The Humanity of DiversityI volunteered for the Special Olympics the other weekend. It was both fun and invigorating. I didn't have to do much, I was assigned as an 'escort' for a team of high functioning athletes, who didn't really need much watching. I accompanied my team to the attached carnival and watched them play the games and collect prizes from the booths. A planner for humanity who was purely logical and focused on utility might eliminate the Special Olympics altogether and perhaps even the athletes who compete. After all most of the athletes will never amount to much. The Special Olympics rightfully touts the fact that Special Olympians are more likely than other disadvantaged to have jobs and function more or less autonomously, but those jobs are definitely not high end. If you blur the focus a little and make it less exclusively about utility, then arguments from humanity enter in. Who are we as a species if we do not protect and cherish even the least of us? But, I think, even an argument from utility can be made. I value diversity. I spent a career forecasting the future and found that it was impossible. Perhaps the only strategy that works against an unknown future, in everything from investing to corporate planning, is diversity. If we are interested in the long term survival of the human species then we should encourage diversity. All diversity. I don't know what would be useful ten centuries from now or tomorrow. It might be the singleness of focus of some of my disadvantaged teammates, the ability to not think so intellectually about things, or perhaps an undistinguished blip on the genome (sickle cell anemia is our species evolutionary response to malaria remember). I learned a little bit about bocce ball watching my Special Olympics teammates compete. I learned a little and they explained a little, but the best part of the day, for me, was the carnival. I became a little kid myself, watching them enjoy themselves. I even managed to drop some of my intellectual cares and feel human again.
27 Jun 2009
Copyright © 2009 Truck Smith