Plants and animals alike are affected by biological viruses, and they have different individualized defenses against them. When we look at larger groups though, say “human beings” or “elm trees,” one of those possible defenses is genetic diversity within the population. A monoculture can make your entire population subject to catastrophic collapse if the wrong (or right, from their perspective) virus happens to come along.
Humans have an additional vector. We aren’t just subject to biological viruses. We’re also subject to informational viruses. At the individual level, we can try to build some immunity against them, perhaps through the right kind of education or through meditation. Of course, certain informational viruses (like hearing “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” or “Party in the U.S.A.”) are pretty hard to defend against, and we just have to let the infection run its course.
But at the group level, it’s important that we have diversity in our ways of thinking, which are directly connected to the ways that our brains are wired. Many companies go out of their way to attempt to establish gender and/or racial diversity within their corporate ranks for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, I’ve seen some that do this under the auspices of “achieving a diversity of viewpoints which makes us stronger as a company.” That’s a little weird to me, because I don’t think they would take kindly to any employee that started walking around and saying that so-and-so thought differently because they had a particular racial background or gender. In fact, those people might find themselves fired.
And this isn’t to crap on those company’s efforts. It’s to point out that maybe more important to the health of their organization is to recruit, hire and promote people who think differently than the current culture. Maybe that means working on your racial or gender diversity, but maybe it goes beyond that. And maybe this is impossible to do. Why in the world would a successful business hire people with different thinking than their currently successful culture? I mean, it’s working! They’re making money! I get it. Maybe it’s okay that you can’t do this on the company level effectively.
If a particular company falls prey to an “informational virus” — which in this case is a flawed assumption that no one can see past because they have a monoculture of thought — ostensibly there will be a dozen other companies in the same industry who have a different informational culture that will grow to fill the gap left by the failing company. That’s the way it works.
But what happens when you have an entire industry, like news reporting, that has what amounts to an intellectual monoculture? How vulnerable is that to an informational virus?
I think that we just found out.
A lot of regular news outlets are doing some group soul searching right now, and thinking things like “Well, we need to cover the people we forgot!” The problem here is that they are treating only the symptoms of just one infection that worked its way past their monoculture. It’s not addressing the underlying problem, which is their lack of resilience in the face of informational viruses.
Unless that changes, my prediction is that this will all happen again.Buy Lincoln, Fox and the Bad Dog on Amazon.com right now, or get the first half for free right here if you're still on the fence (.epub download to read in iBooks, Google Play Books, etc.)