Culture and space colonization

Consider the following thought experiment.  Earth is dying, unable to further sustain human life.  Mankind has thrown their last resources into creating a space ship that can reach a habitable planet.  However, the space ship can only carry 10,000 people and little is known about the planet beyond gravity and oxygen levels.  With the literal fate of humanity lying before us, who do we send and why?
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Traditionally, attempts to answer this question have focused on individuals.  We would pick the most outstanding specimens of humanity, our greatest scientists and athletes.  However, there is a more important dimension to consider, what cultural group should we send?  To further refine the question and focus the mind, if we could bet on the outcome, which cultural group would have the highest probability of success?
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For all the praise of multiculturalism, no one would seriously bet a diverse group of cultures would give the greatest chance for success.  Even if we ignore the obvious language barrier, consider how children are raised.  What is standard practice for one culture might be considered child abuse in another.  The differences in raising children are merely indicative of numerous other problems which arise among different cultural groups.  Ethnic fractionalization is associated with numerous bad outcomes in the economics literature.
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Picking a cultural group to colonize a new planet and save humanity forces the mind to focus on positive and negative attributes of the cultural group.  Positive aspects include trust as well as a tradition of liberal democracy.  Without trust impersonal exchange becomes nearly impossible.  Further, a people who have only known tyranny are likely to recreate such tyranny in their new homes.  A last consideration is the malleability of their formal institutions.  A new planet will likely present new challenges which require new solutions.  As such, a people with a history of adapting would be better than a people without.
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My personal choice would be to send the Swiss.  Their informal institutions are comparable to other first world countries.  Their form of government, Cantons, which is likely to be recreated in part in the new planet, is what gives them their decisive advantage.  By decentralizing the provision of public goods they will be able to respond more rapidly and effectively to the new challenges that await them while giving a new life for humanity.

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  • Doug

    Maybe you could revisit this topic after playing a few rounds of Civilization: Beyond Earth.

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  • blogospheroid

    The swiss have near replacement fertility right now. You’re probably better off sending Mormons. Also, you need a much greater than unity ratio of females to males. Again, Mormons beat swiss, having very recent experience of the same. Also, Mormon theology is very transhumanist.

    • Magus Janus

      new environmental conditions on the new planet would rapidly lead to Swiss demographic expansion. Look at French settlers in Quebec for instance.

      • blogospheroid

        Do you seriously think that any pre-feminism examples are still valid ones? Mormons are having high fertility today. There is something in their cultural memeplex that has beaten the low fertility la dolce vita memeplex.

        • Magus Janus

          you’re right. i was making the assumption that the cultural memeplex of the swiss would change upon having plentiful land/resources.

          of course, if we initially have conditions with strong resource limitations, the replacement ratio of the Swiss could even be an advantage.

          • blogospheroid

            That makes space colonization very interesting, culturally speaking. All the time in the spacecraft, multiple generations perhaps, living under super resource constrained situations, how long does a culture take to really “let go” in the new environment they arrive at? No one can easily predict these things.

  • Magus Janus

    If this is true of a spaceship off to colonize another planet, surely it is also true of say a company trying to run itself more efficiently here on Earth?

    Or a polity’s governance? Pretty strong empirical argument for maintaining ethnic homogeneity by not allowing entry of ethnic aliens.