|I'm in Boston this Independence day, not only celebrating the 4th, but attending a conference(Williams syndrome). This morning I listened to a speaker, Dr. Thomas Armstrong, give a talk on 'Neurodiversity.'|
It kind of snuck up on me, he was a keynote speaker in a general session. It is the kind of topic that usually makes my eyes roll, but I swallowed my usual gut reaction and listened to his talk.
It wasn't the usual PC kumbaya. He made very strong points, and I realized that, in a certain light, the topic of 'diversity' can be(not that it always is), and is exactly in his arguments, the same system design point I have been beating to death on the topic of strong economies and strong societies and strong systems.
One of his illustrative examples; the Irish potato famine. At its root was the fact that there was largely only one variety of potato grown in Ireland at the time; the arrival of a disease to which that variety had no resistance led to widespread systemic failure. The potato universe got it all wrong at once. Single point of failure.
The establishment of neurological norms depends on what the local tribe is largely doing. In a south sea tribal nation of island dwellers spread across 500 islands, spatial/navigational skills are critical to the tribe, and so, those individuals with high spatial/navigational skills establish the local tribal 'norm' and disability is centered around that. These individuals tend to rise in the tribal power structure. In our society, folks who can't find their cars in a parking lot are not necessarily scored as defective, and might even be highly placed figures in our local tribe. It is entirely likely that each in each other's normative 'IQ' testing regime could easily score at the top of one and the bottom of the other.
Which really begs the question in the modern political era; what local normalizing tribal skill sets the local standard for 'normal?' If they are largely political, then that would include 'the ability to lie convincingly to others.'
In the 1800s, then contemporary America medical science had identified a disease, exhibited by large groups of people, and that was, the irrational desire to flee. They came up with a name for this syndrome, "drapetomania" and also had a theory that with proper treatment, this psychological disease could be cured, and the sufferers of this mental disease could, with treatment, live productive lives.
Their studies also found that this disease was clustered primarily in black slaves, a defect of the race.
If we were to magically find ourselves in tribal Africa, would we be characterized as suffering from lack-of-pigment-itis coupled with a syndromatic inability to acquire the skills necessary to prevail on the African plains? Would tribal leaders in some future be pondering the sad plight of all the sunburned defectives failing to thrive in the heat and sun, after having been forcefully displaced against their will to artificially relocate?
It is appropriate to remember "drapetomania" on Independence day as we celebrate freedom.
At one end of resilient tribal design is diversity; at the other end is an inbred cul de sac waiting to fail.
It's true of biologies. It's true of economies. It's true of societies. Single point of failure is never a reasonable systemic design goal for anything that we want to be resilient.