Friday, March 18, 2011

Does democracy make most people unhappy? Future of democracy

I am a student of computer science, a science fiction writer and I am interested in philosophical discussions every once in a while, so while world is busy transitioning to democracy I started thinking about how computer science , social networking can help usher the democratic utopia. My mind was racing, I started thinking about machine learning, "collective intelligence algorithms", optimization and things like Nash Equilibrium etc..I already had an idea of science fiction taking shape in my head...and BAM ..I realized something very simple.
I realized we have to solve a very basic problem first!

First Past Post Voting or Formula for maximum dissatisfaction?
In many countries the elections are held using what is called first past post method. The person with most votes wins the seat. call it winner takes all. This sounds fair but in a multi party system like India or UK or many other countries there are always more than a couple of political parties and many a times a winning candidate get less than 50% of votes. This means that there are more people NOT liking the winning candidate than the ones who voted for him/her.

Here is an example - there are 4 parties

  • Candidate A - 35% votes
  • Candidate B - 30% votes
  • Candidate C - 20 % votes
  • Candidate D - 15 % votes

Clearly candidate A is winner but also that 2/3 of the population does not like him. 
As if it looks like Democracy makes more people unhappy than it makes them happy !! 
This is not a problem with multi-party system but a problem with vote counting method.

Are there any alternatives? Yes enter Science of  Voting Methods
Science of Voting Methods
There are many voting systems. Some are proportional and preferential.
Please see:
One of the methods that can be readily used is Single Transferable Vote  Here the voters rank the candidate with their preference and candidate with most preferential votes is declared a winner. To me this seems like a simple fix that once again makes most people happy Jeremy Benthum style. One of the barriers has been the complexity of vote counting. But with the advent of computerized vote counting it can be easily administered at relatively low cost.

Popular Votes vs Representational Democracy.

This is a pure thought experiment with no relation any country/nation/state what so ever. Let us talk about a 22nd century colony on Mars. Let call it XYZ. The problem with first past post voting was solved long time ago in 21st century. But there are other problems though that need to be solved differently. And that is a problem of representing evenly distributed minority.
Say in XYZ there is a 30% population which is considered minority. But it is evenly distributed. In this case it seems like they will be massively under represented. They can never elect 30% of the representatives- in theory they may get none.    

Bicameral Parliament with a different structure.
One of the invention of modern democracies is bi-cameral parliament/ congress. There is a upper house and a lower house. Generally a upper house has equal (or fair) representation for each state/province. However theoretically this need not be the case. A party list system where an entire country votes for their favorite party can also be used. Each party gets the seats proportional to the aggregate votes they receive in election. In this example instead of states sending delegates, parties send their nominated candidates.  In this minority can be always get their say.

Tri-cameral parliament ?
Many people will object to the idea of changing the upper house. But how about adding a third house which is popularly elected?  Let's call it middle house! Instead of two houses passing the law three houses will need to do that. Well that sounds complicated but the idea of "double majority" is not far from it.
Responsible Executive and Separation of Concerns?
There are two styles of democracies - Presidential and Parliamentary. In parliamentary system there is no clear separation and in presidential system no clear accountability. We can actually solve these problems by merging the concepts with president being responsible to lower house and only middle + upper house acting as legislature. Lower house still has the budget!

Well, well !! That's enough for now. Political science is not a subject of this blog we are only interested in the algorithms for voting system so we'll leave all that undiscussed and unsaid and let the people from 22nd century figure out tri-cameral parliament. 

Democracy of the future.
So how will democracy of the future look like ?

  1. With instant communication and tele conferencing do representatives need to be present in the "house" ? Or can they just "log into the parliament" to cast their vote and participate in a debate.
  2. Is law making in Open Source style possible ? 
  3. Can there be a one big direct democracy?
  4. Can a giant computer cluster solve the optimization problem of representing most people with least amount of representatives? 
Really how will future democracy look like? 

Disclaimer : This is a blog related to science, computers, philosophy and its intersection with the society. I have not expressed any political views here. It is from pure theoretical perspective and as an interesting computer science problem. This is not a place for flame wars and random comments. Intellectual discussions and comments are welcome. But if you express your political views those are yours not mine!  

No comments:

Post a Comment