[extropy-chat] The Bible Belt Paradox

Keith Henson hkhenson at rogers.com
Tue Jan 16 23:07:03 UTC 2007

At 09:36 PM 1/16/2007 +0100, Anders wrote:


>I think we have a feedback effect here. Duller and impulse impaired people
>have a hard time doing well in society, so they congregate where living is
>cheap enough. Such places are often cheap because of lack of productivity,
>and having 'bad' people around retains their bad reputation, prevents
>development and keeps them cheap.

Back in the late 60s, early 70s Jay Forrester explored this extensively in 
_Urban Dynamics_.  (I can't find a copy for sale anywhere, I wonder if it 
is out of copyright?)  As I recall (and we are talking decades) low cost 
housing was a feature of places with little employment (industry).  The 
lack of balance between housing and job opportunities was called "social 
trapping."  (Not sure if that was Forrester or someone else that used that 

The critical thing about complex systems, social ones included, is that 
intuition is almost certain to make the wrong conclusion about how to fix a 
problem.  People noted the horrible conditions in slums and decided to fix 
them by building public housing.  We know how that turned out, and the 
failure was predicted by urban dynamics before a lot of that housing was 

>Living in this environment (even if you
>are not dull) might predispose you towards religion as a coping mechanism.
>Maybe there are pro-religion genes that correlate with antisocial traits
>or traits that also makes you worse off, but even without them I think one
>can get fundamentalism as a result of the bad encironment. Now, there is
>probably a bit of feedback from fundamentalism in the form of
>authoritarian upbringings, which might be harming particularly vulnerable
>people and make them less able to do well, closing the cycle. As I argued
>in my blog the fundamentalism/conservatism might also reduce outside
>investments in the area. Add to this the formation and maintenance of
>culture, where people often construct self-serving or maladaptive
>explanations of why things are as they are and why they should remain so,
>and you get a whole tangle of vicious cycles.
>How do we break them? It might be that there are no particular ways of
>doing this and that we need to deal with all the issues (helping dull
>become smarter, increase available money, improve security, encourage
>tolerance and education, changes in rent economics etc). Or maybe it is
>possible to set up positive feedback loops, like how an IKEA store
>apparently got East Palo Alto to start moving forward again (brings in
>money, the local council gets taxes to fund projects, other stores grow up
>next to it, people get jobs, neighbourhoods become more secure etc). If
>there was a way of seeding virtuous cycles reliably it would be great.

As I recall, having lived next door in Palo Alto, as East Palo Alto became 
more secure the effect snowballed, drove up property values/rents and while 
some got jobs, most of the unproductive people were forced to move away to 
less expensive places.


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