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Hack 73. Learn to Ride a Votercycle

Hack 73. Learn to Ride a Votercycle

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ofcourse).



VoteCycling

Thereareavarietyofwaysthatelectionscanbestructured.

Imaginethatanelectorate(suchastheresidentsofacity,

membersofaclub,orfacultyatauniversity)isaskedtovote

onapolicyandtherearethreechoices.Imagine,also,that

therearethreegroupsofsupportersthateachfavoroneofthe

threeoptionsovertheothers.Theelectioncouldaskpeopleto

votefortheirfavoritepolicy.Underthatsystem,thepolicy

favoredbythelargestgroupislikelytowinthemostvotes.

Thisseemsfair,andthisisthesystemwemostcommonlysee.

Anothersystemthatmakesgoodsense,too,atleastonthe

surface,wouldbetopresenteachpairofoptionsagainsteach

otherandhaveakindofrunoffelection,inwhichAiscompared

toB,BiscomparedtoC,andCiscomparedtoA.Thebiggest

votegetterinthissortofsystemshouldresultinanequallyfair

decision.Itturnsout,though,thatthistypeofsystem,called

votecycling,isdifficulttousefairlybecausetheorderinwhich

youpresenttheoptionscandeterminetheoutcomeofthe

election!



Votecyclinginelectionsworksinthesamewayashowyouput

togetherabasketballtournament:theorderinwhichthegames

occurredcouldaffectwhowinsthewholething.



HowItWorks

Here'sanexampleofhowvotecyclingcanwork.Imaginethat



yourscouttroophastodecidewhatcolortopainttheinsideof

thetroopclubhouse(orwhereverscoutsmeetthesedays).Asa

group,youwillbevotingforRed,White,orBlue.Different

political"groups"haveformedamongyourcolleagueswho

favordifferentcolorchoices.

TherearetheAppleswhopreferred,theElephantswhofavor

white,andtheJayhawkswholikebluebest.Thegroupsalso

differonwhichcolortheylikesecondbestandwhichcolorthey

likeleast.Table6-22showsthethreegroupsandtheirpolitical

agendas.

TablePaintingpreferenceandpolitics



Group



Percentageof

electorate



Apples

20percent

Elephants 40percent

Jayhawks 40percent



First

choice

Red

White

Blue



Second

choice

White

Blue

Red



Third

choice

Blue

Red

White



Todeterminethewillofthescouts,youcouldholdatwo-stage

election.Stageonepresentstwoalternatives.Thewinnerof

thatstagethen"competes"withthethirdalternativetopicka

winner.Thetwostagesandresultscouldlooklikethis:

1. RedorWhite?ReferringtoTable6-22,itislikelythatRed

wouldreceive60percentofthevote,knockingoutWhite.

Now,thewinnergoesupagainstBlue.

2. RedorBlue?Inthismatchup,Redreceives20percentof

thevoteandBluewinswithahuge80percent.

So,bluepaintmustbethewillofthepeople!Thisisa

paradoxicaloutcome,though,becauseonlyonegroup,

representing40percentofscouts,likedbluebest.Anequal

numberlikedwhitebest,andanother20percenthatedblue.



Theorderofdecisionmakingaffectedtheoutcome.Let'sdoit

againinadifferentorder:

1. RedorBlue?Bluewinswith80percentofthevote.

2. BlueorWhite?Whitewinsthismatchwith60percentofthe

vote.

Wehaveadifferentoutcomethanbefore,justbecauseofthe

orderofmatchups.Thisisfun;let'sdoitonemoretime.Maybe

wecanarrangeforredtowinthistime:

1. BlueorWhite?Whitewillget60percentofthevoteinthis

battleandsurvivetofaceoffwithRed.

2. WhiteorRed?Redwinsthisone,withamajorityof60

percent.Welldone,Red.Redclearlyisthefavoritecolor!

Threepotentialordersofmatchupsresultinthreecompletely

differentpolicydecisions.



GettingOfftheVotercycle

Ifwethinkofvotingsystemsasmeasurementsystems,this

matchupmethodofmakingdecisionshaslowvalidity.Thereis

informationthatcouldbegleanedfromthevotersthatisbeing

losthere.However,thereareacouplesolutionsthatcometo

mindtosolvetheproblemofvotecycling.

Ifthedesignersofthevotingsystemareinterestedintherankorderpreferencesofvoters,voterscouldbeaskedtorank-order

allcandidates.Thelowestmeanrankwins.Thisisafairer

methodthatusesalltheinformationavailable,butitcanleadto

choicesthatnooneisreallythrilledabout.



Forexample,suchasystemresultedinmyfamily'sinfamousdecision



togoseeHomeAloneasourChristmasEvemoviemanyyearsback.



Anothersolutionistomakeallcandidatesavailableforasingle

vote,withthemajoritywinning.Thisisthemostcommon

system,butitdoeshavethedisadvantageofsometimes

choosingcandidatesthathavenomajoritysupport.

Forelectionsinwhichtherearemanycandidates(insome

mayoralorgovernorelections,forexample),thereisoftena

runoffelectioninwhichthelargernumberofcandidatesis

whittleddowntoasmallernumber.Thisdoesn'thavethe

weaknessofvotecycling,becauseallalternativesare

consideredatthesametime.Italsoeliminatestheweaknessof

thesingle-trip-to-thepollsapproachbecauseitincreasesthe

likelihoodofawinningcandidatewithmajoritysupport.



Hack74.LiveLifeintheFastLane(You're

AlreadyIn)



Byapplyingthelawsofchance,knowledgeofhuman

nature,andsomefactsabouthighway-drivingbehavior,

youcanmakewiserlane-changingdecisions.

Nothingismorefrustratingthanbeingstuckinatrafficjam,

especiallywhentheothercarsaremovingfasterthanyou.

Whileitistemptingtochangetoafasterlane,itturnsoutthat

yourjudgmentmightbeflawedandtheotherlaneisprobably

notreallyanyfasterthanyours.

Decidingtochangelaneswhenyoushouldn'tisadangerous

proposition.Notonlyarethemajorityofcarcrashesdueto

drivererror,but300,000caraccidentseachyearintheU.S.

occurspecificallywhileadriverischanginglanes.Ofcourse,if

youareinahurryandthelanenexttoyouismovingmore

quickly,aslongasyoudososafely,whyshouldn'tasmart

drivermoveintothefastlanesoflife?Afterall,asI'vepatiently

explainedtocourtauthoritiesanumberoftimes,a"good"

driverisn'tnecessarilyasaferdriver;he'sjustadriverwho

getswherehewantstogoasquicklyaspossible.

Theproblemisthatrecentresearchinvolvingstatisticallybased

computersimulationssuggeststhatdriverswillusuallyjudge

anotherlaneismovingmorequicklythantheirs,evenifitis

actuallymovingatthesamespeed!Thismisperception,survey

researchshows,isenoughformostdriverstotrytochangeinto

thatotherlane.



Skips,Slips,andEpochs



Ourperceptualworldwhileonabusyhighwayorinatrafficjam

consistsofthebigtruckinfrontofus,thecarsweseetothe

rightandleftofus,andthepoorsapstuckbehindus.Tojudge

ourspeedoftravel,whilewedohaveaspeedometer,themost

compellingdatatendstobethecarsoneithersideofus.(Are

theypassingusorarewepassingthem?)

Trafficresearcherscallthetimeswhenyouarepassingother

carsskipsandthetimeswhenothercarsarepassingyouslips.

Recentresearchreferstoskipsaspassingepochsandslipsas

being-overtakenepochs.Itprobablydoesnotsurpriseyouthat

driversgreatlypreferpassingepochsoverbeing-overtaken

epochs.



Anepochisaperiodoftime.Drivers'liveswhiledrivinginheavytraffic

areessentiallydefinedbyseriesofepochsofveryshortduration.



Inadditiontolookingforfasterlanestomoveinto,drivershave

anothergoal,whichistokeeptheirownvehiclemovingas

quicklyaspossible,oratleastclosetotheirtargetspeed(which

mightbethespeedlimit,forexample).Ifthereareperceived

gapsbetweenthemselvesandthevehicleinfrontofthem,and

theyarenotcurrentlymovingattheirtargetspeed,driverswill

acceleratetoclosethegap.Itistheseburstsofacceleration

thataccountfortheskips(periodsofpassingothercars)and

slips(periodsofothercarspassingthem).Wearelikelyto

experiencemoreperiodsoftimewhenwearebeingpassed

thanperiodswhenwearedoingthepassing.Itisthisperceived

inequitythatcanresultindriversconcludingthattheyarein

theslowlane,evenifbothlanesareequallyslow.

Imaginetwolanesoftrafficsidebysidethataremovingatthe

sameaveragespeed.Gapsbetweencarsformrandomly;more

accurately,theyformsystematically,butbasedonarandom



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