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In a fictional world, the following changes suddenly happen to all humans (and future newborns) for no apparent reason:

  • Their temper becomes better.
  • They now enjoy socializing with each other more than before.
  • They become more empathetic to each other's feelings.
  • They now care much about the well-being of each other.
  • They want to protect each other from harm and pain.

You can assume that the history of this fictional world was identical to the real world until yesterday when those changes happened.

And here is my question: Compared with the real world, are these changes likely to impact the speed or direction of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) development in that world? And if so, how different will STEM in the two worlds be in the long run?

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    $\begingroup$ Questions of the type: What would be the impact of X on a society? are too open ended and broad for our format. Please narrow it to a single worldbuilding issue of manageable scope. $\endgroup$ Aug 14 at 22:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Angry Muppet Okay. Is there a way I can hide my question for a moment for me to edit it? $\endgroup$ Aug 14 at 22:33
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, make sure you bookmark it first, then use the delete button, this will render it invisible to the majority of membership. $\endgroup$ Aug 14 at 22:34
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    $\begingroup$ VTC: You're asking what we call a high concept question, which isn't a good fit for our site. High concept questions ask for a (usually global) consequence to what appears to be a minor but significant change. That's asking us to write your entire story for you. Worse, it's hard to imagine that nicer people would advance science faster. War (conflict) has always been a dominant mother of invention. It might actually stunt it. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Aug 15 at 2:44
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    $\begingroup$ The new Soviet man was supposed to "make it his purpose to master his own feelings, to raise his instincts to the heights of consciousness, to make them transparent, to extend the wires of his will into hidden recesses, and thereby to raise himself to a new plane, to create a higher social biologic type, or, if you please, a superman" (Leo Trotsky, 1924). The iconography was resplendent. The actual results were rather different. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Aug 15 at 10:27

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The cultures with the most empathy that I could find are Saudi Arabia and Ecuador and the least Lithuania and Estonia

Technology exports seem much higher in low empathy countries.

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War and conflict drives technological development. As such, I would expect technology to stagnate with this miraculous change. Science helps us deal with a harsh world, and with empathy taking over we would need STEM sciences far less. Science would stagnate, and the world would be ripe for takeover.

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I think the overall short-term impact on STEM will be pretty small.

If all people have suddenly become more nice and empathetic in your world, this will mean less crime, less wars, dealing with other people will become more pleasant, people will reach agreement more easily where it matters. On the whole this will lead to a more stable and productive society, so there will be a positive impact on everything, including STEM. The effects of that, however, will take some time to manifest.

On the flipside, if people now enjoy socializing more, it may mean that more of them will be drawn to more 'people-centered' jobs instead of STEM. Now the stereotype that only socially awkward nerds work in STEM is usually completely inaccurate (although it is true for some people), but still there are careers that are more social than the STEM careers. The effect of this will probably be very small.

On the whole though, it won't make that much difference I think. People who have an interest and aptitude for STEM will go on to work in that field, people who are interested and have talents in other fields, economics, arts, management etc will go on to work in those fields. People who are already in STEM will carry on doing what they've been doing before, although maybe the more pleasant work environment will inspire them to come up with ideas they wouldn't have otherwise.

So on the whole, I think there will be an overall positive effect on STEM in your caring and sharing world but it will not be that significant.

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