Voting Paradox

Around this time of the election cycle, we hear a lot about the importance of voting and how every vote counts. However, very little is said about the paradoxes that can make individual votes meaningless – especially with the introduction of a third party. The Exploratorium (A museum that I can’t wait to take my kids to) put together this excellent video that explores the paradox’s involved in voting.


It goes over ideas such as The Spoiler Effect (think Ralph Nader), Ranked Voting, Cyclic Preferences, Elimination Voting and Failure Of Moniticity.

The end of the video touches on Kenneth Arrow mathematically proving that no decision mechanism can eliminate all of these types of paradoxes. Basically, there is no method for constructing social preferences from arbitrary individual preferences without suffering from a known paradox. We can tamp down some paradoxes but only at the cost of creating others (or eliminating democracy altogether).

Wikipedia has an excellent table showing the voting system criteria used in each of the single-winner systems.

That all being said: Remember to go out and vote!

Lowest Discrete Auction

Lowest Discrete Auction

After months of playing, I’m finally winning at Lowest Discrete Auction. The game works sort of like a reverse auction where you attempt guess what you think is the lowest distinct number out of all the players (currently there are 232 players). Creator Nick Berry describes describes the rules like this:

At the end of every day Multiple times a day (currently four scheduled, and some ad-hoc), out of all entries, the lowest distinct number is selected as the winner. When a new competition starts, all previous entries are automatically re-entered. If you win auction, others might guess the same number as you on later auctions, duplicating you and invalidating your low distinct status. Similarly, players who guess lower than you and have been blocked out, might move into the winning position by another player changing their guesses!