Technically Exists

Cooperation in the one-shot prisoner's dilemma


One of the most important scenarios in game theory is the prisoner’s dilemma. In this scenario, two criminals are arrested after working together. The police don’t have enough evidence to get the criminals convicted of every charge, but there is a charge for which they do have enough evidence to get a conviction. Thus, the police decide to offer the prisoners a choice. They can either confess to their crimes or remain silent. If both confess, they each receive 2 years in jail. If one confesses and one remains silent, the confessor receives no jail time and the silent prisoner receives 3 years in jail. If both prisoners remain silent, they each receive 1 year in jail. You can see this displayed in the table below.

Prisoner B remains silent Prisoner B confesses
Prisoner A remains silent A: 1 year
B: 1 year
A: 3 years
B: 0 years
Prisoner A confesses A: 0 years
B: 3 years
A: 2 years
B: 2 years

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Looking back


Over the past 7 years I’ve written 39 posts on this blog, not including this one. Some of them I’m really proud of. Others, not so much. I figured it might be nice to give readers some insight into how I view my previous work, so I’ve split my posts into three categories, along with a brief justification for each post’s categorization.

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An apology


I’m writing this post today to apologize for my past behavior. Ever since this blog existed, I’ve published an April Fools’ Day post each year about some topic or other that wasn’t meant to be taken seriously. However, it has been brought to my attention that not only do these posts fail to be humorous, they also degrade the seriousness of both the topics they cover and the blogosphere as a whole, in a way that can be quite dangerous.

Take, for example, On normative ethical theories. This post touches on a very serious philosophical topic, but its content is one gag applied repeatedly to different ethical theories to supposedly convert them into the dangerous position known as utilitarianism. In reality, this gag effectively ignored all but one aspect of these ethical theories in order to hide their obvious superiority behind silly revisions, thus promoting the insidious utilitarian position in their place.

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Why I like STAR voting: winner selection


This blog post is the fourth in a series of posts about STAR voting. If you haven’t read the previous entries, I recommend you start with the first entry before reading this one.

Previously I explained the importance of pre-election polls and the advantages that STAR polls have over other types of polls. I mentioned at the end that many of the properties that make STAR a good method for polling also make it a good method for choosing winners, and in this post I will justify the claim that STAR voting picks good winners. But first, we’ll have to discuss what it even means for a winner to be good in the context of single-winner elections. There are two major schools of thought on this, majoritarianism and utilitarianism, and I will start with the former.

Majoritarianism says that a candidate is good if they are preferred by over half of the voters, i.e. if they have majority support. This sounds pretty straightforward until you consider just what it means to be supported by a voter. Does being supported mean being that voter’s first choice? If so, then it’s impossible to guarantee a majority winner, and most competitive elections with more than two candidates—the elections where the choice of voting method matters most—won’t have a majority winner. Thus, most majoritarians turn to the notion of a pairwise majority instead.

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Why I like STAR voting: BRANDING


I’ve discussed how STAR voting is simple, how its ballot design is superb, and how it leads to better pre-election polling. But in this post I will cover what is by far the most important aspect of this bright idea: BRANDING.

Once upon a time, there was a voting method called score-runoff voting. It was a pretty good voting method, all things considered. It produced very accurate results when tested, and its hybrid nature seemed like it might have the potential to unite the voting reform movement behind it. But there was one major problem: its name sucked.

To be fair, this is true for most voting methods. But it doesn’t have to be. Using the revolutionary technique of BRANDING, the uninspiring score-runoff voting method became the illustrious STAR voting method that you know and love. BRANDING stands for Beguiling Relatable Advertisement Notably Demands Increases in Noticed Greatness, and that’s exactly how it works. The name of the voting method itself becomes a persuasive advertisement that relates the method to the great things that voters already know about, and in doing so, it highlights those positive traits and focuses the attention on them.

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