Technological diversity

Technological diversity is the opposite of technological monoculture. It refers to the diversity of artifacts (software and hardware) as well as that of ideas, philosophies, paradigms, techniques, languages, mental models, etc.

Diversity comes from the mutually strengthening co-existence of different kinds of things, including ones that are generally considered "obsolete", "useless" or "fringe".

Understanding of history (and not only the mainstream history written by the "winners") helps grasp the spectrum of possibilities and see beyond what is currently fashionable in the mainstream.

The purpose of standards is to facilitate co-existence and co-operation of different pieces of technology, not to limit their diversity. So, they are more like common languages than norms. Linguistic diversity is richness, but it is still good for everyone to master a couple of common world languages. (Monolingualism or a single prestige language, however, easily leads to impoverished monoculture.)

Gut reactions against technological diversity are often based on mental models where competition, obsolescence and narrowly defined efficiency are key concepts. Models where the default purpose of something like a new programming language is competition against pre-existing languages with the goal of making them obsolete.

Diversity is particularly needed on the low levels of the pyramid, the elementary technologies and ideas that everything else is built on. A wide variety of different ways to build computers and design systems may help make the entire pyramid more resilient.

See also: