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I joined the EA Forum in 2022, with a post describing my interests and agenda. I also declared in my first comment that in my view, among the main existential risk bottlenecks for this Dangerous Century, a critical one is institutional stagnation. E.O Wilson famously said: "The real problem of humanity is the following: we have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions, and god-like technology". 

Regarding the Paleolithic emotions, and godlike technology I have nothing to contribute, but regarding the medieval institutions I think I can make some modest contributions. 

Here are two of them, very likely my most important scientific contributions so far: the first is an already published journal article, the second, a new pre-print (please, feel free to make suggestions for improvement). 

Storable Votes with a Pay as You Win mechanism


This article (“Storable Votes with a Pay as You Win mechanism” [Journal of Economic Interaction and Coordination, pre-print here for access after the expiry of ShareLink]) presents a dynamic voting mechanism on multiple alternatives (Storable Votes-Pay as You Win [SV-PAYW]). 

At the beginning, all agents are given an equal number of (infinitely divisible) storable votes. The agents say how many votes they are willing “to pay” for each of the possible alternatives and the most voted alternative wins the election. Then, the votes that have been committed to the winning alternative are deducted from each player's account, and are equally redistributed among all participants, and a new voting period begins.

The system reduces the incentives for strategic voting: agents do not stop signaling their interest in alternatives with little probability of victory (if it does not win, you do not pay votes), and it solves the problem of minority disenfranchisement: the more elections a subject loses, the more power future electoral power she accumulated. The article uses exact computational methods (GAMBIT is used for backward induction). The simulations indicate that the PAYW part improves a fixed number of votes version of the Storable Votes  

SV-PAYW shall be considered as a natural alternative to Quadratic Voting for its use in distributed governance systems (vg. to implement the democratic reforms proposed in “Radical Markets”). In my view is equally simple, and the avoidance of strategic behavior is likely to be more complete. Additionally, the sock puppet problem does not exist in SV-PAYW, because the system is linear and “dividing” votes to more electors does not affect electoral power.


The ideal political workflow

In addition to this technical article, I have written this other, much shorter one, about the integration of “preferences” and “knowledge” in governance systems. 

The ideal political workflow

This philosophical article was the inspiration to work in voting systems. The main idea was that a political system is not legitimate because of the consent of the governed, but because of the welfare of the governed. A political system for me was a mechanism that collected information about preferences and facts and turned them into decisions.  I already commented that idea in non-technical fashion in the EA Forum in the post “No Room for Political Philosophy”.

Holistic visions of democracy expect people to make meaningful opinions on public issues and considers that decision receiving more than half of popular support are legitimate. But the number of decisions is enormous, popular policies are often infeasible and the portfolio of policies that people would take on an issue-by-issue basis would be probably grossly incompatible (sequential voting is not known to have good properties). 

On the other hand, if we were able to provide the voter with the set of possible states of nature, they could simply pick the best “state of the world” and at least in formal terms the exercise would be consistent. 

My first idea was that voting in the space of possible states of the world would be simply finding some maximum given the utility functions revealed by the participants. But it is obvious that players voting in a large space would try to assess the two points with a maximum probability of being voted by the others, and pick the preferred between those two. This lead me into looking for multi-alternative voting systems, and to the road that lead to SV-PAYW.





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This is an interesting paper Arturo. I particularly like the way that I'm thinking needs to be a Vickrey auction to have any chance of being fair and then I get to page two of the paper and you've considered this option and are formally modelling it as a variant!

But from what I can see this has the same vulnerability as other stored vote systems in that it's relatively easy to manipulate the outcome of a vote if you can influence other votes that are held [first], with the Vickrey auction significantly reducing but not entirely eliminating the effect.

Say, for example, a farming lobby are worried that animal-rights activists might use their extra votes to vote against a subsidy for the farming industry, which the animal rights activists feel quite strongly will have a bad impact on animal welfare.

A simple way to manipulate the outcome is to ensure that there are also one or more proposals to allow things animal-rights activists feel even more strongly are bad for animal welfare to be voted on, like repealing existing animal protection legislation. Animal rights activists use their extra votes on this proposal (and the farmers don't), so the farmers have a big vote advantage when it comes to the subsidy bill even if they were originally outnumbered (for simplicity, I assume everybody else doesn't care to vote on either of those issues)

The intensity of animal rights activists' preferences about the farming bill haven't changed at all (and nor has the farmers' or average person's) but the fact that some stuff they intensely dislike was put on the agenda means a completely different outcome. 

This might never happen within a high trust organization or where rules limit what can be voted on, but in real world contested political environments it's often very different

In fact, this system might be a little more vulnerable to this behaviour than the original Stored Vote variant. In the original Stored Vote animal rights activists might (correctly) predict that farmers won't want to waste their votes on proposals about hunting or pet mistreatment, and save most of their votes to vote against the farmers on the subsidy. But under this system, farmers can credibly commit to using some of their vote budget on anti-animal spoiler bills, knowing that they'll get votes back (provided they lose, as expected) and the animal rights activists won't. 

The Vickrey auction system reduces that impact because animal rights activists can afford to use all their votes defending against stupid spoiler proposals and get most of them back when hardly anybody votes the other side, but anyone with the ability to influence what votes are held when can still ensure a particular voting bloc eventually runs out of the ability to defend against future proposals.    

The agenda setting problem in my view is imposible to solve. Read the second paper (the ssrn pre print “the ideal political workflow”.

As long as voting in arbitrary “words” spaces is allowed, all our mathematical models are simply treading water.

My opinion on SV-PAYW, is that as a voting system is more or less as good as anything can be. But the structuring of voting spaces is more important than the voting system.

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