Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Motivated Reasoning

In his book "Kluge", Gary Marcus, Professor of Psychology at NYU, writes:

Our tendency to accept what we wish to believe (what we are motivated to believe) with much less scrutiny than what we don't want to believe is a bias known as "motivated reasoning", a kind of flip side to confirmation bias. Whereas confirmation bias is an automatic tendency to notice data that fit with our beliefs, motivated reasoning is the complementary tendency to scrutinize ideas more carefully if we don't like them than if we do.

Are the political elite better equiped to avoid such traps or can democracy do it better?

Friday, 11 June 2010

Picture the Data

How information is presented can have a significant impact on the debate. This image, produced by The Guardian, is an excellent example (apologies for the small scale). If you look at it with a view to reducing our budget deficit perhaps it will clarify your values: perhaps you will want to compare the value and cost of the Department for International Development and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Will other voters agree? Will it cause an analysis of the benefits from each department?

Thursday, 10 June 2010

The Lost Art of Democratic Debate

In this entertaining lecture, Michael Sandel, teacher of Political Philosophy at Harvard, highlights the importance of morals and values in democratic debate.

Thanks to TED for this lecture.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Formulating the Problem

"The formulation of a problem is often more essential than its solution...." So said Albert Einstein.

Could it be that Interactive Democracy would benefit from a "Problem Page": somewhere people could register their complaints about government or society, without having to come up with a solution. Perhaps it would also have a vote facility, to provide an indication of the numbers of people sharing that point of view, and each problem may initiate a thread to enable others to re-frame it. The site may also enable suggestions as to how to solve the problem, which in turn could be voted on and would feed into the ID process for generating reform.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Californian Referendum on Cannabis

A referendum on legalising and taxing cannabis in California is expected in November. The referendum was given the green light after 694000 people signed a petition calling for the question to be added to the states general election ballot paper. According to some reports this could save $200million in public order costs and reap $1.4billion in taxes. The debate on this contentious issue is also likely to cover health issues, use while driving and the slippery slope argument. The details of the Initiative can be read here.

More from The Telegraph here.