[Election-Methods] utility theory lesson for a very confused rob brown

CLAY SHENTRUP clay at electopia.org
Wed Jan 2 17:30:14 PST 2008

rob brown writes:

So...lets see....I want to quantify this. Since you are saying net
utilities are numerical values, and that it might make sense to say "I
like A ten percent more than B"....what exactly does that 10 percent

I imagine your calculations must be measuring the quantities of
seratonin or dopamine in their brains or something? Because if not,
whether it is linear or logarithmic is not quantifiable, nor
is their baseline. It's like saying one day is 10% hotter than
another day. No makie sense.

but say that i tell you something about 3 temperatures, X, Y, and Z,
such as:
(X-Y)/(Y-Z) = 1.1

in other words, the difference between temperature X and Y is 10% more
than the difference between Y and Z.

and if you look at the utility efficiency numbers at
you'll see that we have scaled everything relative to X and Y, where X
is "social utility maximizer" and Y is "expected result from random
non-democratic selection".

* * * this was all explained in links that i have sent to you dozens of
times, like the one above.

and it doesn't really matter which neurotransmitters are responsible
for utility, or how it works internally. the point is that we know it
exists. a very simple economic concept called "revealed preference"
demonstrates this. it works like this.

say you prefer apples to oranges to bananas. i give you a guarantee
of having to eat an orange, or a 50/50 chance of having to eat an
apple or a banana. if utility_apple-utility_orange is less than
utility_orange-utility_banana, then you'll choose the orange - because
you like it more than the average of the other two fruits. but say we
change those odds to 60/40. well, then you have to ask whether orange-
banana is at least 60% as much as apple-banana. if so, stick with
orange, otherwise take the gamble.

by offering you enough different options, we can force you to reveal
your true magnitude of preference (unless you get more utility out of
lying to us about your preference than you do out of the fruit
outcome, but that is obviously besides the point).

so it's clear that utility exists, and has levels of intensity that
are empirical reality. regardless of what brain activity is behind it
all, you arrive at your relative estimation of the values of different
outcomes. we don't need to understand neurology to study it's effect.

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