Posts Tagged ‘voting’
This is the age of big data. We are constantly in quest of more numbers and more complex algorithms to crunch them. We seem to believe that this will solve most of the world’s problems – in economy, society and even our personal lives. As a corollary, rules of thumb and gut instincts are getting a short shrift. We think they often violate the principles of logic and lead us into making bad decisions. We might have had to depend on heuristics and our gut feelings in agricultural and manufacturing era. But this is digital age. We can optimise everything.
Gerd Gigerenzer [above], a sixty nine year German psychologist who has been studying how humans make decisions for most of his career, doesn’t think so. In the real world, rules of thumb not only work well, they also perform better than complex models, he says. We shouldn’t turn our noses up on heuristics, we should embrace them…
Why simple rules of thumb often outperform complex models: “Gigerenzer’s simple rules.”
* John Gardner
As we extrapolate, we might spare a thought for Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas de Caritat, Marquis of Condorcet; he died on this date in 1794. A philosopher, mathematician, and early political scientist, he was a rationalist (and biographer of Voltaire) who advocated a liberal economy, free and equal public instruction, constitutionalism, and equal rights for women and people of all races. He was a formulator of the Enlightenment ideas of progress and of the indefinite perfectibility of humankind. And with his wife (and intellectual partner) Sophie de Grouchy, he hosted a salon that attracted foreign dignitaries and intellectuals including Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and Cesare Beccaria. But he may be best remembered for the Condorcet method of voting, in which the tally selects the candidate who would beat each of the other candidates in a run-off election.
This Nov. 8, even if you manage to be registered in time and have the right identification, there is something else that could stop you from exercising your right to vote.
The ballot. Specifically, the ballot’s design.
Bad ballot design gained national attention almost 16 years ago when Americans became unwilling experts in butterflies and chads. The now-infamous Palm Beach County butterfly ballot, which interlaced candidate names along a central column of punch holes, was so confusing that many voters accidentally voted for Patrick Buchanan instead of Al Gore.
We’ve made some progress since then, but we still likely lose hundreds of thousands of votes every election year due to poor ballot design and instructions. In 2008 and 2010 alone, almost half a million people did not have their votes counted due to mistakes filling out the ballot. Bad ballot design also contributes to long lines on election day. And the effects are not the same for all people: the disenfranchised are disproportionately poor, minority, elderly and disabled…
More– with some encouraging examples of remedies– at “Disenfranchised by Bad Design.”
As we pull the lever, we might spare a thought for Rex Todhunter Stout; he died on this date in 1975. A writer of detective fiction, he created master sleuth Nero Wolfe and his assistant Archie Goodwin, who were featured in 33 novels and 39 novellas between 1934 and 1975– earning Stout the Mystery Writers of America’s Grand Master Award.
But as importantly, Stout had a vital career as a public intellectual and activist: he was active in the early years of the American Civil Liberties Union and a founder of the Vanguard Press. He served as head of the Writers’ War Board during World War II, became a radio celebrity, and was active in promoting world federalism, and was the long-time president of the Authors Guild.