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Aaron Pillar

Technical Writer, Deluxe Media

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Humans may need to leave Earth to survive extinction. Is cultural homogenization necessary for us to achieve the means to facilitate this?

It's hard enough to get countries to align on policy just living on Earth, and many times it doesn't happen. Additionally, the double edged sword is that we want to align on certain items, yet regarding other items we want to retain cultural distinction (and both of these aspirations are perceived as appropriate!). Humans are deeply attached to their unique identity among humanity, and the unending parade of wars exemplifies this. So regarding my question, most people enormously underestimate the level of global cooperation that will be needed to lift all of humanity off the planet and sustain it elsewhere. But if in, say, one thousand years, brought on by technological advancements birthed in the current few hundred years we're in the middle of, we all end up light brown and all part of one global culture ("I'm from Earth, Sector 824"), where countries are extinct, then maybe the psychological foundation of the unified cultural identity that I think we'll need for space colonization will be in place, and we can then do it. Without this change, I personally don't see it happening. What do you think?


Closing Statement from Aaron Pillar

Hi Deepak, thanks for replying. I don't know, you may be right, though consciously I tend to stick to the tangible things in my life. So... when I wrote my question, I was only thinking about the science of stars and planets, and that the sun will eventually burn through its fuel (like all the stars do) and then expand, swallowing the nearby planets (including Earth), etc. So, if we're still around at that point, where we weren't already destroyed by ourselves or something else, there'll be a lot of cooperation needed in leveraging the technology to get off Earth in time. Anna Kazcorowska (below) mentioned focusing on what brings us together. I think that will be more crucial than anyone can imagine.

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    R H 20+

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    Jun 22 2013: I am a die-hard 'diversityist'. In my opinion, homogenization leads to death and servitude. Now, more directly to your thought provoking question, I do not think it necessary, nor desirable, to colonize space with a homogenized populace. I see it this way: In the last 1000 years or so we have advanced tremendously technologically, but have barely moved in our fundamental social structures, our relation and consideration towards one another, our 'class' distinctions (just moved it from birth to economic standing), or our tolerance for differentiating views. We still cannot consider an alternate (better) solution - no matter how minor - and implement it on a social scale. It is not, therefore to me, that we need to be 'all the same' to have social success, whether here or elsewhere. It is that we need to develop our interpersonal, relational, social structural skills and techniques at least as much as we have developed our technological ability. Then I feel, we will embrace our diversity, our different contributory points of view, and see our now 'expanded' multi-faceted vision as the key to our survival as a species.
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    Jun 25 2013: Hi Aaron,

    Let's focus on the things that bring us together, not on the things that enhance the feelings of otherness. Having roots is not a bad thing if you're not here to prove to others that your roots are better than the roots of others.

    I'm into global cooperation and education on all levels, there should definitely be more.
    Who's going to sponsor it? I hope there are generous contributors out there. I just hope there will not be two ships, one going straight for the sun. This is not how it's supposed to work.

    Best wishes from an Earthling.

    Also, check out this site to see some perspectives - wakeupcall4world.com
  • Jun 24 2013: Hi Everyone, this was my first question on TED. I really appreciate everyone's contributions here. Reading the replies, so many other questions get triggered (probably need to be entered as new topics/questions). But sticking to this topic, ok, maybe homogenization is not the sole route (or playing devil's advocate, even a possibility). So then, if we were to try and work together (in our diversity) to make it happen, I'm just trying to envision the organization, rules, and all other groundwork that would be needed. Knee-jerk reaction... it's just a giant undertaking. Like George Lockwood said, "...so many issues."
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    Jun 22 2013: The extinction of a race usually happens 'unexpected' and within to short a time frame for 'evolution' to cope with.

    By looking back in history and taking a glance in today, I have my doubts, that 'cultural homogenization' is a natural tendency of humans to convert to as a species - and, being cultural pessimistic, I think if we ever make it there, we may not have managed to conserve nor ever reached the level of technology which was needed to leave this planet.

    From a resource point of view, we weren't able to evacuate us as a whole species anyway, so a representative and 'fit for survival' group of selected individuals would certainly be screened for best possible 'compatibility', at least as best we would knew of what it would take to be such an individual and how to 'predetermine' this via tests beforehand, for as long a journey no one ever undertook before.

    So hopefully 'cryo-sleep' or 'cryo-hybernation' technology would be available at that time, as it would make things much easier and the journey less boring for those who set out in all our names...

    There is an related documentary to your topic which you may be interested in if you haven't seen it so far:

    Evacuate Earth - National Geographic Documentary


    Besides the 'usual suspects' of the plot scheme, it tackles some of the obstacles related to leave this planet for another home ...
    • Jun 23 2013: Lejan,

      Under what criteria do you think this "fit for survival" group would be evaluated? Will they be evaluated for intelligence and physical strength? Or human decency and a philanthropic history?

      Do you think it would include only the wealthy, or would it include a broad spectrum of socioeconomic classes?
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        Jun 23 2013: Under the assumption that there was enough time for this evaluation process and nothing to be rushed, it would make the most sense to me if the latest knowledge in medicine, genetics, biology and psychology was applied to identify the best possible candidates for the startover of humankind on an earth-like alien planet.

        I could imagine, that the 'purity' and variety of this genetic pool would be of main focus, by which all genetically detectable diseases would be screened and individuals rejected, if they carried them. Known socio-pyschological / genetical relations (if there are any) would also be used as well as psychological tests and 'historical background' screenings.

        The history of my nation in the creation of such a 'master race' or 'Arier-Rasse' - the 'noble' race and its horrible outcome may remind us, that if its about the 'human race', no political or any other agenda should be allowed to influence this evaluation process, which answers the second part of your question, that nothing other than fitness under strict and scientifically traceable criteria would decide for the candidates.

        Regarding physical strength it would make sense to me to adjust this to the final candidate of this 'new earth' and how much it deviates from the gravity of our planet. On smaller planets or moons with lower gravity, less physical strength would be necessary, which may reduces the amount of certain 'body types' and the other way around.

        Intelligence is more difficult as there are so many forms and sub-forms of it and as much as I know little to non direct relation to genetic predispositions. The same goes for creativity, emotional intelligence, etc. which would make this field as well as the psychological assessment quite difficult.

        In any case the decisions made would not be flawless, which, in a way would manifest of what all was about ... humanity.
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    Jun 22 2013: If the fire is out stop spraying water on it. Cultural homogenization would put out the fire. No need to flee the planet if everyone on the planet worked together to stop the fire. It is the ubiquitious conflicts between myriad diverse cultures with vastly varying moralities and priorities that started and fuels the fire. But wait, 7-billion people work in harmony toward a common goal?. . . never mind. EVERYBODY PANIC!
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      Jun 22 2013: Ed,
      You are looking at the glass half empty....
      I just saw a movie with my grandson where in the future, all mankind and aliens came together to form a great alliance in our galaxy..
      I say, If some screenwriter can imagine it, it can happen.
      I can't speak for aliens, but I am confident that mankind can join together for a global challenge.
      Am I naive?.
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        Jun 22 2013: I don't think you are uninformed, inexperienced, or naive, Mike. I think you are a cheerful optimist and see half-full glasses everywhere, and they are half-full! I think you want your grandchildren to have hope that the glasses are filling and not emptying. That's love. When we contemplate our fate we are on non-scientific turf. We are into the etherial, the spiritual. I just don't see Earthlings uniting with themselves or with some wandering aliens to establish lasting universal peace and harmony. We can't even get 12 diverse people, let alone some wierd looking aliens, to agree unanimously on anything. There will always be hostilities based upon "us" and "them". Cheers!
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          Jun 25 2013: Hi Mike and Edward,

          Glass half empty, glass half full... Hmm... Let's think outside the glass. I guess this is what this conversation is about, correct me if I'm wrong.

          I agree with R H - embrace diversity, learn from one another. There can be discussions around the 12 people mentioned by Edward, but those doesn't need to lead to hostilities when certain rules are applied. I hope that my being too much Carl Sagan doesn't disturb anybody here.

          EDIT - just to add one point - if the aliens are at a point where they managed to survive extinction and escape their own planet, that probably means they have figured out a lot more than just how to prevent 12 people from being hostile towards one another and how to use their potential at the same time. That probably means that they'll see that we have potential. It's the Carl Sagan-type thinking again. I wouldn't use the term 'mankind' here, Mike, I'll stick to earthlings.
          Best wishes.
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        Jun 25 2013: If you can imagine it, it's doable.
        That's my being naive, maybe, but with the possibilities nowadays, unfettered imagination, resources and technological advancement of the now, maybe we'll be off on a ride. I won't start packing immediately, I'll probably need some a better suitcase.
        Stay positive.
        Best wishes.
  • Jun 22 2013: Look there are so many issues. So for me to learn something reply wouldn't cosmic radiation really mess up an adult on a long space trip? Wouldn't eggs and sperm or fertilized eggs be better survivors? Wpuldn't some of the churches have fits?
  • Jun 21 2013: I hope and expect that it will take much less than a thousand years for us to colonize space..

    In my opinion, you are overestimating the cooperation needed for space colonization. Space colonization will be a project by the rich, for the rich.

    Please take note: I will leave the morality of this scenario for others to debate.

    The need for space colonization seems to me to be completely obvious, but it is also obvious that most people do not consider space colonization as an immediate priority. Eventually a huge natural catastrophe will make it clear to people that on this planet human life is very fragile. After that catastrophe, people will realize that if the human species is going to survive, we had better spread our seed to other planets. There will be a few rich people with intellect and imagination that will lead other rich people to the understanding that we had better start on this project immediately if we hope to have any descendants at all. These rich people will form corporations with the provision that the investors will have significant influence in the choice of colonists. In addition to assuring the survival of the human species, I expect that these corporations will also return a profit, probably from mining, tourism and technology spin off.

    So there will be no need of a global government or a global culture. Instead, cooperation will be in the form of one or more multinational corporations, capitalized by rich investors
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      Jun 25 2013: Hi Barry,

      A thought came to me when reading your comment - when playing Sid Meyer's Civilisation (not the latest one, I don't know if this is still there) and looking on the map you get a light-bulb on it from time to time. The light-bulb means 'A brilliant person is born'. Traditionally, history has had a number of such, coming from different continents, cultures, backgrounds. Some of them had to have a sponsor, others were misused but... a lot of light-bulbs we have today do not appear on any "map" because, well, that's not how the world traditionally functions today, as all of us know. I guess what I'm trying to say is that if the people in general recognise that all people are light-bulbs, can be made into light-bulbs or at least should be treated as ones, those provisions you're mentioning or ulterior motives will not have to be relevant and may actually be eradicated. Call me naive but... well... It's just one of the scenarios. Let's find some others, the dark ages are over. Cheers.
  • Jun 21 2013: That w ould be kind of a cool idea for a sci-fi

    It's written in the perspective of an alien species from another planet that's much like our own, and they are attacked by humans as a homogenous, super intelligent race that left it's planet to find a better land, and now they need to displace the other species once they've found a suitable home.

    Wait, I think that's actually a true story in many cases of human history... Just, without the alien super-technology involved.

    Anyone seen Disney's movie, Pocahontas?
  • Jun 21 2013: Honestly I think this question has to be thought at from a broad perspective. If we look at the "issues" on this Earth that we are experiencing as Humans, which of them - if any - are solely responsible for the ultimate failure of human existence? Is it the segregation of nations and people? Is it pollution? Is it famine?

    You are right when you say that humans naturally try to find a sense of solidarity and routine amongst their culture - therefore adopting that culture as their "identity" - but we have to remember that culture is a learned thing. The human drive to learn culture this is the instinct pushing your idea forward. Humans not only push to learn culture, but we push to multiply to ensure the survivability of this species. How do we do that? Even in the earliest of days, it was through marriage. Marriage was not a love-contract that bound two people into everlasting spiritual life together. It was a business contract between families to ensure that their seed was passed on to create children and thus a large family lineage, or to benefit family wealth or status. That is exactly why rich men had many wives and children. Women were the commodity. This cycle brought the population of the human species to critical mass, and now we no longer need to repopulate.

    Leaving the earth to find a bigger, brighter future might not be the best solution to the critical mass of our species. Homogenizing our species might not even be the answer, either. If we look back in history we have many accounts of very recent leaders who tried to homogenize society. For example, we have good ol' Hitler, or Musolini. We also have Russia trying to homogenize their economic structure and the structure of its kindred nations.

    As a species, we also tend to artistically create sci-fi thriller movies and books about a homogenous alien species destroying humanity...

    So what do you think would really happen if we left Earth?
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    Jun 21 2013: You mean when the sun dies out, in a few billion years?
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    Jun 21 2013: Are not human beings have been living in the same planet for thousands of year with all their diversity ? Why then they need to have one culture to LEAVE earth for another planet ?
    Within same country there are multiple cultures even then in need they become united is not it ?
    • Jun 21 2013: You asked, "why would one culture be needed if we're all coexisting here with all of our diversity?" Right now, there's a lot of things we aspire to agree on (cooperate on) but which we never seem to succeed with. Peace in the middle east would be a random example... which is a very small goal compared to the cooperation needed to manifest space colonization.
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        Jun 22 2013: Do you think barrier to establish PEACE is a cultural issue in Middle East?
        • Jun 26 2013: For that specific issue, I think there's a lot of factors (cultural and non-cultural). But I really just mentioned it as an example of how hard it is for people to work together (or agree on things... cooperate). The smaller the scale, the easier it seems to get. To lift people off Earth to ensure survival, the scale of cooperation is gigantic. Knowing humanity, my guess is that it's out of reach.