One Historical Perspective
This week's column by Ctein
Picking up where I left off from the column of two weeks ago....
The 100 Year Starship (100YSS) conference had some process goals that were apparent to me (and probably several more I wasn't aware of). One, discussed previously, was an intellectual big tent, and we'll just have to see how well that works out. It's a toughie.
A second goal was much more immediately successful, because it's more easily and directly engineered. My previous comment about most of the people being like me? Well, no. One major goal was to make sure that the group was one where people like me weren't the norm, that the discourse didn't become dominated by stereotypical white male techies. I'm not suggesting there's anything wrong with us WMTs; it's just that any monoculture very likely cannot build a successful starship. The obstacles to building a starship are not merely technological but highly multidisciplinary, and cultural monocultures rarely, if ever, come up with good solutions for novel and complex problem sets. Go read the original column for a longer discourse on this point.
It was done smartly and adroitly and without a fuss. Every panel, and every presentation had people on it who were without any doubt worth listening to, a fascinating and brilliant bunch, one and all. It just happened that white men were not in the majority. Go take another gander at the first illustration in the previous column. Uh huh. No fuss, no attention called to it, the norm had simply been shifted to, well...that's the point; there no longer was the norm. Meet the new status quo, not the same as the old status quo.
How will this hold up in the long term? I don't know. Groups tend to drift towards homogeneity; it's a well-known human tendency. It's just that it's one that leads to suboptimal decision-making.