[MG] Voting XOR Communicative Action

Ned Conner npconner at earthlink.net
Mon Jun 24 16:57:31 EDT 2013


Hi Stephen,

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    Stephen> With "communicative action"....at all scales....are we
    talking when EVERYONE agrees....or some other measure?

We are talking ... when everyone *who wishes to participate in making 
that particular decision* agrees. (The number that choose to participate 
has no effect on the outcome.) Given the incentives that exist in the 
"democracy through communicative action" paradigm, individual decision 
processes will probably seldom involve more that a few dozen 
participants. There can in addition be any number of lurkers that just 
watch. Lurkers can choose to participate at any time. (Right now there 
are probably dozens of lurkers watching this decision process involving 
you and I, who could jump in at any point, as equals.)

Globally, tens of millions of decisions are made each year that have 
effects that reach beyond those who actually participate in making the 
decision. (For example, various decisions that have been made behind 
closed doors in the boardrooms of corporations such as Monsanto, 
Raytheon, and Pfizer have had amazingly far-reaching effects.) My dream 
is that all such decisions be made publicly and democratically, which 
will require a decision system that can handle tens of millions of 
proposals per year.

Any particular individual can only participate in making a few thousand 
of those tens of millions of decisions. (Run the numbers: 1 hour per 
decision, 10 hours per day, 300 workdays per year -- that's 3000 
decisions per year.)

(Run the numbers another way: 6 minutes per decision per person, $10 per 
hour living wage cost of time, 7 billion participants -- that's a $7 
billion cost for one decision, and the quality of the decision will be 
that which 6 minutes of study produces. How many such costly, 
superficial decisions can we afford?)

To realize the "democracy through communicative action" potential, four 
arrangements are crucial:

    * Anyone must be free to choose to participate in making any public
      decision.
    * There needs to be a way for each individual to register in advance
      to receive notification of proposals that meet selected criteria.
    * There needs to be professional profiling of each proposal
      submitted, to guarantee that the notification system actually does
      its job.
    * Already existing (settled) criteria must be professionally applied
      to each proposal submitted, to guarantee that the settled criteria
      are fully considered for each submitted proposal.

(For a more complete specification, see Blinap 
<http://www.wiser.org/article/740569be35a413f95a6ee2b555b8834f> )

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    Stephen> Can you imagine there could be "communicative action" and
    "voting" in the same process of awarding funding for projects?

 From the perspective of communicative action, voting creates a 
loophole, truncates the process, and wastes resources.


      LOOPHOLE

In communicative action, all reasons are public -- they are 
communicated. But the action of casting a vote is not a communicative 
action. The true motives of the voter are private, not public, and are 
given effect though the algorithms of an impersonal vote-counting 
system, rather than through their communication effects on other 
participants. This is the loophole.


      TRUNCATION

In communicative action, the process of arriving at a decision continues 
to the point that everyone is on board. (As an aside, there would be 
nothing to prevent a set of participants from recognizing "my gut says 
no" or "the vibe is off " as valid objections to be resolved -- the aim 
is to have everyone on board.) Voting truncates this process. The 
decision is made with valid objections still on the table, unresolved.


      WASTE

If it is known that the process can be truncated through voting, the aim 
of some will become simply to win through voting at the earliest 
possible opportunity, by any means; the aim of others will become to 
prevent that, by any means. Communicative action is displaced by 
competitive/strategic action.

The Competitive/strategic actions that attend decision making through 
voting waste resources in myriad ways (advertising costs, propaganda 
preparation costs, etc.). Communicative action without voting is much 
more efficient, besides having better vibes.

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    Stephen> Can you imagine the degree/amount of communicative action
    and the percentage of people involved in the process of developing a
    goal could be one of the *criteria* for deciding whether the project
    gets funding or not?

For now, I am drawing a blank on what "degree/amount of communicative 
action" could mean, but I will keep working on it.

If the only way to be involved is to say something, and if there were a 
criterion that required that at least a certain number "be involved", 
that would motivate "get out the say-anythingers" drives to pump up the 
number, which would just clutter the actual process.

However, attaching a "like button" to the project result would be 
entirely possible, and the count could be used as a criterion. But 
again, this would create the loophole. The reasons for liking would be 
private, rather than having their effect through being communicated.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

(Regarding terminology: I completely agree with you that "communicative 
action" is a much better term than "rational discourse". And also, 
proprietary philosophical terminology is a nightmare. If we use the 
term, we are sure to catch grief from philosophers. But that's OK -- I 
will just point out that it was your idea ... :-)

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Great questions!

------------------------------------------------------------------------


On 6/23/2013 5:38 PM, Stephen Coffman wrote:
> On Jun 23, 2013, at 12:04 PM, Ned Conner wrote:
>
>    
>>   ....communicative action succeeds insofar as the actors freely agree
>>   that their goal (or goals) is reasonable, that it merits cooperative
>>   behavior. Communicative action is thus an inherently consensual form
>>   of social coordination....    -- Stanford Encyclopedia of
>>    Philosophy: Habermas<http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/habermas/>
>>      
> I like the term "communicative action" much better than "rational discourse". Rational discourse sounds like something a bunch of old-white-male-philoshphy professors do for fun on a Friday night while sipping Sherry and smoking cigars.  Communicative action sounds grassroots....like one might even find blue collar men, single moms, and people of color engaging in it.  I say lets continue to engage in "communicative action".  :-)
>
> Questions:
>
> With "communicative action"....at all scales....are we talking when EVERYONE agrees....or some other measure?
>
> Can you imagine there could be "communicative action" and "voting" in the same process of awarding funding for projects?
>
> Can you imagine the degree/amount of communicative action and the percentage of people involved in the process of developing a goal could be one of the *criteria* for deciding whether the project gets funding or not?
>
>
>
>    
>> Hi Stephen,
>>
>> Rational discourse is an everyday thing. You and I, in this email exchange, are engaging in rational discourse. We are trying together to understand and agree upon which method of decision making would work best for us-the-network. In the end, we may reach that understanding and agreement. Or, we may reach a point where we see that further discourse (at least for now) will not take us toward understanding and agreement. At that point, we would table the discourse, always with the possibility of resuming it at a later time, as new insights and understandings and articulations occur to us as we go through life.
>>
>> The philosopher Jürgen Habermas is the big name in arguing that democracy and "communicative action" are a good match:
>>
>>    In strategic action, actors are not so much interested in mutual
>>    understanding as in achieving the individual goals they each bring
>>    to the situation. Actor /A/, for example, will thus appeal to /B/'s
>>    desires and fears so as to motivate the behavior on /B/'s part that
>>    is required for /A/'s success. As reasons motivating /B/'s
>>    cooperation, /B/'s desires and fears are only contingently related
>>    to /A/'s goals. /B/ cooperates with /A/, in other words, not because
>>    /B/ finds /A/'s project inherently interesting or worthy, but
>>    because of what /B/ gets out of the bargain: avoiding some threat
>>    that /A/ can make or obtaining something /A/ has promised (which may
>>    be of inherent interest to /B/ but for /A/ is only a means of
>>    motivating /B/).
>>
>>
>>    In communicative action, or what Habermas later came to call “strong
>>    communicative action” in “Some Further Clarifications of the Concept
>>    of Communicative Rationality” (1998b, chap. 7; German ed., 1999b),
>>    speakers coordinate their action and pursuit of individual (or
>>    joint) goals on the basis of a shared understanding that the goals
>>    are inherently reasonable or merit-worthy. Whereas strategic action
>>    succeeds insofar as the actors achieve their individual goals,
>>    communicative action succeeds insofar as the actors freely agree
>>    that their goal (or goals) is reasonable, that it merits cooperative
>>    behavior. Communicative action is thus an inherently consensual form
>>    of social coordination in which actors “mobilize the potential for
>>    rationality” given with ordinary language and its telos of
>>    rationally motivated agreement. -- Stanford Encyclopedia of
>>    Philosophy: Habermas<http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/habermas/>
>>
>> For those who agree that democracy and communicative action are a good match, choosing between voting and rational discourse as the better decision method becomes a question of deciding (or, preferably, observing) which of the two methods more reliably manifests communicative action.
>>
>> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>>
>>
>> On 6/23/2013 9:27 AM, Stephen Coffman wrote:
>>      
>>> On Jun 22, 2013, at 4:44 PM, Ned Conner wrote:
>>>
>>>
>>>        
>>>> So, just to make sure I understand: Your view is that it will be better for we-the-network to use voting rather than rational discourse as our method of decision making, because the voting method is more....
>>>>
>>>>          
>>>   I think I am the one who doesn't understand. It seems you may be pointing at something more specific in using the term "rational discourse" as a method of decision making?
>>>
>>>
>>>        
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>
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