Discussion article for the meetup : Group Decision Making (the good, the bad, and the confusion of welfare economics)

WHEN: 08 May 2013 07:00:00PM (-0700)

WHERE: West Los Angeles (At the Westside Tavern Upstair Wine Bar)

Where: The Westside Tavern in the upstairs Wine Bar (all ages welcome), located inside the Westside Pavillion on the second floor, right by the movie theaters. The entrance sign says "Lounge".

Parking is free for 3 hours

Or you can take a Public Transit! A Trip Planner can be found here: http://socaltransport.org/tm_pub_start.php <- So you can try to avoid multiple hour trips! (We appreciate your attendance despite length of commute!)

We will hang out for 30 minutes or so, then I'll spend 10-15 minutes presenting: Group decision making. AKA Why voting can be a stupid way to make utility decisions, AKA Adding utility between people is stupid, this is an ordinal scale AKA Didn't Arrow win a Nobel prize for telling you people to stop?

Then we'll talk about what math and economics can say about making collective decisions in a way that isn't ill defined, and continue a hopefully interesting discussion. (Bonus points if it leads to a publishable idea for me!)

This will be a great break for me from... writing papers and taking tests about the same subject.

No foreknowledge or exposure to Less Wrong is necessary; this will be generally accessible and useful to anyone who values thinking for themselves. That said, it might help to read http://lesswrong.com/lw/ggm/pinpointing_utility/ so we can avoid type errors and radiation poisoning while we talk. (Not real radiation poisoning!)

Discussion article for the meetup : Group Decision Making (the good, the bad, and the confusion of welfare economics)

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7 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 12:59 AM

Have you got anything (blog posts) up already about what you are doing? I'm slowly making a website about alternative ways for groups to decide who makes the decisions and would like to include it. My own first stab is control markets, but I am very interested in others!

That's intersting; I'm approaching it from the perspective of welfare economics, not computer science, but the approaches you are describing sound promising. I'll need to look into them more. The problem is that there is a wide gulf between making decisions and delegating someone to do so.

My view is that if we have no metric for assessing whether a decision is good, it's hard to talk about making good decisions. We need coherent metrics, and partial orderings like pareto are only useful when we constrain the decision models to fit what our math can handle! (Instead of handling whatever portions of reality we can using our math, and admitting that the world is more complex than we can currently model.)

Just reading up on welfare economics a bit, so apologies if I say anything incorrect. I have a lot to read up on!

The problem is that there is a wide gulf between making decisions and delegating someone to do so.

True. My approach does rely on delegating decisions to actors. The open question in my mind is if we can create systems such that actors are encouraged to make good decisions or adopt good decision making processes*.

From my point of view some form of welfare economics (or decision markets) may be one of the processes that actor would be have incentives to adopt. But it may well be able to stand on its own two feet.

*And decision processes would be evaluated by a general situation rather than specific decisions.

At the moment I would ideally sum normalised deltas in utility of a situation for an agent. But that is the weakest part of the system, it is open to manipulation somewhat.

The problem with electing (human) agents is that you suddenly have principle-agent problems. Their priorities change if they gain status from being selected, whether it's because they want to be re-selected, or because their time in power is limited, or because it is unlimited. If they don't gain anything by being selected, you are likely to have no incentive for them to invest in making optimal decisions.

Even if this is untrue, you need to project their decisions, typically by assuming you know something about their utility; if this projection is mis-specified even a bit, the difference can be catastrophic; their utility also may not be stationary. So their are some issues there, but they are interesting ones.

Thanks! I suspected there was terminology for the principle-agent problem, but didn't know what to google.

Agreed upon it being a big issue. I suppose I am interested in whether we can ameliorate them, so that there are fewer of the issues, rather than eliminate them entirely.

I'll keep an eye out for any follow ups you do to this meetup.

Oh, no wonder no one else was there. It's May 8, not May 1.

It's times like this where I wish there was a consistently updated dump of meetup summaries available for global use to all meetup organizers at the very least.