, such as encouraging more immigration (being accepting of immigration is one expression of "valuing diversity"); but many countries don't like inviting too many immigrants at once (they have their reasons, not all of them good); and poorer countries have a harder time attracting immigrants. A country like Japan, that doesn't like having too many outsiders in its borders, and that could maybe do with more diversity, might opt (decades from now) for genetic engineering.

It's also not clear how behaviorally diverse an ethnically and culturally-diverse population is. It may break down into a small number of large factions, along ethnic lines. It would be better to break up those large factions. This could be done naturally (sex). But, large factions seem to have a tendency to persist for many generations.




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