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Thread: Let Computers Do The Voting

  1. #1
    MagicNakor's Avatar On the Peripheral
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    By Andy Jordan, Tech Live

    Face it, you're more concerned with who was voted off the latest reality television island than where California governor wanna-be Arnold Schwarzenegger stands on health care.


    A futurist at a pioneering new technology school in Italy has come up with a technological solution that could help you weed through all the political issues without picking up a newspaper, visiting a website, or even, someday, stepping into a voting booth.


    Tonight on "Tech Live," meet this forward thinker who, despite having something potentially revolutionary on his hands, isn't even recommending the program he's developed.


    Democracy's digital downfall?


    Jason Tester, 25, has spent the last two years in the foothills of the Italian Alps in a small town called Ivrea. He's been looking into American democracy. The Interaction Design Institute Ivera is a very new school, built to develop new products and services. One of its first big thinkers, Tester, was a Stanford-educated American worried about where his country's democracy is headed.


    "People are used to technology in their voting now. I just wanted to see what happened when you take that further," he says. He admits he's worried about the trend toward touch-screen voting machines and other technology-enhanced voting mechanisms.


    You might call him the George Orwell of voting technology, since Tester has been playing devil's advocate with his own philosophy. He built a prototype for what he thinks could be the future of voting: an agent that mines your online and other computer habits to extract a political ideology, and then makes voting recommendations and votes for you.


    He calls it "Constituty," and it could act as a sort of McVoting for the masses. No knowledge of politics required. Indeed, no knowledge of candidates required, either.


    Voting guilt trip


    Tester flirts with worse-case scenarios in laying out his theory for future voting.


    "I think the service, if it existed, would try to play upon the guilt people feel for not voting," he says.


    Constituty would look at the webpages you surf, your online bank account, and even keywords and emoticons in your instant messages. If it spotted the words "smogday" next to "environment" and a frowning emoticon, for instance, it would conclude that you care about the environment.


    Tester says customizing software is paving the way for a real Constituty.


    "There are bits and pieces of customizing and profiling software out there, just nothing's been applied to voting," he says. "It's the last sacred space."


    Elaborate, frightening theories


    Tester has started a website, AcceleratedDemocracy, to create a forum on the future of technology, voting, and democracy. The site graphically features Tester's entire theory of future voting, when Constituty can be bought off store shelves and will work like the old Microsoft "Clippy" application helper.


    In the scenario laid out on the site, Constituty recommends candidates for the user and then offers to place a vote, whether or not the user asks for more information on how Constituty arrived at its decision.


    Tester's theory is elaborate, but, frighteningly enough, not totally absurd. In another scenario, location-based voting demands a voter spend time in the woods in order to vote on a ballot measure to save a certain park.


    In "Exercise Your Vote," voting power is given only to those who are informed on candidates or issues, and rewards them with political payback after votes are cast via cellphone or PDA, or even at ATM-like voter kiosks.


    Finally, as Tester sees it, voters could track candidates' performance on how well they fulfill, or fail, on campaign promises.


    Progressive, but not outrageous


    But Stanford computer science professor David Dill isn't convinced the technology is ready, or will be anytime soon.


    "I hope he's wrong about that being a likely scenario," Dill scoffs.


    Noting that technological innovations happen over time and are usually modeled after the previous technology, Dill does acknowledge that Tester's idea is nothing but progressive.


    "A computer program that decides how you should vote and votes for you is definitely a radical innovation," Dill says.


    Dill started his own website, VerifiedVoting.org, to rally support for the idea of building a type of paper receipt or other type of verification from computer-tallied voting. As his website says, the goal is to avoid voting debacles like the 2000 presidential election, and electronic voting isn't the answer, yet.


    Needless to say, Dill isn't too psyched on Tester's prediction for the future.


    "To have a computer program try to guess how you're going to vote when who knows what kind of logic it's using, and who programmed that agent, is well beyond anything I would consider acceptable," Dill says.


    So why did Tester do it?


    A cautionary tale, perhaps. He considers where we're headed is "the downfall of democracy -- one-click voting when you barely know who you're voting for."
    Rather frightening, I think.

    things are quiet until hitler decides he'd like to invade russia
    so, he does
    the russians are like "OMG WTF D00DZ, STOP TKING"
    and the germans are still like "omg ph34r n00bz"
    the russians fall back, all the way to moscow
    and then they all begin h4xing, which brings on the russian winter
    the germans are like "wtf, h4x"
    -- WW2 for the l33t

  2. The Drawing Room   -   #2
    j2k4's Avatar en(un)lightened
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    Indeed.
    “Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of 'em are stupider than that.” -George Carlin

  3. The Drawing Room   -   #3
    kAb's Avatar Poster
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    sounds even easier for fraud to happen with this system.

  4. The Drawing Room   -   #4
    lynx's Avatar .
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    if computers picked politicians who then didn't follow up on their promises, I wonder if the computers would do any better at picking the next lot of politicians. We humans don't seem to do a very good job of it.
    .
    Political correctness is based on the principle that it's possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.

  5. The Drawing Room   -   #5
    Barbarossa's Avatar mostly harmless
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    Originally posted by lynx@21 August 2003 - 16:32
    if computers picked politicians who then didn't follow up on their promises, I wonder if the computers would do any better at picking the next lot of politicians. We humans don't seem to do a very good job of it.
    Politicians should be given a feedback rating like in EBay.

    That would be excellent!

  6. The Drawing Room   -   #6
    j2k4's Avatar en(un)lightened
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    Originally posted by barbarossa+21 August 2003 - 11:35--></div><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (barbarossa @ 21 August 2003 - 11:35)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'> <!--QuoteBegin-lynx@21 August 2003 - 16:32
    if computers picked politicians who then didn't follow up on their promises, I wonder if the computers would do any better at picking the next lot of politicians. We humans don't seem to do a very good job of it.
    Politicians should be given a feedback rating like in EBay.

    That would be excellent! [/b][/quote]
    We do have a feedback system, Barbarossa-

    the next election.

    Too bad we muster ourselves so rarely to use it.

    On a lighter but still relevant note, the situation in California is a beautiful exercise in the democratic process, and the agony of the entrenched political bureaucracy (read: Gray Davis) in the face of the people's outrage is heartening and deeply satisfying.


    Edit:FX
    Last edited by Barbarossa; 04-02-2007 at 04:29 PM.
    “Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of 'em are stupider than that.” -George Carlin

  7. The Drawing Room   -   #7
    Barbarossa's Avatar mostly harmless
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    Originally posted by j2k4@21 August 2003 - 19:56

    the next election.

    Elections are too anonymous and too impersonal.

    I&#39;ll never forget before the last general election here Blair was doing the rounds, and he went to a hospital in Birmingham, and some woman really laid into him for about 20 minutes about how he&#39;d not kept any of his election promises after the last election, and let everyone down who voted for him.

    He looked really uncomfortable, but couldn&#39;t get out of it because all the cameras were there on him and all the press, so he had to stand and take it, and had no answers at all.

    It was wicked&#33;

  8. The Drawing Room   -   #8
    j2k4's Avatar en(un)lightened
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    Originally posted by barbarossa@22 August 2003 - 08:37
    I'll never forget before the last general election here Blair was doing the rounds, and he went to a hospital in Birmingham, and some woman really laid into him for about 20 minutes about how he'd not kept any of his election promises after the last election, and let everyone down who voted for him.

    He looked really uncomfortable, but couldn't get out of it because all the cameras were there on him and all the press, so he had to stand and take it, and had no answers at all.

    It was wicked!
    I think any of us political junkies get a big kick out of that type of thing; they seem to spend so much time insulating themselves from us-they need reminding, as often as possible, whence they came and who put them there.

    Nobody ever died from a come-uppance.
    Last edited by Barbarossa; 04-02-2007 at 04:29 PM.
    “Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of 'em are stupider than that.” -George Carlin

  9. The Drawing Room   -   #9
    Illuminati's Avatar Simple Bystander BT Rep: +7BT Rep +7
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    Although it has several social (i.e. a computer deciding who gets your vote) and technological issues, it is a good theory and definitely original in how far it&#39;s gone.

    Let&#39;s just hope that Microsoft don&#39;t end up developing it


  10. The Drawing Room   -   #10
    j2k4's Avatar en(un)lightened
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    Yes-

    It may appear speculative and harmless at first blush, but I suspect this is the type of thing we ignore at our peril.
    “Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of 'em are stupider than that.” -George Carlin

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