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How it all started

Posted by Romain on

My will to use chance in politics began at Nuit Debout in March 2016. I lived at the time near Republic Square where it all started. At first, I went to the square to ask how I could help. Every day my interest grew, I felt a change and I wanted to participate.

Two birth place. Romain Cazé CC-BY.

Nuit Debout organized in commissions. They functioned as focus groups on a given theme. A moderator, assisted by a secretary and a time-taker, managed these groups. In theory, such an organization allowed everyone to express their views. In practice, only a few speakers held the floor, most of them white left-wing men.

As a white left-wing male, it didn’t bother me at first. But after a few weeks, The lack of plurality annoyed me and I wanted a change. The moderator always gave, unconsciously or not, the mic to the same people. To correct this bias I thought of using sortition to designate the moderator, This triggered my political adventure began. A multitude of fascinating questions emerged from this problem. I spent the next few months thinking (and I am still thinking) about a possible and fluid method.

Thank you for reading! If you have remark you are welcome to post it below.



Posted by Romain on

« You propose to randomly designate a new president every month ». I moderately caricature, and I heard a such ridiculous statement many times when I had introduced using randomness in politics. The hyperbolic statement aims to discredit: « what a ludicrous idea, everybody knows already that its doom to fail! ». Many people have never heard about the idea before I introduce it. We need time to adapt to such an alien concept. Starting by picking a president randomly seems foolhardy to say the least. Why not start by something more modest?  Designating a moderator using sortition for instance.

Two pyramids. Should we start by changing the bottom or the top? By the way one image is the dual of the other ;). Romain Cazé CC-BY

It seems far less dangerous as a starting point. You can walk away from a discussion or study your cell phone if the situation bores you. But don’t get me wrong, this modest start supports an ambitious agenda: change how we do politics.

Designating a moderator using chance already summarizes the method’s many features.  From who should we sample from? How should we make the draw? What should we do if moderators are unfit for their job? A good draw includes everyone in the population and we should make it non-mandatory. Many people initially believe that we should use a list of volunteers and I talked about this point more in detail in multiple previous posts. I also thought about a method to draw a person from a list composed by 36 people. I am also convinced that we should plan an easy exit route to resign, a point too often forgotten.

The tool presented in this blog could both vivify debates and impose listening. I was lying when I said that you could look at your cellphone, an impossible thing to do if you become the moderator. It forces you then to participate and it makes non-participation an active process.

Thank you for reading! Think small and write (comments) differently.


Outliers & Heterogeneity

Posted by Romain on

On the one hand, referendums unify and flatten. Votes result in a black or white outcome. The process already bound itself when one needs to print its limits. The referendum’s binary choice favors extremists stands, the for and against side fight each other. Most often nearly half the people defend an outcome opposite to the result. The destiny’s vote looks often unpredictable and creates sore losers/winners. In short, large scale referendum crush dissident voices and generate hard feelings.

Two ways to color our world. Romain Cazé CC-BY

On the other hand, sortition keeps all alternatives alive. Machine learning shows that cold-hearted reality begs to randomize the process. Even when a choice stays 99% deterministic, the best alternative sometimes lays in the remaining 1%.  People often think that randomness results in 50/50 decisions, but they forget that bias could make choices deterministic. Furthermore, knowing that choices involve a part of luck may smoothen hard feelings and calm sore losers/winners.

Interestingly, outliers provide alternatives that nobody thought of. Machine learning algorithm use randomness to explore and exploit their environment. AlphaGo beat the world Go champion last year, a problem we thought unsolvable and like a Chinese proverb says « The world is a game of Go, whose rules were unnecessarily complicated« . AlphaGo works with a trial-and-error framework where learning occurs through mistakes. Noise generates original solutions and set the foundation for new knowledge.

This feature maintains all ideas to face political challenges. An elective system bans outliers whereas sortition give them space. This foot in the door enables novelty like the one proposed the Irish citizen assembly. It gives hope to change.

Thank you for reading! If you want to expose a different point of view, write it below.


Leaders solitaires

Posted by Romain on

« Le trait commun à tous les grands leaders, c’est qu’ils n’attendent pas que les autres les suivent. » de Nicolas Cole sur Medium. J »aime cette citation et même sa négativité. Il n’écrit pas « aller sans les autres » mais « ne pas attendre les autres ». Comme si le chef cherchait la solitude. En effet, cette caractéristique est marquante des démocraties. Si quelqu’un veut faire quelque chose d’unique dans une telle société, il le fera seul parce qu’il est impossible de convaincre une foule d’une nouvelle idée.

La démocratie favorise des affirmations telles que: »Tout le monde pense (mettez ici quelque chose que vous aimez) », »Nous devons être pragmatiques et faire (mettez ici quelque chose que vous voudriez faire) ». Ces expressions surgissent même dans le plus petit mouvement « démocratique » parce qu’ils aident à convaincre la foule. Si tout le monde pensent comme ça, alors on devrait le faire. De telles idées s’effondrent dans une discussion en tête-à-tête. Dans un tel dialogue, l’erreur devient évidente: beaucoup de gens qui partagent la même idée ne la rende pas vraie. Lorsque vous vous adressez à une foule, ces arguments convaincent le plus parce qu’ils divisent pour mieux contrôler. Cela isole une personne avec une idée différente.

Deux façons d’atteindre la solitude. Être sur une île ou exprimer une idée différente. Romain Cazé CC-BY

Une société stochocratique peut se comporter différemment. Tout le monde peut avoir le haut-parleur et une personne n’ a pas besoin d’incarner ou de représenter la majorité pour défendre une idée. La personne n’ a pas de légitimité intrinsèque et le besoin de convaincre la foule disparaît. Nous critiquons souvent les dirigeants démocratiques parce qu’ils ne nous représentent pas. Peut-être qu’ils représentent quelque chose, la majorité, mais pas les individus pris un à un parce que c’est impossible. Une personne ayant une idée originale peut se sentir moins seule dans un régime stochocratique où les gens l’écoutent sans exiger une légitimité préexistante.

Merci de votre lecture! Si vous connaissez des leaders solitaires, commentez


Lonely leaders

Posted by Romain on

« The one trait all great leaders share in common is the fact that they do not wait for others to follow them. » from Nicolas Cole on Medium. I feel the quote and even like its negativity. He doesn’t write « go without others » but « not wait for others ». As if the leader would seek for loneliness. Indeed, the feature characterizes democracies. If someone wants to do something unique in such a society, they will do this thing alone because convincing a crowd of a new idea is next to impossible.

Democracy favors the following statements : « Everybody thought (put here something you like) », « We need to be pragmatic and do (put here something you like people to do) ». They pop-up in the smallest « democratic » movement because they help to convince the crowd. If everybody think this way then we should do this thing. These kind of statements easily crumble in a head-to-head discussion. In such a dialog the fallacy becomes evident: a lot of people sharing the same idea does not make it true. When you address a mob these arguments convince the most because they divide and conquer. And a person with a different idea feels isolated.

Two ways of achieving loneliness. To be on an island or to express a different idea. Romain Cazé CC-BY

A stochocratic society might behave differently. We give the loudspeaker to everybody and a person does not need to incarnate or represent the majority in a stochocracy. The person has no intrinsic legitimacy and the need to convince the mob disappears. We often criticize democratic leaders because they fail to represent us. Maybe they do represent something, the majority, but not individuals because it’s impossible. An individual with an original idea might feel less alone in a stochocratic regime where people listen to them without requiring a pre-existing legitimacy.

Thank you for reading! If you know some lonely leaders please comment.



Posted by Romain on

Representative, direct or participative who wants some TRUE Democracy? I here venture to a critic.

Democracy’s positive connotation explains its widespread use. A democrat defends the most widespread values. These values seems, at a given time, noble and obvious. But I know an old and famous value: women’s intelligence undershoots men’s.

Democracy comes  from the greek word demos: « the people ». A democratic state places, in theory, power in people’s hand.  People like to shout that this is false in practise for our democracies, they say that we live in an oligarchy where power remains in the richest hands. I agree. So they nobly fight to restore true democracy, to give back power to the people because the majority thinks well and clearly. Take for instance the death penalty. I hope to never see a referendum on this question, in France the government stopped death penalty without consulting the people. And I welcome this authoritarian move.

Remember also that Hitler took power democratically. Like so many obnoxious people who have pretended to be great democrats, sometime they were even liked by a majority. Democracy stays a positively connoted word even if it produced the worst things in our century. Still Churchill said:  » Democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time ». Many of Churchill’s moves may not have been considered democratic.

We saw progresses in Mathematics and Physics and Biology. Can’t we imagine progresses in how we do politics?

Two historical figures of democracy. Romain Caze CC-BY

Stochocracy comes from a greek word meaning randomness. I like sortition not because of its representative feature making it a democratic tool. I love it because: « power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely » and sortition allows for a plasticity impossible in elections. Yet I agree with Churchill’s comment and we should implement this novelty cautiously and step by step.

Thank you for reading! If you want to courageously defend democracy



Posted by Romain on

Humans want leaders and we have a tendency to herd behaviour. This may seem to contradict using the chance. One could think it seeks to get rid of leaders. I argue here twofold against this idea. First, certain figureheads have little political power while some influential leaders remain discreet. Second, sortition enables to generate new and true representative leaders from the raw population.

The Queen of England has very little political power while being a representative figurehead. On the one hand, she focused the public eye while politicians rule less loudly. On the other hand, a country can prosper without a popular political leader and Switzerland exemplifies this position.  Yet even in a small group of people, it is possible to observe an instantaneous hierarchy and some people will tend to speak or decide more than others.

Sortition creates representative and unexpected leaders. A loudmouth or a motivated individual can be a poor leader. An introvert can, however, be an excellent leader. A talent impossible to unravel without luck. Moreover, a sufficiently large sample can represent a group much more than elections. A sorted assembly has, therefore, an intrinsic representative power. Furthermore, sortition diminishes the pressure on as a leader can always resign without the associated disgrace. A leader is chosen by chance has no obligation to fulfil its position if they do not want to, or if they want to do it for a limited time.

Two figureheads. The queen of England and FM Sven Mikser met with the President of the Swiss Confederation Doris Leuthard in Tallinn. Romain Cazé CC-BY

Thank you for reading! If you have additional examples or counterexamples, describe them in the comment section below.



Mixing election and sortition

Posted by Romain on

A lucky few love to select using a dice, and some wonder: « how can sortition coexist with the existing elective system? ». Selecting using pure luck might be a daunting prospect if you want to replace elections, and we need to build a synergy between the two. I discuss here about two ways to use random selection combined with voting.

I want first to restate my firm opposition to volunteers’ list. Random selection enables to represent the population we sample from. The draw will select in this case only the people who wants power and like Alain wrote: « they are he worst kind to govern ». Moreover, it happens that the low number of volunteers renders sortition pointless. Therefore, I prefer a list like electoral register.

You can use sortition either before or after.

Demorun has employed it before to build its list of candidates. They used the electoral register to randomly select their potential nominees. They then go and visit them to make them sign a charter determining their task and under which rules they could be revoked – a 20% fraction of the voters needed after one year (if I remember correctly).

Two tools to select. Right, An American ballot box from 1880. Romain Cazé CC-BY

It is also possible to cast the dice after the vote. It validates sortition in this case. This completely depersonalize politics and weakens the elected politicians who now need to listen carefully to voters if they don’t want to be revoked. This usage seems more suited for « smaller » type of elections with less stakes. The sample remains small in this case, one could then use the lists of all members from a cooperative, party or union.

In conclusion, the decision to pick before or after the vote depends on many factors. The use before the vote enables to inject momentum in the campaign and fit well with a municipal or regional scale. Using chance after the vote can rapidly create a union or a cooperative executive board. Notably, the following or preceding elections are mandatory in Non Governmental Organization because national laws often enforce the executive board’s members election.

Thank you for reading! As usual I welcome comments.


Désigner une personne en utilisant un dé (ou deux)

Posted by Romain on

Nous utilisons un seul dé (ou une seule pièce) dans la version actuelle de la méthode pour sélectionner aléatoirement une personne qui modère. J’utilise cette méthode pour deux raisons. Tout d’abord, la méthode est facile: tout le monde a une pièce de monnaie et lors d’un jour de chance, une personne a un dé. Deuxièmement, la méthode se trouve à mi-chemin entre une liste de volontaires et une liste qui comprend tout le monde, puisque les (non-)volontaires peuvent s’asseoir à proximité ou loin du lanceur de pièces/dés. La méthode peut être facilement expliquée et elle a bien marché lors de mes précédentes expériences.

Mais, j’ai récemment pensé à une autre méthode (voir un ancien post). J’ai appelé cette deuxième méthode la méthode de la dichotomie. La méthode consiste à diviser le groupe principal en sous-groupes. Par exemple, un groupe de taille pair peut être divisé en deux, nous choisissons le premier sous-groupe pour pile et l’autre pour face. Vous pouvez ensuite recommencer le processus jusqu’ à ce qu’une personne soit sélectionnée. Un dé permet de traiter le cas des groupes divisibles en deux ou trois sous-groupes. Vous êtes confronté à un problème insoluble avec des groupes de taille de nombres premiers car vous devez avoir des sous-groupes non chevauchants et égaux pour garantir que toutes les personnes pourraient être sélectionnées avec la même probabilité.

Dans ce post je présente une troisième méthode appelée la méthode du dénombrement. Cette méthode fonctionne dans un groupe de moins de 36 personnes. Quelqu’un jette deux dés (ou un seul dé deux fois), de couleurs différentes, l’un représentant l’unité et l’autre les dizaines (voir illustration ci-dessous énumérant toutes les possibilités). On commence à compter à partir du lanceur (11 est le lanceur puis 12 à 65,66). S’il y a moins de 36 personnes, vous pouvez relancer quand vous obtenez un jet plus grand que la taille du groupe. Le groupe peut aussi contenir 9 ou 18 personnes, ici une personne correspond respectivement à trois ou deux lancers distincts possibles.

A gauche les nombres premiers jusqu’ à 2500. A droite, tous les tirages possibles (36) avec deux dés. Romain Cazé CC-BY

Pour la plupart des situations, un seul dé couvre déjà nos besoins. Les groupes de 6 personnes sont assez grands pour une discussion animée. Un groupe de plus de 36 personnes devient rapidement ingérable.

Merci de votre lecture! Si vous avez d’autres méthodes ou si vous pensez que nous ne devrions faire appel qu’à des bénévoles, commentez.


Organizing an event with a limited number of seats

Posted by Romain on

I talked about the France Insoumise convention in a previous post. They randomly selected the participants from a list of volunteers. They used a script available on github. Yet most of the questions I asked to the developer stayed unanswered. Also they did not advertise this event. Were they wary of stacking? Anyway they manage to put in place a first test for the use of sortition to organise a meeting. A malicious agent could have rigged the experiment by drawing with different seeds until they obtained the desired result.

Computers are fully deterministic and use pseudo-random numbers. To generate « random » numbers one uses sequences from which it is difficult to predict the next outcome knowing the previous. These sequences, however, are entirely deterministic as the next element is computed from the previous in a predictable manner. For a given seed  -initial condition- all computers can reproduce the entire sequence. The computer’s determinism constitutes both a weakness and also a strength.


Two lines, nobody like queueing except maybe for the monks. Romain Cazé CC-BY

A way to avoid possible tampering consists in randomly drawing a seed. For instance, we can do it by taking the arrival times of different witnesses and hashing these numbers. We can also use an entirely analogical device to draw a seed controlled by an usher. Any computer could then deterministically reproduce the outcome. Two advantages here: (1) it saves a lot of time, especially if we need to pick within a long list of people (2) everybody can reproduce the draw using a personal computer.

The aforementioned method would give a strong legitimacy to the draw. And rigging the draw would become virtually impossible.

Thank you for reading! If you have ideas on how to use this method please comment in the section below.

P.S: Thank you Ambre for the proof read.