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.


Feeling sorry for yourself

Posted by Romain on

I often feel insufficient, not strong enough for the task ahead, and this makes me feel sorry for myself, that I have been beaten up too many times, and that I will loose the next battle. This helplessness limits what I want to do and makes me sad. I spend time dreaming about things I could have done better, I think of sad yesterdays rather than thinking of today and tomorrows.

I want to fight this, not only because it brings me down to feel that way. Each time I managed to escape from myself, to really listen to what another person has to say. Loneliness goes away, and I feel belonging to humankind. There is this proverb I love and that expresses this idea: « How you keep a water drop from drying? You put it into the ocean ». To feel sorry for yourself you need to withdraw from the world. When you stop looking at your navel you discover that being part of humankind can be super-resting and fulfilling. How can we keep this link alive?

Two ways of spending time looking at. Image credit CC-BY Romain Cazé

What link random selection and this (selfish) impression? Random selection, like a sharp knife, can crack open our inner shells. As a moderator you are forced to pay attention to what other people are saying. I repeat here my love of inclusive lists. If you ask for volunteers you ask for people already open to others. Sortition can allow to select the shy person at the back of the room, and they may be the solution to unsolvable problems.

Thank you for reading! If you feel sorry (or not) for my post shout out in the comment section below.



Posted by Romain on

« To revolt is to run to one’s downfall, because revolt, if it takes place in a group, immediately regains a hierarchical scale of submission within the group, and revolt, alone, quickly leads to the submission of the rebel… All that’s left is to escape. » Henri Laborit -Eloge de la fuite- 1985. I was born in 1985. I had thought that for a long time. The solution for him is to escape. To go within yourself in a dreamy place outside from the world.

I choose to stay. I don’t want to convince anybody, I simply want to stand my ground. I want to defend this dream place of mine where things become possible, to defend it against politicians of all sorts. People often tell me: « but what if the person disagrees with you opinion », but this is exactly the test I am looking for: that a person can peacefully disagree with me. No need to escape when everybody agree, you build a comfortable bunker inhabited by a happy few. I’d like to build an open-ended road where contradictory ideas can flow without limit.


Two roads offering different possibilities. Image credit Romain Cazé CC-BY

Randomness looks like a key ingredient to this recipe. It turns a contest of ideas into an exam. There is not best or worst ideas in a system ruled by randomness. Nothing is close ended and permanent in a system ruled by randomness. Revolt becomes permanent when a dice put in place new rulers seamlessly. I dream maybe too strongly but I have faith in such a system provided some guard rails.

What if someone or a group of people wants to take over and dictate their laws? Rotation prevents such thing from happening because a minority can overthrow rulers. The intrinsic instability of the system guarantees its perpetuation.

Thank you for reading! If you have another escape route please tell me in the comment section below.



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I advise you to watch this video in English – especially lesson three – before reading this post or listening to this song in French while reading this post. Meritocracy presupposes that people get what they have worked for. Every day, people drown, kill or are killed, grow up in places dangerously close to hell or strangely close to paradise. Do they deserve it? My nanny died while holding my hand on the way home from school; I am surrounded by a large family that I love; I lost my father at the age of six; I grew up in a rich France; I got my PhD with the jury’s congratulations; I have multiple sclerosis. Do I deserve it? The answer to these two questions seems obvious to me. No. Yet meritocratic ideas infest our societies. Maybe that’s because a yes would make it so much easier. Indeed, it is comforting to find a purpose for all this or a great goal that explains the sacrifices.

In my short life, I have learned to respect not goals but means. I focus on things I like to do and share my easy or difficult moments with others. I try to be benevolent with myself and with others and to enjoy my incredible opportunities. I am also learning to better perceive events. Things, good or bad, happen to us – no control over them – but the way we perceive things can be controlled. Blaming myself or blaming others for their mistakes wastes time and energy, and both are necessary to seize opportunities and enjoy good times.


Two medals, left the Legion of Merit, right a more modest medal. Image Credit Romain Cazé CC-BY

What’s the connection to sortition? There is no choice when meritocracy overwhelms our judgment. Decisions are then influenced by our innumerable unconscious biases, we then share things and power according to our mood. But the choice of flipping a coin is a conscious act. It is a much fairer way of sharing than meritocracy. No one deserves more than others to own things or make decisions. Sortition serves a means and not a goal, it allows us to share and lead with much more impartiality. Because it becomes consciously impossible to think that people deserve their share or what happen to them when randomness is in charge.

Thank you for your reading! Your comments and feedback are welcome, so feel free to leave a comment in the section below.




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Les politiciens professionnels obscurcissent parfois leur discours avec des mots ou des phrases imprécises. Ils utilisent délibérément un langage compliqué. De cette façon, ils peuvent dire que si vous n’êtes pas d’accord, c’est parce que vous avez mal compris. Cela affaiblit les opposants par rapport à une proposition claire. Comment pouvons-nous clarifier le discours pour mettre tout le monde sur un pied d’égalité?

Plusieurs personnes voient le même objet ou la même idée avec des points de vue distincts. Ils devront décrire à d’autres leur point de vue aussi fidèlement et clairement que possible pour reconstruire ou définir l’objet en question. Cela se produit au sein d’une foule hétérogène où différents points de vue se rassemblent pour créer une image plus complète. Encore faut-il pouvoir reconstruire cette image. Mais contrairement aux politiciens professionnels, personne ne peut gagner un argument en disant: »Vous n’avez pas compris ».

Pour clarifier une idée, une discussion respectueuse et répétitive est nécessaire. Plusieurs personnes doivent répéter la même idée en utilisant leurs propres mots distincts. Chaque itération peut cibler un public différent même si elles véhiculent toutes le même message. Le respect permet à chaque itération d’être entendue. Un modérateur garantit ces deux caractéristiques: respect et répétition.

Un ciel nuageux et un ciel dégagé. Crédit image CC-BY Romain Cazé

Ce blog me permet de répéter et d’expliquer la sortition aussi clairement que possible – en utilisant différentes manières de l’exprimer. J’essaie de présenter ici une méthode et non une idéologie, et la répétition des post me permet de la développer.

Merci de votre lecture! Essayez de discuter en utilisant un modérateur et décrivez dans la section commentaire ci-dessous vos expériences.



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A multitude of « mouvements citoyen » emerged recently in France. Most of them share a common feature, they want to be horizontal. They want an organization without leaders or emblematic figures. They consciously reject this idea of a person having more responsibility than another. This ideal, however, confronts to a harsh reality, and in practise senior members have more power than new members.

Two churches an old and a new one. Image credit Romain Cazé CC-BY

This declination of the « first come, first served » idea invades these organization. Many reasons justify this empowerment of seniority. Seniors know better how the organization work, they know better the different members. This, however, unconsciously close the door for new members. The most senior member « deserve » to rule because they were here before.

I experienced this prevalence of seniority at many occasions. When one presents an idea that can displease many, then seniority an argument often used against it. This unconscious (or conscious) opposition stems from the idea that only certain people are fit to rule. Why pick randomly when you have people that were there weeks before. I say weeks not months nor years because weeks suffice to assert the legitimacy of a ruler. Even in groups that want to profoundly change the system can be conservative.

Thank you for reading! If you have any experience facing a senior please share in the section below.


Volunteer (or not)

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Yesterday’s post discussed about inclusion and exclusion, but people may be not willing to cooperate. How can you make someone participate in politics? Politicians do a good a job in pretending that they want it. In fact they actively exploit our inside mule. They employ the idea behind this idiom: « You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink ». They use our natural laziness and (the illusion of) openness is insufficient. Women and poor people are welcomed in French politics, no law forbids it. Yet they are too few of them. The lack of willingness is an easy excuse. Maybe it is time to ask nicely and convincingly.

Two animals with different degrees of stubbornness. Photos credit Romain Cazé CC-BY.

Election inherently needs volunteers. People outside the group of candidates cannot be elected. Party also pre-select the candidates. This exclude most of the people from politics. They allow everyone to participate but ask no one.

#MAVOIX wanted to make their candidates more representative and de-personify politics using sortition. A good attempt and noble motive, sadly they picked from a list of volunteers. I think that it introduces a dangerous bias. Sortition guarantees to represent the population you pick from. In this case, you select from a population of people that consciously or not want power. As Alain wrote these people are the worst type of leaders. They pick candidates from this population -I think- to ensure a certain momentum that was a good idea but against their first principles.

« Les ateliers constituant » uses a sociocratie protocol to designate a moderator, from a list of volunteers… I went to one of their meeting and I had a hard time trying to change their mind (and I didn’t succeed). People argued that non-volunteers are not going to be motivated enough that they do not even want to be the moderator -funnily it was the volunteers who made this point. This is why I proposed to allow moderators to resign when they want (but 99% of the time they need to BE resigned by the group (power corrupts even a little one)). In conclusion, I think that to allow is not enough, one needs to ask.

Thank you for reading! Will you volunteer to write a comment?


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.


Inégalités de revenu

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Le dernier rapport d’oxfam indique que 82% des richesses créées en 2017 sont allées aux 1% les plus riches de la planète. Plus que de constater l’inégalité des richesses, ce rapport démontre une inégalité des revenus. Il montre que les gens les plus riches sont aussi ceux qui gagnent le plus. Un cadre méritocratique peut justifier pourquoi il y a des gens pauvres et riches. En expliquant que les riches méritent d’être riches parce qu’ils ont le plus travaillé. Il est plus difficile de justifier pourquoi les plus riches devraient aussi percevoir la majeure partie des revenus. Pourquoi un riche mériterait-il de s’enrichir plus rapidement?

Nombreux sont ceux qui ont proposé d’augmenter les impôts des plus riches comme solution. Beaucoup se sont également opposés à cette idée parce que les impôts destinés aux plus riches sont parfois perçus comme un vol. Ce serait une erreur de penser que l’inégalité ne désavantage que les plus pauvres. Un riche peut tout perdre en vivant dans une société faite majoritairement de pauvres. A un certain point de rupture, les pauvres prendront tout aux plus riches par la force si nécessaire. Ainsi, en partageant ses richesses, les plus riches peuvent garantir la non-rébellion des masses pauvres. En d’autres termes, il peut être purement égoïste de partager la richesse. Pourtant, la redistribution a posteriori de la richesse semble être une pilule dure à avaler. Je pense que la sortition pourrait offrir une solution a priori plus efficace.

Deux humains avec des revenus différents. Crédit CC-BY Romain Cazé.

Conall Boyle discute longuement dans un article scientifique sur comment la sortition peut être utilisé pour introduire plus d’équité dans la distribution des richesses. Notamment, il parle d’une communauté de mineurs qui a adopté la sortition. Après un certain temps, les zone minière sont redistribuées avec une loterie. A première vue, cela peut sembler désavantageux et serait plus logique que le « meilleur » mineur explorent le « meilleur » endroit. De plus, la mise en place d’une nouvelle plate-forme minière prend du temps et peut apparaître comme une perte de temps et d’énergie. La principale justification des mineurs était l’équité de cette mesure. Je pense que même si cette méthode me semble juste, elle est aussi la plus productive. Le  » meilleur  » varie au fil du temps, souvent de façon non déterministe et la rotation offre la possibilité que le  » meilleur  » se rende au  » meilleur  » endroit. La rotation favorise également une nouvelle façon d’exploiter le site minier et peut ainsi accroître la productivité. Dans l’ensemble, une communauté pourrait accepter la sortition non seulement parce qu’elle semble juste et inconsciemment l’accepter à cause de son efficacité.

Merci de votre lecture! Si vous avez des commentaires ou des contre-arguments sur la façon dont la sortition pourrait aider à réduire les différences de revenus , n’hésitez pas.