Like a natural system, democracy faces collapse as polarization leads to loss of diversity

Dec. 7, 2021

Much like an overexploited ecosystem, the increasingly polarized political landscape in the United States — and much of the world — is experiencing a catastrophic loss of diversity that threatens the resilience not only of democracy, but also of society, according to a series of new studies that have examined political polarization as a collection of complex ever-evolving systems.

Fifteen interdisciplinary teams of political scientists and complex systems theorists in the natural sciences and engineering explored how polarization is produced and influenced over time by the actions and interactions of individual voters, people in power, and various social networks. The studies were published Dec. 6, 2021 in a special issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that included several contributors from Princeton University, among them are professors Simon Levin and Corina Tarnita, graduate students Mari Kawakatsu and Olivia Chu, former postdoctoral students and now both faculty at the University of Amsterdam Vítor Vasconcelos and Fernando Santos, and former PhD students Christopher Tokita (2021) and Joshua Plotkin (2003) professor at University of Pennsylvania. 

*photo credit: Samuel S. Wang

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