Now at over 7.5 billion people the world’s population is staggering large. It’s an incomprehensible number; as people, we aren’t equipped to understand what that number means. Now, imagine having to whittle that number down to 160 people who would carry on the human race on Mars or elsewhere in space. That is one of the premises of the series “Salvation.” According to the show, 160 people is the minimum viable population to ensure that the species can continue.
In order for this small number to work, the chosen travelers would need to be genetically diverse, fertile, and heterosexual. The population would need to include 80 men and 80 women. There’s a good chance that marriages would need to be arranged and monitored as time went on in order to prevent in-breeding.
Engineers skilled in spaceship repairs, survivalists with skills in establishing camps and places to live, and doctors skilled in combat medicine would be some of the people the program could consider. Creative types may be desirable for their ability to solve problems in unique ways, but they would need to have more than just their artistic skills.
With this set of criteria, old people and children wouldn’t make the cut. Poorly educated people wouldn’t get on the ship. People who claim a sexual identity, other than hetero, would be left behind. Those with genetic diseases or genetic disease history in their families wouldn’t be able to take the trip. If it would be a true choosing of the best of the best, every person would face a battery of tests that would eliminate him or her or allow that person to move on to the next level.
The question that this type of plan demands is how would the influential people who don’t meet the criteria be kept off the ship. Would the inventor be allowed to travel, regardless of any other quality? Would the president of the U.S. or the ruler of the country be allowed to go? If this ark were a last-ditch effort to save the human race and Earth was facing destruction, would the billion-dollar investor have a spot on the ark with no further testing? Would a country like the U.S. reach out to other countries to find the best people to put on the ark, or would it only save Americans?
Another thing to consider is that genetic diversity would entail finding people that don’t resemble each other. This would make everyone uncomfortable since human beings like to hang with people who resemble themselves. It would also make it possible for people on the ark to form groups of like with like, which could sabotage the genetic diversity of the group. “Salvation” has a group of number crunchers on a committee with an unknown science fiction writer to provide the heart; It’ll be interesting to see how they decide who lives and who dies.
So, how would you go about selecting 160 people to board a space ark? If you were able to save 1600 people in ten arks, how would you divvy them up? Assuming there were a clear 160 best and 160 second best would you mix them or would you keep the best with the best and the second best with the second best and so on?