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

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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




Posted by Romain on

The idea of this post came as I went to a meeting. I stayed, as a newbie, just at the door of the meeting not knowing where it was. I had discovered the facebook group a week ago. This group affiliated to no political party that prepares for the next municipal election in France in 2020. I won’t define them as it is an ongoing work -to define what this group is. I discovered that they were regrouping every two weeks since last September. I was lucky because two people arrived late at the meeting this week and left the curtain for me. They shown me the entrance to access the meeting. I had already met two people at a meeting from #MAVOIX and another from the Ateliers Constituants. People were friendly and I was most welcome. Still, I had to go behind the curtain to take part.

This is one thing that could be difficult: to go behind the curtain. The meeting was dedicated to a precise question: « Which arrondissement of Paris should they target for the next election? » This is an important question that defines (locally) the movement. The next meetings will be about this exact question: « How would you define this movement? ». Another important question asked to few and answered by fewer. I agree that a solid core enables to set the foundations of a movement. But you need to be interested by politic to be involved in many. And I believe that a core needs to reach a critical mass before it can disseminate new ideas. In conclusion, there is a delicate balance to full-fill: have curtains strong enough to enable something to brew and light enough to let new people in.

Two types of curtain. Photos from google image (hope they are CC), image credit Romain Cazé CC-BY.

Thank you for reading! If you have comments about red or irons curtains you are welcome to post in the section below.


Distributed systems

Posted by Romain on

Power often organizes as a pyramid, a fully centralized system. Pyramids require an incredible amount of energy and produce very little. These systems are indeed a demonstration of power and no one deny their abstractedness. They seem solid yet they have a point of failure. With sufficient means it is possible to smoothen the sharp edge of a pyramid.

To make a solid pyramid one needs a large base. But however large this base is, the top section remains as fragile as before. Another way to increase the resilience of such a system is to build multiple pyramids. Democratic systems usually work around three pyramids that correspond to the famous separation of power from Montesquieu. The difference with an authoritarian regime is more quantitative than qualitative and an individual can turn one into another provided sufficient resources.

Two objects with sharp edges a pyramid and a gear. Photos credit, Romain Cazé CC-BY

Gears work differently. In a gear every sharp edges has its use. Furthermore gear stood the test of time even more than pyramids. One can smooth a single edge but removing all the edges from a gear is next to impossible. It is no wonder why gears have a industrial use, not pyramids. There are multiple reasons why randomness could help to build gears. Let me present one of them/

I’ll finish today on a point that might deserve more than single post. I’ll talk about proof of work (PoW) and proof of stake (PoS). These ideas are both useful in blockchain technology, they guarantee that a network can reach a consensus on a ledger. I won’t dwell on this fascinating technology but underly a strong difference between PoW and PoS. Nodes in a network using PoW requires more and more energy as the network expand whereas in a network using PoS the energetic cost stays small and makes the system even more robust. And interestingly, randomness drives PoS system.

Thank you for reading! Post your questions in the comment section below if you want to know more why I prefer PoS to PoW system.


Des maîtres enchaînés

Posted by Romain on

La plupart du temps, les gens entrent en politique pour défendre les pauvres, les démunis ou les opprimés, mais la sortition peut aussi aider l’autre bout du spectre du pouvoir.

Décider, c’est pénible. Un dirigeant ne peut pas mépriser tout le monde et une décision donnée sera toujours défavorable pour certaines personnes. Cette partie de la population peut varier qualitativement et quantitativement d’une décision à l’autre. Un dirigeant élu tente de plaire à la majorité, mais parfois les  » meilleures  » décisions sont impopulaires. Une mesure pourrait plaire à A et déplaire à B, et la suivante pourrait faire exactement le contraire. Les dirigeants doivent donc justifier leur choix.

Décider c’est aussi fatigant. Et pas seulement à cause du stress du au mécontentement. Un leader doit être disponible 24h/24 et 7j/7 pour résoudre les problèmes qui surviennent de manière aléatoire. Les dirigeants charismatiques se vantent souvent de leur manque de sommeil. Mais le manque de sommeil entraîne de graves problèmes de santé. On dit que certains leaders dorment six heures ou moins par nuit, un autre type d’animal dort aussi la même quantité de temps: les chèvres.

Deux animaux qui dorment six heures par nuit (désolé c’était trop tentant)
Photos de wikimedia et https://www.veterantv.com/suicide-rate-among-goats-reaches-peak/ creative commons licence CC-BY.

Les mécanismes visant à exclure un dirigeant d’un système électoral sont brutaux. La destitution ne survient que dans des circonstances exceptionnelles et traumatisantes. Je pense qu’il est essentiel de réfléchir à la façon dont un leader partira paisiblement dès son arrivée. La rotation dans un système électif n’est guère considérée comme un processus « naturel » et sans heurts. C’est comme si ce mode le choix garantit de choisir la meilleure personne. La destitution est dans ce cas un échec illogique profond.

Quand on utilise la sortition la rotation du pouvoir semble logique. Cette rotation signifie que la personne choisie peut et doit avoir un mandat court facilement défait. La logique sous-jacente est que le hasard peut désigner une personne inapte à exercer ses fonctions. La rotation diminue la pression sur le leader désigné. Le pouvoir DOIT tourner dans un système utilisant la sortition. La contradiction devient possible sans turbulences trop importantes. Cela permet une révolution permanente et non-violente. En un mot, la sortition protège les leaders d’eux-mêmes.

Merci. Si vous avez (ou autre) une expérience traumatisante à partager, la section commentaire est ci-dessous.




Posted by Romain on

People often ask: « how can we be sure that a person is sufficiently qualify for their job? ». This question of skill is a major interrogation when you use sortition. I usually first answer that moderating does not require any special skills. A moderator control the length of an intervention and distribute speech equally. Still being a good moderator could be problematic.  It requires to know when someone speaks too much or not enough. Once, someone told me that everyone should be a moderator at least one time. I fully agree with this statement and moderating is a thing you learn by practice. We looked here at the simple case of moderation but what happens if we sort for a more complex kind of job. Two options seem evident.

Books, an old-fashion way to learn. Image credit CC-BY from google images.

(1) Either we select randomly someone and if they accept the task then we train them or (2) we select from a group of people having the set of skills we want. I already spoke about this later solution in my post about exams and competition. We could design an exam such that only the qualified people for the precise task could pass the exam. This works when we can exactly define what is a good skill for the job. This keep some of the elitism typical from the French education sysLtem.

Training, in option (1), could be more problematic to put in place. Nothing guarantees that the selected person will follow the trainingI One solution is to validate the training with an exam at the end of the training. This solution enables more flexibility in the delimitation of the necessary skills and is less elitist.

In both cases learning is important and this point should be thoroughly address in a system using sortition. Surprisingly, this idea is almost absent from election as if this mode of selection would provoke the « best » selection.

Thank you for reading! Please leave a comment, what is your favorite option and why? Do you have idea for a third option?



Posted by Romain on

I stole the title of this post from a music band I like. I love the second song, less the first but I learnt to enjoy the first because I know what is coming next. Many times in my life I wanted things to go fast. Too fast. I had had this feeling that the time was running out that I never had the time to see or do everything. But each time I wanted things to move too fast, I ended up disappointed and frustrated. And each time I let things evolved by themselves it has made me happy. This post is about time, time we should take before we speak, time we should take to listen.

Thinking that a discussion should be moderated seems masochists as I love to speak and to be listened to (this is human). At first sight the job of a moderator is to say stop or to control the time you speak. So I speak less when a moderator is there. Yet I speak better when a moderator is there. It sharpens my arguments and make my words sweet, it gives time to think about what I want to say. No (less) staircase wit with a moderator.

I also know now that one not only learns a lot when we listen. Not wait but really listen. Listening convinces more than a long speech. Each time I took the time to listen, we almost always on a common ground. Moderation helps people to hear to each other. It imposes listening, it proposes conclusions.

Thank you for reading! Please do comment, even if it is unrelated to this post, even if it has nothing to do with sortition, it will makes me less lonely.


Image from https://summersolutions.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/clock.png


When do we need a moderator?

Posted by Romain on

A discussion between three people could already requires a moderator. A discussion between two people seldom suffers from mutual interruptions. Interruptions between speakers happen as soon as there are three people. Controversial discussions are prone to one speaker interrupting the other. And this kind of tensed discussion could happen within a family, between friends or in a company. Even when there is no conscious moderator, a moderator will be appointed unconsciously to lead the discussion. A mother, a boss or a figure of authority will either confiscate speech or they will benevolently distribute it more or less equally.

We could think of different ways to pick a moderator. Most often one designates a moderator beforehand and in this case there is no discussion. We could think of using election in a more horizontal system. But either it is difficult to instantiate in practice or the vote needs to be show of hands. This introduces a strong bias and the moderator often is the person who has the most seniority in the group. The « atelier constituant » sometimes randomly pick a moderator from a list of volunteers. But often the people with more seniority are the volunteers and we end up with the same problem as with the electoral system. Sorting a moderator among all participants, volunteer or not, and designating multiple moderators along a discussion could be the way forward.

Graffiti promoting a moderator from https://ccsearch.creativecommons.org/ CC-BY

But how do we know when a conversation requires a moderator? This is another advantage of sortition. It is a fluid mode of designation and it only requires to flip a coin. This way it is fast and easy, no need for a long and tedious process like a vote. And if there is no need for one, then the appointed moderator will not need to use their powers. This make sortition an excellent method to select a moderator within a discussion.

Thank you for reading! Try to sort a moderator with your friends or family members and tell us how was the experience.


Enslaved rulers

Posted by Romain on

Most of the times people start their political career to defend the poor, the defenceless or the oppressed, but sortition might also help the other side of the power spectrum.

Deciding takes its toll. A ruler cannot contempts everybody and a given decision will always be unfavorable for some people. This portion of the population can vary both qualitatively and quantitatively from decision to decision. An elected ruler tries to please the majority, but sometimes the « best » decisions are the unpopular ones. One measure could please A and displease B, and the next one could do the exact opposite. Leaders need therefore to justify their choice.

Ruling is also tiring. And not only from the stress to displease. A leader needs to be 24/7 available in order to solve issues occurring randomly. Charismatic rulers often brag about how little they sleep. But the lack of sleep leads to serious health problems. It is said that some leaders sleep six hours or less per night, another kind of animal also sleeps the same amount of time: goats.

Two animals sleeping six hours per night
Photos from wikimedia and https://www.veterantv.com/suicide-rate-among-goats-reaches-peak/ creative commons licence CC-BY.

Mechanisms to rule out a leader in a system using election are brutal. Destitution only occurs in exceptional and traumatic circumstances. I see it as essential to think about how a leader will leave peacefully when they arrive. The rotation using election is hardly thought as a « natural » and smooth process. It is as if this mode of selection inherently pick the best that is a immutable characteristic. Destitution would be in this case a profound failure.

Rotation seems logical and smooth in a system using sortition. Even if rotation intuitively seems a good idea to get rid of selected people unfit for office it can also diminish the pressure on the designated leader. The power MUST rotate in a system using sortition. Stern contradiction becomes possible without too important turbulences. This enables non-violent revolution.  In a nutshell, sortiton protects leader from themselves and from the strain coming from power.



Posted by Romain on

Vous vous demandez peut-être: »Quel est le rapport avec la sortition? ». La sortition était une idée intellectuellement agréable pour moi quand je l’ai découverte. Elle est devenu une nécessité. On m’a diagnostiqué la sclérose en plaques il y a maintenant deux ans, elle m’a déjà volé la flexibilité de la jambe droite et elle me fait lentement perdre ma capacité à parler et à écrire. L’année dernière, j’ai découvert que je voulais m’impliquer dans la politique, mais commencer une carrière politique dans ces conditions est un projet pour le moins ambitieux.

Google définit un handicap comme « une circonstance qui rend le progrès ou le succès difficile ». En politique, le handicap n’est pas l’exception, c’est la règle. Tous ceux qui sont incapables de parler fort, distinctement, avec un discours significatif et la capacité de contrôler une foule sont handicapés en politique. La dernière fois que j’ai parlé devant un public nombreux, mon cœur battait la chamade, mes mots étaient maladroits. Et je suis un jeune homme blanc, un peu habitué aux gens qui m’écoutent. Les choses auraient été complètement différentes si j’avais été une femme noire. La politique s’avère difficile même en dehors de ces cas extrêmes. Alors que pouvons-nous faire? Que puis-je faire?

Image de https://icons8.com/

Une possibilité est de donner un podium et un microphone à tous ceux qui le souhaitent et de fixer au préalable une limite de temps pour chaque orateur. Cela semble être une façon raisonnable de distribuer le discours, mais cela a aussi des conséquences négatives. Cela donne un avantage encore plus grand aux personnes qui sont les mieux placées pour convaincre les autres avec un discours court et condensé. En fin de compte, Cela favorise les idées vides et consensuelles. Un modérateur est ici un vrai atout. Un modérateur humain s’occupera beaucoup mieux du temps.

Un bon modérateur laisse tout le monde parler. Un bon modérateur prend en compte la capacité de la personne, il lui donne du temps si elle développe une idée complexe, mais il peut interrompre une personne si elle parle trop ou trop souvent. Un bon modérateur rend la parole fluide et aide à souligner les points que les gens veulent soulever. Paradoxalement, le modérateur parle beaucoup lors d’une réunion. Être un bon modérateur pendant longtemps est une tâche difficile, mais tout le monde peut être modérateur pendant une courte période. La fluidité apparaît naturellement lorsque le rôle de modérateur tourne souvent. De plus, avec un modérateur en rotation, tout le monde va prendre la parole, ne laissant aucun point non soulevé. C’est pourquoi il est si important de tirer au sort un modérateur à partir d’une liste de NON-volontaires et de changer de modérateurs facilement au sein d’une même réunion.

Merci de votre lecture. Et comme d’habitude, curieux de connaître vos réflexions sur le sujet!