(Neuro-)Diversity, Equity and Inclusion2023-01-14

We need diversity of thought in the world to face the new challenges.

—Tim Berners-Lee

From a genetic perspective, diversity is good. You have more variants from which natural selection can choose new successful traits, especially when the environment changes and becomes challenging. Homogenous populations can do well in stable environments to which they have adapted. Diverse populations do well in changing environments, for which new adaptation is needed.

In terms of equity, some of the carriers of diverse genetic variants are not doing well in the current environment, but those variants may come in handy in the future when the environment changes. We need to appreciate their contribution to the future of the wider society, and find ways to reward them for that. These carriers and outliers need to be included in the wider group for their characteristics to be intermingled with the population, providing the injection of diversity in the genetic pool that will provides robustness in future changed environments.

Finally, the above paradigms apply very well and illuminate a particular area, mental health. Diverse genetic variants will permit natural selection to choose new traits in the rapidly evolving environment in which we live, in which the mind has become paramount. Some of these carriers in the current environment are not doing very well, or have too many variants that led them to a clinical illness. We need to be grateful for, support and help them. Their inclusion in society, not isolation, is what will provide robustness for future changes. An example in point is autism spectrum. These individuals have a very diverse set of variants related to cognition. In the past and even up to very recently, they were not a good fit for an agrarian or industrial society, but are becoming a better and better fit for an informational society, where hyperfocus on specialized areas of interest is richly rewarded.

It should not escape our attention that all the genetic arguments above apply to the world of ideas as well.

Live. Happier. Longer.