Consensus Presentation 12-16-2011
Lee Worden will give a talk titled:
- One large pizza, mushrooms and half pepperoni: investigating the dynamics of consensus decision making
- This year's "Occupy" movement is most visibly focused on gathering in public spaces and calling attention to economic injustices, but like its predecessors in Spain and Greece, it is also fundamentally concerned with the direct practice of democracy, using and developing innovative practices to facilitate fair and inclusive collective decision making. In the optimistic, exploratory spirit of this moment of possibility, I am working to develop quantitative, schematic models of consensus decision making processes. I will give an early-stage report on the project, outlining some conceptual frameworks, questions, and possibilities.
on this Friday (16 Dec) at 10:30 AM in Hamilton Hall room 410 [at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada - lw].
Here is the presentation slides:
And at the first slide (regarding the SciFund project) I pause and show the video I made for that project.
Useful comments from the audience
- Look at behavioral psych, other ideas of what people are likely to do. People have heuristics about fairness, responds differently in different framings, etc.
- People may not like "if worse and not acceptable" in practice, because they may refuse to go along with something that's acceptable but worse, fearing a slippery slope in which others slip towards something that's worse and not acceptable.
- The 3-topping pizza is not a hypercube, it's just a cube.
- Look for percolation threshold in the space of acceptable proposals?
- Look into my friend Todd Parsons's work on modeling search on evolutionary fitness landscapes by drawing each new point independently. Potentially very simple and powerful.
There was some confusion from the announcement about whether actual pizza would be served at the event. It was not, but we took the opportunity to deliberate together about going out for pizza afterward. There was a vegan in the crowd, and general agreement that you can't get adequate vegan pizza in the neighborhood, so we went to a place that has hummus, garden burgers, chicken sandwiches, etc. The process was pretty distributed, though with locals playing a special role since they know what the local restaurants are.
- Show the video
- Consensus as practiced
- seems similar to Robert's Rules with the difference of seeking full consensus vs. blocks rather than majority vote. But emphasis is on process - ideally seek to develop common cause that satisfies everyone rather than debate and win.
- Proposal; concerns; friendly amendments; blocks
- Model framework
- There is a search space. Each location in the search space is a proposal. Each individual rates a given proposal, using positive and negative numbers. The problem is how to find a proposal that satisfies everyone, if there is one. A problem of process. How to find, not how to vote.
- My early models
- Boolean search space
- Fitness functions
- Structure of landscapes; correlation between; group size; complexity
- Mention Levin/Kauffman, Page
- Mapping processes to outcomes
- facilitation strategy
- proposal strategy
- block strategy
- Pizza exercise
- we used what I later learned is the classic, no-frills role-play for consensus trainings where you don't have that much time: twelve people ordering a pizza. If you have time, you can add all sorts of complications: various participants are secretly handed scraps of paper informing them they are passionately fond of anchovies, they're vegans, and so on. The task is to see if the person named facilitator can overcome these difficulties in a fairly short period of time-in this case, two minutes, which was slightly ridiculous.
- Ways people do it
- Centralized assessment
- Interactive negotiation
- Structure of the problem
- planes, concerns
- linear vs epistatic pizza topping
- strategy? get your proposal out first?
More from Graeber:
- During my first year in DAN, I spent a lot of time trying to understand what this "spirit of consensus" was really all about. It was clearly not just about decision making. It wasn't even just about conduct during meetings. It was more an attempt-inspired by reflections on the structure and flow of meetings-to begin to reimagine how people can live together, to begin-however slowly, however painfully-to construct a genuinely democratic way of life. The perennial example of ordering a pizza (I can't tell you how many times I've seen that one used in trainings) could be seen, in its own way, as an accusation directed at the very heart of America's claims to be a democratic society. How often does the average American actually sit down, even with a group of four or five people, and try to make a collective decision in which all have equal say? True, children often do it while playing. But, for adults, the experience of democracy is largely limited to decisions involving food, or maybe movies. For the college-aged, it probably does, indeed, happen most often when ordering a pizza; for older people, mainly when choosing restaurants.