Parable of the Polygons: segregation and "slight" racism



Perversely, if you crank it so that they’ll move if any of their neighbours are different, segregation ends up around 0-15 percent, but everyone’s always bitter.


This overly simplifies the complexity of racism. At best, the polygons express “discrimination”. Racism is prejudice plus power, these polygons have no such dynamic as part of their behavioral motivations.


Nice! A good starting point.

The word “parable” really should’ve keyed you off to that.


The odd thing is that many of the supposedly ‘random’ new boards appear to be almost as segregated as the final “totally segregated” arrangements, because even randomness creates clusters.

Apparently the final results score higher on whatever metric they’re using to calculate ‘segregation’ (which they don’t define, as far as I can tell), but, really, the clusters frequently look almost the same.

(Which reminds us, of course, to pay attention to what actually happens in a simulation, rather than relying on the conclusions presented in the narrative.)

So if you create an incredibly simplistic model of dualistic ‘preference’, your (already-clustered) game board tends to align more into slightly larger clusters that better satisfy that preference?

Well, duh.

What this tells us about racism, though, is nothing whatsoever.


In the model, each shape’s ability to move is equal, there are no rich and no poor shapes. At the other extreme would be, for example, a freshly desegregated army, where your choice of who to work next to is almost entirely out of your hands. It’s one place where top down social change is the only effective way to do it. (too bad about their sexual abuse tradition)


Another instance of slight bias- ever notice how the richer neighbourhoods in an American city tend to be north of the poorer neighbourhoods? Sure, there are outliers, especially when geography messes up that grid. I think North being “up” on the map, trickles down over millions of choices, into money being north of poverty.


Pics or it didn’t happen.

Reading the whole article, where she explicitly acknowledges that it is a highly simplified model, might have helped too.


Exactly. While “white flight” to the suburbs in the 1960s-1970s was probably due to white discomfort with increasing racial diversity, it is much less clear if minorities stayed in the cities out of choice or simply because they couldn’t afford to move.

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A model that can be described as “highly simplified” can also usually be described as “laughably inaccurate.”




I can’t speak for the US, but in the UK the posh part of town tends to be to the west, because the prevailing winds would blow the smoke/pollutants away from that area (and thus make that property more valuable).


All else aside, on certain “high-energy” setting with no stable equilibrium, the model makes for an excellent chaos generator.


What do you imagine that it’s supposed to be showing accurately?

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I set it to "I’ll move if <50% or >80% of my neighbours are like me. Segregation is fairly stable at 15-20%, but nobody’s happy and everyone’s always moving. It probably helps with property tax revenue though.


Think of the way a river flows.

Now think of what sewage systems were like for most of recorded Western history.

Now tell me what end of the river you’d prefer to be on.


The adjacencies modeled here don’t have to represent neighborhoods. They could equally well represent employment, schooling, participation in organizations, etc…

I don’t think the authors are intending to model racism, so much as show how small changes to the inputs have large effects on group affinities, and then to challenge us to think about how this might apply to the real world problem of racism.

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as in

The Parable of the small-to-medium-sized, omnivorous mammala belonging to one of several genera of the Canidae family, slightly smaller than a medium-size domestic dog, with a flattened skull, upright triangular ears, a pointed, slightly upturned snout, and a long bushy tail (or brush) and the fruiting berries of the deciduous woody vine of the botanical genus Vitis that could be eaten raw or used for making wine, jam, juice, jelly, raisins, vinegar, and seed oil, a non-climacteric type of fruit, generally occurring in clusters.

Moral: If placed in the mouth they would probably have reacted chemically with receptor cells located on buds in the tongue producing a sensation characteristic of that produced by acids; sharp, tart, or tangy.

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Each shape’s ability to move is absolutely NOT equal - ONLY unhappy shapes can move. This led in my playthrough to lots of “if that guy could move one house down, he’d be fine.”

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