Consensus Dynamics Project

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This is a mathematical modeling project, looking at the problem of how a group of people makes a decision together when participants may disagree about what is desirable. This project is about making idealizations of that situation, looking at it as a dynamic process, and investigating via models what strategies for reaching an agreeable solution might be more and less effective.

Here and here are more detailed descriptions of the project.

News from the consensus research project

  • I wrote down the basic model structure, with a group of people searching together in a space of possible solutions to a problem, in January 2010.
  • I created these public wiki pages and did the first simulation experiments in June 2011:
    • A baseline experiment, confirming that a "group" of only one person is able to come up with a proposal that's better for that person than the obvious alternatives.
    • A nontrivial experiment in which people offer "friendly amendments" to one other's proposals, until either no one has blocking concerns or no one can think of anything to add. These experiments assume very rugged "fitness landscapes" (no similarity between closely related proposals) and very diverse groups (different people's preferences have nothing in common), and a rudimentary process in which people are opaque about how they arrive at their proposals. Here larger groups get stuck, because more people means less chance of everyone agreeing. More degrees of freedom seems to help.
  • March 20, 2012: slow process, nogoods, disruption: Further notes on changing preferences and structural inequalities, and reflections on the local Occupy organizations.
  • August 22, 2012: I present my progress on this project at Google.


To keep track of updates in this project but not in the rest of the wiki, you can use the recent changes in category "Consensus" (rss). There is also the "consensus" category at my lab notebook website, and various other ways to follow things including twitter, facebook, etc.