Random Thoughts on Diversity, Equality of Opportunity, and the Golden Mean


Diversity is argued to be the central or original principle based on our ponderance about the evolutionary Universe, life, and human civilization. Egalitarianism, or more precisely equality of opportunity, and many other social tenets such as democracy, freedom, justice, and fairness, are representative or derivative of this central Diversity Principle, and therefore their interpretation should always be normalized under the context of diversity. Conversely, extremism, bias, prejudice, and other social aberrations, are detrimental phenomena of anti-diversity.

Such a diversity principle recognizes the uniqueness of individuals, encourages fulfillment of individual potential, and rewards innovative behaviors from individuals in all professions. Therefore, equality of opportunity, from an individual point of view, becomes the best way to ensure diversity without hindrance to the natural evolution process. However, what should we do about the presumably harmful polarizations, monopolies, and other social extremes that inevitably occur during the process?

In social practices, from a collective point of view, the Golden Mean is argued to be the pragmatic principle for overall healthy diversity, in particular, in reducing supremacy or breaking up monopolies. The golden mean is the central doctrine in Chinese Confucianism that stresses the critical importance of balance and moderate approaches in human life and society. Here we could extend its use with further deeper insights into our understanding of the development and future outlook of human civilization. In particular, it is not a principle for individuals, but one for the social structure as a whole. It is a tenet for establishing a set of social rules to prevent monopolies while providing a safe social net for all. It is a guideline for keeping a  good statistical balance between risks and benefits for human society as a whole, for example, in the field of scientific research, it is like the 5% rule – 5% funding for high-risk, high-reward projects while 95% for normal science. Except for some extremely dangerous and harmful things, we should not eliminate any individual behaviors. A safe social net and a good balance eventually give everybody a fair chance to thrive now and in the future.

Human survival is hinged upon our understanding of the diversity principle. How can we survive or avoid, if we can at all, the possible singularities caused by exponential growth in human civilization and technological advancement? We may have to face or answer such questions very soon.

Physical Origin

Now let’s start pondering about the possible physical origin of diversity. We can find clues from studies of science in its not-so-long history about how such a principle emerges and why it is so critical. The great development of physical sciences has really told us a lot. We know that our universe has an arrow of time, it evolves in a single direction, and life on Earth also evolves in a certain directed yet escalating way. The overall direction for the evolution of life, human society, and civilization seems to go from simplicity to complexity.

The dynamical nature of the universe stems from the birth of the time dimension and an arrow of time. This could be understood from perspectives of dimensional transitions of spacetime. Its quantum nature also indicates that our universe is intrinsically indeterministic. Human beings as an evolution product of the universe seem to be able to asymptotically understand it in an ever-better way. But we can never be sure that we will understand it fully or predict everything with 100% confidence. The only way to keep ourselves surviving longer, if not forever, along the evolution path, is to keep the diversity of our species so that we can cope with as many as possible different and difficult situations in the future. In the biological history of Earth, species got extinct because they did not keep their diversity. As a matter of fact, the more powerful a species got, the more diversity it should keep. Otherwise, the ever-positive feedback will quickly eliminate other minor traits and strengthen the dominant one only leading to extinction in the end.

The world is volatile and statistical (or indeterministic) in essence. Volatility is from classically expanding spacetime while indeterminacy is the nature of quantum. Causal effects are classical, in other words, pure quantum evolution is always unitary and time-symmetric, but classical spacetime or inflation of it would disentangle and make it causal, leading to a dynamic world.

The quantum action principle (Feynman’s path integration formalism) demonstrates a mathematical form of equality of opportunity as every configuration provides a similar phase factor with an equal probability amplitude. In other words, every path or configuration of a physical system could potentially contribute similarly to the results (equality of opportunity), but in the end, it is possible that only a select few have made meaningful contributions to the final results while most of the others cancel out each other (i.e., no equality of outcome).

The Golden Mean basically points to a balanced hierarchical social system with a safety net. Its physical analog would be the quantum-level system with level energies bounded from below (i.e., a ground state as a safety net) and the positive energy theorem in general relativity.

Diversity Principle

The diversity principle: 1) world is indeterministic and the environment is volatile –> needs different traits at different times. –> no inherent inferiority and superiority for any trait –> equality of opportunity will make sure that the best traits take effect at the most suitable times. 2) positive feedback could result in an inadvertent effect that fitting traits could become too dominant and may even get other traits excluded. This will break the first point. –> anti-trust, anti-monopoly, anti-exclusion. –> so we need to establish basic rules to keep survival as many traits as possible. 3) in the end, the best measures: merit-based equality of opportunity while using rules and taxes to prevent monopolies and provide sufficient public goods, especially on education, health, infrastructures, and social security.

Therefore, the Diversity Principle, first of all, recognizes, the essential differences between individuals. In other words, each individual is unique. It is the source of why human beings and society can keep evolving. If all of them are the same, then no evolution is possible and it reaches a dead end as it has no way (by fresh traits) to deal with any unexpected adversity or calamities.

How can we be sure that our human civilization as a whole will continue its development and prosperity without fears of its extinction? I guess that the best lessons are from Darwin’s evolution theory, especially the tenet of natural selection. The most important lesson could be that keeping the genetic (and possibly other) diversity is critical and no specific attributes or traits can be the most desirable all the time. Nobody knows what specific traits and beliefs would be the best for the next phase of human society.

Dinosaurs showed a very good example. I guess that back in ancient times, plenty of resources like food were available on Earth. Dinosaurs dominated the world for an extended period of time. In this case, largeness is a much-preferred feature, and therefore dinosaurs developed into their giant body frames to the extent that gravity allows on Earth. They went extinct perhaps because they did not preserve genes of small body frames and there was not enough food to support their large body frames when the glaciers covered their habitat. The only survival branch might be the flying species with small bodies that became the ancestor of birds.

Another example of the diversity principle is, at first glance, very trivial, like a full set of wrenches. You definitely want to keep all sizes instead of keeping only the most used ones and tossing out the others. You never know what size will be needed for the next task. So better keep them all available. On the other hand, for more often used sizes, it is also better to have multiple copies. However, the most often used one today may become much less used later on. A seldom-used size may become a new favorite tomorrow. You may also need to add more sizes for new tasks in the future, e.g., even larger ones and smaller ones to extend the existing set. Similar analogies also include a set of other types of tools, a collection of books, a set of dictionaries, a curriculum at colleges, a menu of a restaurant, and so on. Today’s best may be the worst tomorrow, or vice versa.

To keep human evolution healthy and ahead of other species, it is critical to allow the attributes that are the best at a given time to have priority for further development. Meanwhile, we should keep all other possible attributes and options available. The best attributes are not always the same. In ancient times when human beings were still similar in lifestyle to other primates, strong physicality is probably more important than mental acuteness. But modern human society clearly favors intelligence over physicality.

Not only do biological genes need diversity, but also other “soft-type genes” like cultural genes, moral values, and even ethnic traits too. No gene or trait is a priori superior to others. Even for a specific trait, for example, physical strength, sometimes strong is better, and sometimes weak is better depending on historic moments or tasks at hand. So is intelligence, not always good for High IQ. In some cases, too high IQ could lead to overthinking, timidity, depression, hesitation, etc., due to the Dunning effect.

Individuals with passion and talents should be encouraged to pursue or explore according to their own interests, as far as it is not harmful to society. Of course, criminal attempts should be prohibited for the common public goods. All the other healthy pursuance should help increase our diversity, i.e., we could develop more beneficial traits through individual innovative efforts. The more advanced the society, the more we should encourage such efforts. In early civilization, human beings even struggled to obtain enough food resources, so diverse pursuance could hardly be any priority. But with great advancement in STEM fields and ample resources for our basic needs, we can certainly afford such endeavors, which actually are necessary for the further betterment of human beings. 

Dynamic Nature

The dynamic nature of the diversity principle is mentioned multiple times above. But it is worthwhile to be singled out now and will be discussed more later.

An individual could be bad or good at different stages of their lifetime. For example, a brilliant scientist could be the driving force when young and upcoming, then later on established into some sort of authoritative figure, eventually, this once-great scientist could become the blocking force for further advancement of the field. Such phenomena occur in academe according to the well-known Planck’s principle in sociology of knowledge – science advances funeral by funeral. Too many such examples. The same is true in other aspects of our society.

Of course, more achieving individuals should have more leeway in a merit-based system. An individual with greater achievement is probably needed more and longer to lead the field as the achievement may trigger more follow-up studies and work. But no single individual should be granted infinite or lifetime power.

Equality of Opportunity

To keep such dynamic diversity, the most important practical tenet emerges, that is, the one of equal OPPORTUNITY from an individual perspective. Note that it is fundamentally different from the wrong belief of equal outcomes. All the other moral values and ethical rules are derivative of this simple tenet. When in conflict or confused, people should go back to this principle or the original diversity principle.

Essentially equality of opportunity is the reason why we believe in freedom of speech, academic freedom, and other similar democratic principles. We need to point out that egalitarianism is a very poorly defined, ambiguous concept. It does not distinguish two clearly separated concepts of equality of opportunity and equality of outcome.

Unlike equality of opportunity, equality of outcome is dangerously wrong. It essentially denies the differences that are inherent in the original diversity principle. It essentially assumes that every individual is the same and interchangeable. It inevitably results in actions aiming at equal distribution or re-distribution of social resources. It is clearly against the biological principle of natural selection. In the end, no then-recognized good traits of human beings and society will be promoted. It becomes aimless for human development and societal advancement. Such social practices have been proven to be extremely bad from the failed trials in communist countries that have or had applied such a principle of equality of outcome in their economic activities, e.g., the Soviet Union, North Korea, and China before 1978, etc. Such a failed principle will unavoidably lead to a dead end in evolution, or analogically, the thermal equilibrium of death in terms of thermodynamics.

However, equality of opportunity is not a static principle. Its dynamic meaning is similar to the free market principle in the capitalist economy. In the beginning, the free market would encourage healthy competition and winners would then advance society as a whole. But eventually, the unregulated market will foster the winners into giant corporations that could dominate the entire market. Such corporations that operate as monopolies would inevitably block further innovation and healthy competition. So regulations are necessary to prevent any companies from becoming too dominant. Such measures should help preserve certain diversity at the same time without hurting healthy competition. Therefore, we need another guiding principle from a societal or global point of view.

The Golden Mean

Now we turn to overall strategies for the progress of human civilization. Diversity means we can not let any single trait, ideology, or ethnic group dominate the whole society. But the correct way to do that is not by promoting the weakest arbitrarily, but by breaking apart or reducing the monopoly of the most dominant. Otherwise, one will be doing the dangerous reverse of natural selection. In practical measures, it includes inheritance taxes, the breakup of corporation monopolies, election/re-election of political leaders periodically, etc. The second way is by collectively improving the environment that benefits all, which correctly preserves the current weakest or diversity without intervening during the natural process. For example, investment in public education, venture capital for startups, and improvements in public infrastructures will really preserve diversity in a positive way without interfering with healthy competition.

We should not intervene to change an individual’s function according to their biological differences in the natural revolution. It is because we can never be sure that we know everything about how nature works or what will occur next. On the other hand, we could do something about the inequality of social status/class, but not arbitrarily or completely. Because social status/class, closely related to the allocation of monetary resources nowadays (possibly more spiritually or intellectually in the future society when living conditions are not much concern for most people), is the main way for rewarding then-better traits in human beings. If we let it completely disappear, a large part of the motivation for individuals trying their best would be lost as well. This will undoubtedly hurt the overall betterment of human civilization. However, we can do something to weaken or reduce certain dominating classes that have got rewarded too much while doing little good for human betterment. For example, nowadays, a lot of financial professionals, many university administrators, etc., should be greatly reduced.

Depending on economic conditions, society should keep a minimum living standard for everybody and reward innovating workers with a decent level of life. This will make sure that all traits of human beings can be preserved in a certain way as we don’t know when some traits will be dearly needed at some later evolution time. But for every innovating profession, the reward should be solely merit-based to keep the healthy development of better traits of the moment (no biological difference should be considered / biased at all).

In the early days of human civilization, resources were not sufficient for everybody. So it made sense for a better chance of survival and development that some groups were more privileged for sharing limited resources. As human society gets better and better at harvesting and generating more and more resources and goods, more population groups should get equal access to resources to increase the diversity of human beings. As the total resources are sufficient, we should maintain a minimum standard for everybody and truly provide equal opportunity for everybody. Even though probably only a small fraction of the population is doing meaningful jobs directly related to our living standards, production efficiency is so advanced that we can still afford to allow everybody to explore the world and pursue their goals freely.

Other Ethics Derived from Diversity

Most, if not all, of well-known moral values and ethical rules such as justice, fairness, freedom, etc., originate in the diversity principle. The merit-based reward system ensures the advancement of our society through the fulfillment of individual potential. Recognition of individual uniqueness requires that we respect individual freedom and democracy. But to keep diversity, we have to avoid single-trait dominance or monopoly. Thus, we need a political and social system for justice and fairness.

When in doubt, we should always go back to the original diversity principle to justify any current ethical values.

Things against Diversity

The reason why we reject bias and prejudice is that bias and prejudice in fact escalate the positive feedback leading to the reduction of minorities and hence diversity. Without bias and prejudice, we can provide not only true equality of opportunity, but also better chances to foster the emergence and development of novel traits that could really benefit the next stage of civilization. The underlying reasons are 1) things change or that a trait is good or bad depending on situations or stages, 2) bias and prejudice- even if reasoned with some evidence – are statistical at best, more or less a mean phenomenon for population groups, and its large variance makes it not valid when considering individuals.

Supremacy and eugenics are wrong, and so are the extreme progressive viewpoints. They are both wrong because they hold a static worldview. In reality, the merit of a trait is volatile; the statistical variance renders any unfair artificial interference a bad choice when considering individuals.

Most of the extreme political or ideological ideas are some sort of an overfit of doctrines, which can lead us trapped in local maxima. For example, eugenics is most likely an attempted overfit to natural selection. Diversity helps keep a more flexible trial-parameter space to allow further deviation and the possibility to find better or future maxima.

Due to the extended Dunning effect, stupid or extreme groups may have much louder voices. We should ensure everybody’s voice is heard, but the merit should not be judged on the basis of voice levels. Otherwise, we could deviate from the desired natural selection process. In particular, we should be vigilant about conforming voices. People should not feel ashamed when holding different opinions, there should be no social or peer pressure for conformity.

Monopolies and Singularities

More advanced development or more complexity requires more diversity. Sexless reproduction is not good for diversity and is mostly used by simple life forms such as viruses; while reproduction via sex (gametes) (e.g., by animals and plants) can dramatically increase diversity, making these more complex creatures prosperous species. Such a simple binary feature in life can have a huge impact on evolution. The reason is that reproduction is an exponential process that can easily amplify the effect in an avalanche way via accumulation generation by generation.

Exponential processes lead to dramatic phenomena such as explosions. Most importantly, it results in inevitable phase transitions of a physical system, including inflation — the dimensional transition of spacetime. Reproduction via sex by animals including human beings, a similarly exponential process, leads to rapid mutant evolution of creatures. Therefore, due to its exponential feature or snowball effect, even just after a few tens of generations, you’ll see an enormous amount of diversity and mutation. The same things happen also to human civilization and science and technology. Trades of goods, exchanges of knowledge, and mixtures of ideas and cultures, generation after generation, will present similar exponential effects — explosive advancement of civilization and science and technology. So after about ~100-200 generations, we might be right around the time of the emergence of the so-called civilization/technology singularity (phase transition). What would be the new form of evolution? AI?

Such an exponential process is due to the positive feedback effects of the merit-based system of evolution or natural selection: the better fit will win the evolution competition. However, we need to control it a little bit if we would like to survive as a species. For example, as mentioned above, dinosaurs with bigger bodies appeared to win out in competition, and they got bigger and bigger and eventually ate out all resources giving no chance of development of smaller frames. When adversities hit, they died out. Similarly in a capitalist economy, large corporations, once very innovative in their beginning, if not properly regulated, eventually would become a monopoly and block innovation and competition from small startups, which, in the worst situations, could lead to economic crises. Therefore, healthy control of the positive feedback effects of the merit-based reward system is necessary. Such control measures would manifest as different sets of moral values and social rules at different times for human civilization. In today’s society, the Golden Mean would serve it well.

Even for intelligence, a widely recognized trait of merit, especially nowadays, we should control its use just to avoid the occurrence of bad technology singularities. We clearly don’t want some scientific maniac to take advantage of it to destroy human civilization. So we need to keep developing strategies and rules to meet the ever-changing challenges of the future and make sure that all critical STEM breakthroughs (e.g., AI) will benefit human civilization in a positive way and minimize all malicious chances and uses of new technology.

Further Thoughts

Almost all social constructs, if not all, have some biological basis, and the only difference is to what extent, some are very heavily biologically based, and some are very weakly based. These are constantly changing constructs that should meet the diversity principle: for current moments, does it give everybody a fair chance or in general merit-based? does it avoid any form of monopoly (in many aspects like economically, ideologically, academically, politically, etc.)? does it prevent extremely dangerous development that could be very detrimental or fatal to the existence of human civilization?

Diversity also means variations in professions including constantly emerging new professions. Within each profession, the reward system should be merit-based regardless of age, race, or any other irrelevant factors. The diversity within each profession is not about the equal partition of social populations (e.g., race), it is about the accommodation of different ideas and practices that could potentially benefit the profession. For example, NBA for basketball games, obviously should not recruit players using racial quotas, instead, they should take in both taller players with relatively lower ball skills and shorter players with better skills or other intangibles; the merit, in this case, is if the talent is the best for the games. It is a very bad social rule to set any kind of quotas (like racial ones) based on populations for almost any given profession. We are different, let’s follow our hearts to pursue our careers freely, and let nature play out. Our goal is NOT to make each of us identically the same or interchangeable as identical parts of the automatic social robot. As a matter of fact, each of us is unique and should be given fair chances to fulfill our individual potential.

However, for some professions that are critical to the operation of our society, we may need specific rules to prevent monopolies. And such professions could be changed or different at different stages of human civilization. For example, politics can not be manipulated by a single party or population group. The economy can not be monopolized by select big corporations. Academics, especially its resources (such as funding, publication, and appointments), can not be fully controlled by a few select authoritative figures.

Equality of opportunity is not only for fair competition within one profession, one subject, or one direction of endeavor. Diversity also means we need to further diversify our studies, our endeavors, and our careers. That is, we need to find more ways to pursue our diversified goals and realize our varied potentials to the extent we can imagine. Nobody is good at everything and everybody is good at something, possibly different from each other. So we should give everybody a fair chance to develop their diverse talents and potential. This is the way to keep the overall diversity and prosperity of the human species.


Author: Wanpeng Tan

I share my ideas and thoughts mainly about mirror matter theory and open science on this blog. Under the new theory, we live in the universe with a mirror (hidden) sector of particles. A perfectly imperfect (minimally broken) mirror symmetry is the key to unlock the beauty and elegance of our universe. Click on the menu links for a popular introduction, a technical summary, and list of my papers on the new mirror matter theory.