Arash Howaida has asked the neatest question I’ve seen on this site in months. How to shape society's values such that paleontology becomes the largest / most profitable industry?
I want to use this thread to brainstorm a good answer. Any useful answer coming out of this discussion I will post as a community answer.
I’ll add a bounty for this question once enough time elapses for me to do so.
Remember: the goal is to shape society to value the history behind fossils and not the fossils themselves.
So far, there are three sketchy ideas that seem to me to hold promise but need development:
- Time travel is profitable, so learning about history is profitable. Only problem is that direct learning by visiting the past will be more effective than paleontology.
- Aliens. We are at war with aliens who descend from our dinosaurs. Learning about the dinos may give us a way to defeat the aliens, so paleontology becomes part of the military industrial complex. Problem: seems unlikely that key military break will come since the aliens will be further (in time) from T-Rex than we are from the common ancestor of all mammals.
- Some sort of medical discovery. Like if we discover that a single virus killed all the dinosaurs, figuring out mumble mumble something about the dinosaurs might help us fight a similar virus that is slowly extinguishing sequential mammal species.
None of these is very compelling. Can we do better?
One of the current answers has this awesome summary of the problem: “If you want to make paleontology the largest/most profitable industry in real life, you need to make it so that it has some direct application to real life that makes it relevant. Relevant enough that it doesn't just benefit humanity when funded (and therefore could be passed off as a luxury), but there have to be actual reasons why cutting funding would be bad.“