This is a story of how harmless choices can make a harmful world.
These little cuties are 50% Triangles, 50% Squares, and 100% slightly shapist. But only slightly! In fact, every polygon prefers being in a diverse crowd:
You can only move them if they're unhappy with their immediate neighborhood. Once they're OK where they are, you can't move them until they're unhappy with their neighbors again. They've got one, simple rule:
“I wanna move if less than 1/3 of my neighbors are like me.”
Harmless, right? Every polygon would be happy with a mixed neighborhood. Surely their small bias can't affect the larger shape society that much? Well...
And... our shape society becomes super segregated. Daaaaang.
Sometimes a neighborhood just becomes square, and it's not their fault if no triangles wanna stick around. And a triangular neighborhood would welcome a square, but they can't help it if squares ain't interested.
In this next bit, unhappy shapes automatically move to random empty spots. There's also a graph that tracks how much segregation there is over time.
What's up with that? These are good shapes, nice shapes. And yet, though every individual only has a slight bias, the entire shape society cracks and splits.
Small individual bias can lead to large collective bias.
Equality is an unstable equilibrium. The smallest of bias can push a whole society past the tipping point. Well, what if we taught these shapes to have zero bias? (Or if you're feeling particularly nasty today, more bias?)
Notice how much more segregated things become, when you increase the bias beyond 33%. What if the threshold was at 50%? Seems reasonable for a shape to prefer not being in the minority...
So yeah, just turn everyone's bias down to zero, right? Haha, NOPE. The real world doesn't start anew with a random shuffling of citizens every day. Everyday, you're not shuffling.
See what doesn't happen? No change. No mixing back together. In a world where bias ever existed, being unbiased isn't enough! We're gonna need active measures. What if shapes wanted to seek out just a lil' more variety?
Woah. Even though each polygon would be okay with having up to 90% of their neighbors that are like them, they all mix together! Let's see this play out on a larger scale, when we change the amount of bias and anti-bias for all shapes.
All it takes is a change in the perception of what an acceptable environment looks like. So, fellow shapes, remember it's not about triangles vs squares, it's about deciding what we want the world to look like, and settling for no less.
GET THEM ALL IN THE BOX OF
(hint: don't move them straight to the box; keep the pairs close together)
At first, going out on your own can be isolating... but by working together, step by step, we'll get there.
1. Small individual bias → Large collective bias.
When someone says a culture is shapist, they're not saying the individuals in it are shapist. They're not attacking you personally.
2. The past haunts the present.
Your bedroom floor doesn't stop being dirty just coz you stopped dropping food all over the carpet. Creating equality is like staying clean: it takes work. And it's always a work in progress.
3. Demand diversity near you.
If small biases created the mess we're in, small anti-biases might fix it. Look around you. Your friends, your colleagues, that conference you're attending. If you're all triangles, you're missing out on some amazing squares in your life - that's unfair to everyone. Reach out, beyond your immediate neighbors.