Democracy and Efficiency

The very idea of democracy is that people rule. But who are those people, how can they express their will, and how to decide whose wish prevails? As always, the devil is in the details.

A devil hiding in the details

First, who can vote? Even in modern democracies, where all citizens have the right to cast a vote, there are questions to which we do not have one single best answer, such as the legal age of voting, the rights of non-residents or permanent non-citizen residents, multiple citizenship, voter identification, physical obstacles that may impact the exercising of voting rights, and so on. And this is still the simplest from the three topics…

A group of voters

Second, what do they vote about? Voting on specific questions (direct democracy) did not really work on the level of larger communities (empires, alliances, nation states, international institutes, just to name a few). It’s still a good decision-making system for small or local groups though.

But even if it would, who would set the agenda? Letting people vote about some questions but not about others is the hotbed of manipulation. And there is the problem of loaded questions.

Choosing officials (representative democracy) has different challenges. Running a campaign is expensive, so the pool of candidates is limited to those who can collect enough money and those who are supported by them.

As a voter, if there are two candidates, and both support one proposal that I like and nine proposals that I do not like, do I really have a choice? What if they do not share their plans, change plans after the election, or do not keep their promises? Or they want to keep their promises, but checks and balances, state secrets, laws, etc. do not let them.

Adding parties to the formula makes things even more complicated. You vote for people, but their parties may replace them, or you vote for a party, which may delegate power to people who you would have never voted for. Finally, parties with totally different agendas form alliances after the election to form a government — it reminds to the child game called Chinese whispers…

This place was built for representative democracy

Third, whose opinion bears more weight? Let’s assume that we have the right pool of voters and a good question (which is not manipulative). If it is a medical question, would you value a medical doctor’s standpoint more than, let’s say, a programmer’s?

If yes, who would decide that “medical questions” is a category, and who would categorize this question? Would you give 10%, 50%, 200% more vote to the doctor? Any answers will raise plenty of further questions.

If no, why not? What if the programmer says, “I do have an opinion, but I agree that the doctor’s opinion should matter more”? Similar questions come up when voters cast their ballots about a question that impacts other groups or generations, when people who don’t pay taxes decide about the taxpayers’ money, and so on.

Programmers examining a medical issue

So how does this all work in our dreamland? Communities are voluntary, you can join or leave as many communities as you want, at any time. Anyone who is able to express their opinion have the same rights, regardless age, citizenship or anything else.

You can post your opinions, and vote on others’ opinions. You can support or oppose their ideas; and you can decide how strong your vote is. But after each vote, the average importance of all your historical votes will be the same with anyone else’s.

The assumption is that you are more likely to cast a stronger vote if you are more confident, for example, because you studied a topic in more details. In today’s world, this is probably not a realistic assumption. But in the world of CoIn, where there are no political parties or corporations ( watch out for the next post for details on this), and communities are voluntary, it works!

Some rocket science for scale

Here is an example. You read Post #1 saying that “Sesame Street is too dirty”.

Oscar the Grouch dislikes it 50%. Cookie Monster dislikes it 50%, and you (Elmo) like it 75%. So far, this question is rated positive (-100%), because all three of you have the same importance.

Then someone posts #2 “Let’s buy another trash can”. Oscar likes it 100%, Big Bird likes it 20%, and you dislike it 25% (because you are scared that it will cause more trash).

Now the votes casted by each member of the “Sesame Street” community are the following: Oscar the Grouch: 75% (150% / 2 votes), Cookie Monster: 50%, Big Bird: 20% and Elmo: 50% (100% / 2). To make things even, we should divide Oscar’s votes by 1.5 and multiply Big Bird’s votes by 5. Here are the new rates:

- Post #1: ( — 50% / 1.5) — 50% + 75% = -8%

- Post #2: (+ 100% / 1.5) + (20% * 5) — 25% = +142%

There are a couple of things to note here:

  • No one else knows who posted or voted for posts.
  • Cookie Monster and Big Bird voted only for one post; therefore, their overall influence is only half of Oscar’s or Elmo’s, but their influence on the questions that they voted for is the same.
  • The votes on Post #2 changed the ratings for Post #1 as well. Oscar expressed a stronger opinion for Post #2, so his vote for Post #1 became weaker. Elmo expressed a weaker opinion for Post #2, so his vote for Post #1 became stronger.
  • Overall, Post #1 is opposed, and Post #2 is supported by the community.
  • If Oscar would change the strength of his vote for Post #2 to 50%, Post #2 would be a bit less supported (+125%) but Post #1 would become supported (+25%). Post #2 would remain more supported.
  • So far, we assumed that all Muppets are the members of only one community, the “Sesame Street”. If Cookie Monster joins the “Hunger Games” group, and in his portfolio, the importance of “Sesame Street” is 20%, while the importance of “Hunger Games” is 30%, his average vote in “Sesame Street” would go down from 100% to 40% (20% / [20% + 30%]), which means that Post #1 would become supported — without anyone changing votes.

Meanwhile, Cookie Monster added a comment to Post #2 (let’s call it Post #3): “British scientists proved that the price of a trash can would be enough to buy up to 500 boxes of cookies”. I spare you from recalculating the ratings again…

A resident of the Sesame Street worrying about the increased mortgage payments after seeing overwhelming public support for the trash can development project

Did the Muppets make good decisions? We don’t know. But all their thoughts had an impact, optimized by their own collective intelligence.

You may say, “but these are not decisions, just opinions and proposals”. You are right. Another post will explain how these are turned into decisions. Imagine this with millions of communities, billions of members and posts, members voting and changing their votes and communities all the time. It needs a lot of processing power for sure. Would you play this game of life?

Homework: List communities that you would join and opinions, ideas that you would post, or you would like to vote about. Use your imagination, there are no wrong answers!

Originally published at on December 30, 2021.




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Changing the world without changing people

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