Scientific Sense Podcast

Monday, December 8, 2014

Economic value of segregation

Humans, still fundamentally driven by visible features, created by less than 1% of their DNA, could be ahead of themselves as they struggle to create better societies and structures. Their recent arrival on a planet, substantially more sophisticated than themselves, signaled a regime change – preferential to tactics than strategy. For 100 thousand years, a mere glimpse of space time, they have been struggling to sustain a clan structure – first created by proximity, then by the shape of the skull and distance between the eyes and in the modern world, apparently by the color of the skin, the least compelling of the segregation schemes they have been able to devise.

If humans are unwilling and unable to rise over their mental constraints – one has to sympathize with them as they had very little experience with it. It appears that societal utility could be enhanced by segregation in transition, something that may extend over a century. A recent study shows that humans tend to segregate when the space occupied – say in a city – hits a threshold level. This indicates that a hard wired need to segregate exists in every one of the currently existing 7.2 billion specimens. Countries provide an efficient segregation scheme and for half the word’s population, the problem reduces to regional schemes – language, imperceptible shades of skin color, height and food. In any case, the need to segregate is as fundamental as the human itself.

Although it may be alarming for some to consider, it is possible that segregation is utility maximizing in transition to a higher level society. The planet, a sitting duck in the midst of space debris, may need to consider local and temporal maximization of utility – and segregation could be a dominant policy choice to maximize societal value.

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