Complexity Explorer Santa Fe Institute

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Lecture: Crime and Punishment

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About the Tutorial:

Dr. Rajiv Sethi introduces the prejudices we hold and how they influence our decision-making, especially in times of acute stress that can escalate into life-death decisions. The lecture focuses on violent crime in the United States - specifically, robbery, assault, and murder - which share the quality of being crimes involving personal confrontations between the perpetrator and the victim. These crimes also share a bias in convicting more people of color than white perpetrators, disproportionate to estimates of the actual demographics of perpetrators. Why is policing in the United States biased against people of color with respect to violent crimes in particular? 

Dr. Sethi presented this lecture in February 2020, a few months before a string of yet more violent deaths of Black men and women at the hands of members of various police forces and other public safety institutions.

About the Instructor(s):

Rajiv Sethi is a Professor of Economics at Barnard College, Columbia University and an External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute. He has previously held visiting positions at Microsoft Research in New York City, and at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He is on the editorial boards of the American Economic Review and Economics and Philosophy. His research deals primarily with information and beliefs, and he is a co-author of Shadows of Doubt: Stereotypes, Crime, and the Pursuit of Justice, published by Harvard University Press in 2019.

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  1. Introduction
  2. Lecture
  3. Background & Terminology
  4. Discussion