“Diversity is our strength!” proclaim the large and colorful Soviet-style posters in our schools and libraries. Every politician must affirm this truth and every celebrity and academic proclaim it before they are allowed to succeed in their careers. While we contemplate this odd “freedom” to agree only with reigning dogma, it is worth questioning.
Among the many reasons given for diversity, people normally argue — when they get done talking about ethnic restaurants — that diversity improves our ability to make decisions since we get many perspective instead of one. While this seems to contradict the idea that we are all equal, it is a popular trope.
Some might point out that the reason we have trouble making decisions is that we do it through consensus, which requires one decision at a time, instead of what I argue for in my philosophy parallelism of producing multiple simultaneous options and choosing whichever one succeeds. For serial decisions, diversity seems useful.
Adding fuel to the fire behind this debate, recent research suggests that diversity does not help us make better decisions:
Diversity for boards, juries and other influential decision-making teams can help ensure that the interests of a diverse population are fairly represented and addressed.
But for situations that call for predictions or estimates, there is typically little performance benefit for using a diverse group compared with one with similar individuals, a new University of Michigan study found.
U-M psychology researchers used surveys and simulations to replicate previous findings indicating that small crowds can be wiser than individuals, but it matters far less whether the crowd is demographically homogeneous or diverse.
Possibly humans became confused between the state of having more varied answers, and the condition of having more accurate ones. Either way, this begins the debunking of a great illusion, which is the notion that equal people suddenly become unequal when decision-making time comes around.
In a Ponzi scheme economy, or a state of “refinancialization” where we mostly sell products and services to ourselves, having more varied answers creates the illusion of important activity going on. That in turn can induce others to purchase. But as far as practical value goes, the diversity notion is a dead letter.