Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Asymmetry in Choices

Kahneman and Tversky won a Nobel Prize in Economics for their work on human behaviour. They discovered that there are anomalies and contradictions in how we manage risks. They called their work "Prospect Theory" and showed how our choices change depending on how the risks and rewards are presented:
"A theory that people value gains and losses differently and, as such, will base decisions on perceived gains rather than perceived losses. Thus, if a person were given two equal choices, one expressed in terms of possible gains and the other in terms of loss, people would choose the former."
This highlights a problem with democracy (either Parliamentary or Interactive) as the wording of the bill may unduly influence the results. It may even mean that savvy politicians manipulate the wording of bills to influence the results.

It also highlights how important real scientific data is for identifying the truth and how carefully that data should be presented.
More on Prospect theory here and here's a simple summary from Investopedia (you may need to click past the welcome screen).

Conflict and the Media

Conflict builds ratings. Ratings build advertising. Advertising generates revenue. Therefore, the media like to stir up conflict and this can undermine democracy.

That was the rationale from one CNN pundit commenting on Obama's administration.

Substitute "Argument" or "Debate" for "Conflict" and I see that whole chain of relationships as a positive thing for democracy and for the media, made all the more appealing when everyone has a stake, can contribute opinions and vote for the outcome of their choosing. The very interactiveness of Interactive Democracy may help the media build a bigger business and they may dig up every disparate point of view to make the debate more interesting, informative and democratic.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Partisan Papers

On BBC breakfast news today, two journalists from separate broadsheets were asked to comment on the governments proposals for cleaning up MPs' expenses. It was as if they were signed up members of political parties. Neither appeared to offer much journalistic insight and their comments were light on facts but offered some entertaining banter along the lines of my party versus your party.
It is a concern for any type of democracy that the press can be so biased. However, Interactive Democracy asks for votes on issues, taking a step away from party politics and a step towards rational debate.
It's also interesting to note that, according to this report in The Guardian, newspaper readership fell by 5 million from 1992 to 2006. Is the power of the press on the wane?
Thanks to the ERCS for the above graph. However the y-axis should be in thousands not millions.