The problem with "utility" (Re: [EM] Re: Election-methods Digest, Vol 15, Issue 1)

Abd ulRahman Lomax abd at
Fri Sep 2 12:17:36 PDT 2005

At 04:07 PM 9/1/2005, Rob Lanphier wrote:
>Range voting methods tend to give strategic advantage to those that are
>prone to hyperbole, i.e. those people that declare "candidates A, B, and
>C are PERFECT, while candidates D and E MIGHT AS WELL BE HITLER".  Your
>strategic incentive will be to give the absolute highest rank to those
>that you approve, and the absolute lowest rank to those that you don't.
>Not everyone will do that; just the people who deeply understand the
>system and those that are prone to hyperbole.
>I'd just as soon not favor a system that favors those prone to
>hyperbole.  That would do real damage to humanity.

This is the core problem with higher-granularity Range. It is very 
much avoided with granularity 2 range, i.e., Approval, and there are 
also other ways of avoiding it. But it is not avoided in the form of 
Range advocated by Mr. Smith.

I've made the same objection, I don't recall if it was here or on the 
RangeVoting list. My point in responding here is to underscore that 
this is not just *me* being stubborn, which is how Mr. Smith has 
attempted to describe the situation.

>On Thu, 2005-09-01 at 15:36 -0400, Warren Smith wrote:
> > >>--aha.  So by "median candidate" you do not mean what I thought you meant
> > >(namely, in an N-canddt election, the top-quality floor(N/2) are 
> above median)
> > >but rather median in the prior distribution of probabilities of winning.
> > >
> > >But wait, that would be even more insane, since the policy of
> > >voting only for the candidates with above-median prior election
> > >probability, would be a policy that would completely disregard the
> > >quality of the candidates.
> > >
> > My understanding of Weinstein's approval strategy is this:
> > "Approve your favourite (or equal favourites). If the remaining (so far
> > unapproved) candidates are on more
> > than one of your preference-levels, then approve the candidate/s on your
> > next-from-the-top  preference-level if
> > you consider that the probability that one of the candidates you prefer
> > less than this/these candidate/s  will win
> > is greater than the probability that one of the candidates you prefer
> > more will win.  And so on."
> >
> > This strategy seems sane to me, and probably right for voters who only
> > have a ranking.
> >
> > --aha.
> > Well in that case, return to my original example that started 
> this thread, namely
> > your choices in order of increasing  quality are
> > 1. Stalin
> > 2. Hitler
> > 3. Genghis Khan
> > 4. Jacques Chirac
> > and assume prior probabilities of (1/4, 1/4, 1/4, 1/4) of
> > the election of each.  Then by adopting the Heitzig/Weinstein
> > approval voting strategy, you vote for Genghis Khan and Chirac.
> >
> > By adopting the Smith Uitlity-based strategy, you vote for Chirac only.
> >
> > Excellent.  Now that we are all agreed about the underlying definitions,
> > we are ready to consider how much damage to humanity would be caused by
> > adoption of the Heitzig/Weinstein approval voting strategy
> > based on Heitzing denying the existence of "utility".   Well,
> > looks like humanity  gets 50% chance of massive euro-asia-spanning-war
> > and wholesale genocide, the HW way.  The Smith way, humanity gets 
> 0% chance of
> > that.  I wonder how many times it would be necessary to repeat 
> this experiment
> > before it dawns on Heitzig that there may actually exist such a 
> concept as utility,
> > and all those Bayesians and economists that have been using this 
> concept for the
> > last 100 years, may not have been doing it because they were all 
> completely insane
> > and believing in silly phantasms that do not really exist.
> >
> > Since I am not a believer in conducting unethical massive 
> experiments, I would be
> > happy to change the terms of the election to one which would only 
> affect Heitzig
> > and no other human beings.  For example, make 1,2,3 be various 
> extremely painful
> > forms of torture inflicted on Heitzig, and 4 be he gets $100.
> >
> >
> >
> > Utility is real, and if top decision makers fail to acknowledge 
> that fact, it results
> > in immense damage to humanity.  I am not making this up, I am not saying it
> > because I am "highly emotional".  I am simply stating a well 
> known fact that
> > has been well accepted for over 100 years.
> > Now my suggestion is that the rest of you simply accept this as 
> settled and obviously true.
> > It then will be possible to proceed from there to have a genuine 
> debate about voting methods.
> >
> > I am not going to debate voting methods with people who refuse to 
> accept probability theory,
> > believe that the sun revolves around the Earth, think Darwin is a 
> phantasm, etc.
> >
> > Warren Smith
> > ----
> > Election-methods mailing list - see for list info
>Election-methods mailing list - see for list info

More information about the Election-Methods mailing list