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Cultural Uniformity and Physical Diversity

  • For millennia human cultures have been diverging and diversifying. Languages, customs, musical styles, arts and all sorts of behaviors have multiplied all over the planet.
  • Recently, the globalization process that started with the end of the Cold War has dramatically reversed that process. In just two decades the process of increasing human diversity has been turned into a process of increasing human uniformity. Differences from the Western standard are increasingly being viewed as unwelcome (primitive, anachronistic, savage, detrimental to the individual and to society as a whole). Hence the trend is likely to continue and accelerate, eventually yielding just one pervasive uniform culture.
  • Even laws, traffic rules, political institutions, fashion, furniture and sports are being made uniform across countries.
  • In parallel, medicine has been saving the lives of an exponentially increasing number of people who, in past centuries, would have died of all sorts of diseases and deficiencies. In practice, this has reduced the power of "natural selection" and increased physical diversity.
  • Eventually, many individuals will constitute their own separate race with its idiosyncratic allergies, hobbies and ailments (most of which, in the old days, would have been "pruned away" by natural selection)
  • Combining the two processes, the human species has undergone a sudden transition. There was an age (lasting millions of years) in which the human body was converging towards the adaptive optimum while cultures were diversifying. Now there is a new age (roughly the last century) in which the human body has diversified while cultures are converging towards just one culture.
  • If diversification means "strength", then the dominant culture is getting more and more vulnerable to environmental changes, while the human body is more likely to survive it.
  • If diversification means "weakness", then culture is getting more resistant to environmental change while the individual body is getting more vulnerable to it (and therefore increasingly dependent on medicine).

Mark Pagel & Ruth Mace's "The cultural wealth of nations" (2004): The human race shows comparatively little genetic variation, while cultural differences are so widespread and enduring.
"In 3000 AD one will doubtless be able to travel from Kansas City to Peking in a few hours. But if the civilization of these two places is the same, there will be no object in doing so." (Aldous Huxley in 1926)
Proof-edited by Alexander Altaras