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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.


Selecting a person from the crowd with a dice (or two).

Posted by Romain on

We use a single dice (or coin) in the current version of the method to randomly select a moderator. I employ the latter method for two reasons. Firstly,  the method is easily and practically feasible: everyone has a coin and on a lucky day one person has a dice. Secondly, the method stands midway between a list made of volunteers and an all inclusive list, since the (non-)volunteers can go sit either near or far from the coin/dice caster. The method can be easily explained and worked nicely during my previous experiments.

But, I recently thought about another method (see a former post). I called this second method the dichotomy method. The method consists in dividing the main group into subgroups. For instance, an even sized group can be divided in two, we pick the first for heads and the second for tails. You can then reiterate the process until we sort a single person. A dice enables to deal with situation for groups dividable in two or three subgroups. You face an unsolvable problem with prime numbers-sized groups as you need to have non-overlapping and equal subgroups  to guarantee that all people could be selected with the same probability.

I want in this post to introduce a third method called the enumeration method. This method works in a group with less than 36 people.  Someone casts two dices (or on die twice), of different colours one representing the unit and the other the tens (see illustration below enumerating all possibilities). We start counting from the caster (11 is the thrower then 12 up to 65, 66). If there are less than 36 people you can re-throw when you obtain a throw larger than the group size. The group might also contain 9 or 18 people, here a person respectively corresponds to three or two possible distinct throws.

One the left the prime numbers up to 2500. On the right, all the possible draws (36) with two dice. Romain Cazé CC-BY

For most situations a single dice already covers our needs. Groups of 6 are large enough for a lively discussion. A group larger than 36 becomes rapidly unmanageable.

Thank you for reading! If you have any other methods or suggestions or if you think we should only peak volunteers please comment below.

P.S.: thank you Ambre for the proof-reading.


Selecting a person from a crowd with a coin

Posted by Romain on

The first argument against sortition is how do we draw a name in a group larger than six (do we use a special dice?). This practical problem has multiple solutions. I’ll describe here two of them using a coin:

The first solution consists in having a limited list based on a arbitrary criteria. For instance to select the first:head or the second:tails person on the left of the thrower. You can make the power turns by the rotation of the moderator’s duty, e.g. using thumbs up to restart a designation.

This solution seems convenient. It can easily be done and has a minimal practical requirement: a coin. It has, however, a big disadvantage: if you want a moderator for a long period of time, you limit yourself to a tiny list of people; this put a bias as the thrower determines this tiny list of people, you can then ask: how do we choose the thrower?

Two incarnation of combinatorics power: selection of 3 among 5 and grain of sands. Image credit Romain Cazé CC-BY

A second solution consists in using a coin to split the group into subgroups and to do multiple coin flips. The thrower would be the only person that could not be elected in this case (good to protect against conflict of interest). The procedure is as following: one divides the group in two, if the number of people is even no problem; if it is odd a single person will belong to both groups and will be in the next phase whatever the result. This last measure guarantees that everyone has exactly the same chance to be selected. Subgroups of different sizes would make some people more prone to be selected. For example with three people you cannot make a subgroup of two and a subgroup of one, the person in the second group would be selected after a single throw. Repeating coin flips enables to divide more and more until one person is selected. This method yields a selected person rapidly and enables to select a person in a group of size two power n with n+1 throws.

Thank you for reading! If it is not clear and you have questions or if you think of another practical way please comment.

P.S: This post contains a mistake. There is no way to use « the dichotomy method » presented here and to keep the equiprobability property. The subgroup needs to be of equal size AND disjoint for the method to work. It means that for groups that cannot be divided in two this method is not working. But I do not give up! More in a following post.


Exclusion and Inclusion

Posted by Romain on

Every group at some point faces a choice: either to exclude or to welcome new members. Most of the time groups search for new members. But this task might prove difficult. A group may also want to exclude a disruptive element. This can be a daunting task and difficult to execute peacefully. I discuss here how sortition address these two problems.

Exclude or include a new member in a group. Photo credit Romain Cazé CC-BY

Usually inclusion requires a co-opt mechanism of some sort and exclusion requires disciplinary measures. It is hard to exclude nicely even an element of the group actively undermine it. A group grow only when new members join it and this also necessitate an active search.  These two essential component ask for energy and efficiency.

Two important features of sortition enables the inclusion of new members: an inclusive list and task rotation. We pick the moderator without discrimination, one only need to seat on the left of the moderator. Sitting as a spiral enforces this inclusion, contrary to a circle it becomes possible to enter the group without breaking it. Task rotation comes from the instability of the moderator’s role, a third of thumbs up suffices to rotate this role. During a long meeting (<30mins), the role will change several times.

The rotation allow to passively exclude a disruptive member. The thumb up was purposely chosen as the most positive sign. This sign endows exclusion with a positive connotation.

Thank you for reading! Comment if you want me to keep posting, (my halting condition: I need one comment per month to keep posting).



Posted by Romain on

Professional politician sometimes obscure their speech with unclear words or sentences. They purposely use complicated language.  This way they argue that if you disagree it is because you misunderstood (of course they were unclear). This put the opposer in a weaker position than being against a clear proposal. How can we clarify speech to put everyone on an equal foothold?

Multiple people see the same object or idea with distinct points of views. They will have to describe to others their viewpoint as faithfully and clearly as possible. This happens naturally within an heterogeneous crowd where various viewpoints will come together to make a fuller image. Contrary to professional politicians, nobody can win an argument by saying: « You did not understand ».

To clarify an idea a respectful and repetitive discussion is necessary. Therefore multiple people need to rehearse the same idea using their own distinct words. Each iteration can target a different audience even if they all carry the same message. Respect allows each iterations to be heard. A moderator guarantees these two features: respect and repetition.

A cloudy and a clear sky. Image credit CC-BY Romain Cazé

This blog enables me to repeat and explain sortition as clearly as possible – using different ways of expressing it. I try to present a method not an ideology.

Thank you for reading! Please do try to discuss using a moderator and describe in the comment section below your experiences.

P.S: Thank you Ambre for clarifying this post.


Incomes Inequalities

Posted by Romain on

The last oxfam report states that 82% of the created wealth in 2017 went the 1% richest people on earth. More than noticing inequality of wealth, this report demonstrates an inequality of income. It shows that the richest people are also the one that earn the most. A meritocratic framework may justify why there are poor and rich people. By saying that rich people deserve to be rich because they worked the hardest. It is harder to justify why the richest should also collect the very most of the income. Why a rich person would deserve to get richer?

Many has proposed to increase the taxes on the richest people as a solution. Many has also been against this idea because Taxes targeted to the richest feel sometimes for them like a theft. It would be a mistake to think that inequality only disadvantage the poorest. A wealthy individual can loose everything by living in a society made of poor to very poor people. At a certain breaking point the poor will take everything to the richest by force if necessary. So by sharing its wealth, the richest can guarantee the non-rebellion of the poor masses. In other words, it can be purely egoistic to share richness. Yet the a posteriori redistribution of wealth seems like a hard pill to swallow. I believe that sortition could offer an a priori and more efficient solution.

Two humans with different amount of incomes. Credit CC-BY Romain Cazé.

 Conall Boyle discusses extensively in multiple scientific articles how sortition could introduce more fairness in the distribution of wealth. Notably, he talks about a community of miners that adopted sortition. After a certain period of time the mining area were redistributed with a lottery. At first sight it might seem disadvantageous and would make more sense that the « best » miners, explore the « best » spot. Moreover, setting a new mining rig takes time and it could appear as a waste of time and energy. The main justification from the minors was the fairness of this measure. I think that even if this method seems only fair it is also the most productive. The « best » varies along time often in a non-deterministic fashion  and rotation gives the possibility that the « best » goes to the « best » spot. Rotation also favors new way of exploiting the mining spot and could further increase productive. All in all, a community might consiously accept a method because it seems fair and unconsciously accept it because of its efficiency.

Thank you for reading! If you have any comment or counter-arguments on how sortition could help to reduce income differences?


Collective stupidity

Posted by Romain on

Cooperation gave mankind a decisive advantage. Minds working together can do prodigious things, but they can also generate terrible horrors. Many people like the word collective intelligence. It is, however, insufficient to put people together and hope for the best. Soon they will find a leader, someone speaking louder and better than others. Soon they will follow and forget to do good things if not reminded.

Two orators capable of respectively extracting the worst and the best of humanity. Image credit CC-BY Romain Cazé.

Talented orators terrify me. And elections favour good orators. This is a vicious circle: good orators get elected and elected people learn to speak to crowds.  Arguments developed by good orators remain simple to hear and simple to understand. I dislike being in the middle of a cheering crowd. Some people feel comforted by losing themselves, I fear losing myself. Strangely I am most afraid when the orator says things I agree with. A good orator can control a crowd and make it obeys as he wishes. Because crowds dilute responsibilities, it needs a leader. Sure sometimes the best can happen, e.g. with Martin Luther King, but sometimes the worst is happening, e.g. with Adolf Hitler.

Non-verbal communication, in a movement like Nuit Debout, interestingly banned loud cheering. I loved this feature, you were less prone to go with the flow. Cooperation demonstrates that for sure there are more ideas in ten heads than in one. I think however that they are less good ideas in a thousand heads than in ten. This is why I am preoccupied by revolutions involving too many people.

Sortition gives the mic and the time to people that are not good orators.  In an ideal situation, there is no need for a mic. Because sortition reduces to a minimum the speech time of good orators. A mic means an installation, a costly installation with loudspeakers. To a critical mind, the question immediately pops up, where does the money come from. But regular people do not reason so, they just listen and cheer.

Thank you for reading! If you want to comment about this post and proudly defend collective intelligence the comment section is below.

P.S: thank you Ambre for the proof reading