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How networks shape diversity for better or worse

Socio-diversity, the variety of human opinions, ideas, behaviours and styles, has profound implications for social systems. While it fuels innovation, productivity and collective intelligence, it can also complicate communication and erode trust. So what mechanisms can influence it? This paper studies how fundamental characteristics of social networks can support or hinder socio-diversity. It employs models of cultural evolution, mathematical analysis and numerical simulations. We find that pronounced inequalities in the distribution of connections obstruct socio-diversity. By contrast, the prevalence of close-knit communities, a scarcity of long-range connections, and a significant tie density tend to promote it. These results open new perspectives for understanding how to change social networks to sustain more socio-diversity and, thereby, societal innovation, collective intelligence and productivity.

Dirk Helbing

Andrea Musso

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