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Judgment Machine

FROM: James Nickson

What NEED does this meet?
In many situations the people leading, managers, politicians, candidates, exhibit appalling judgment.

From our field, when Steve Balmer of Microsoft called open source a "cancer" it served no one's interests, least of all Microsoft's, this is appalling judgment in action. Tony Blair has had some examples but very few compared to the Georges Bush and Bill Clinton's use of the historical Oval Office for bio-entertainment.

In the computer field I watched my own career take a downturn and also sixty thousand other people's at DEC when in 1978 Ken Olsen decided not to ship a desktop prepared for manufacturing and to delay desktops until 1985 to do them on VAX/VMS. This decision took the company shipping more computers than anyone else and rendered them a non-player, wasting many people's plans, careers, retirement funds and expectations. At the time, many people at DEC were advising to immediately ship desktops, the thinking based upon profits, market stance, historical DEC imperatives, strategic positioning and survival.

Ken Olsen killed Dekstop RSTS and when the IBM PC shipped in 1981 DEC no longer had a future. Appalling judgment.

The components needed to build a system that could rank people according to judgment on issues are available and inexpensive. Having such a system would serve to heighten the quality of governance and management.

What is the APPROACH?
The plan is to make internet questionaires and database of questions that regarding testable future events with a clear termination and answer. Then ask people to state in their judgment what is the answer. Then use the answers to rank people on 'judgment'.

A question might be "Will Tony Blair be P.M. on Jan 1, 2005?" and accept answers up until Jan 1, 2004. People would answer based upon their predilictions, intelligence, flight/flee balances, and information, which en masse may be 'judgment', ignoring for the moment less founded concepts such as group minds, thought fields & cetera.

"Will the US still have troops in Iraq on Jan 1, 2005?"

"Will the UK have troops in Iraq and Iran on Jan 1, 2005?"

Of course it does not have to be politics:

"Will the SCO suit against IBM be dropped by January 1, 2004?"

"Will the cost per kilowatt/hour from solar panels drop to below $.02 (1990) by July 1, 2004?"

"Will England win the World cup in ???"

"Will Michael Schumacher get another F-1 title in 2004?"

The questions do not have to be long term, e.g.

"Will the Dow Jones be over 10,000 on December 1, 2003?"

"Will there be a major worm affecting more computers larger than SoBig before December 1, 2003?"

Once a person has answered about thirty of such questions and the results have been tallied one can establish a ranking (perhaps a Kendall ranking, I am stat-rusty).

Rankings could be general and/or in fields of specialisation.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
The present case is that the world has leaders based upon the criteria charisma, wealth and connections, and often knowledge and intellignece are tertiary requirements. In some areas control of munitions is the only criterion.

Analysing and making public judgment rankings would help to get those with appallingly bad judgment out of senior roles.

About results: It is not difficult with statistics to describe the likely error envelope for a measure.

Suppose Ken Olsen had been ranked with only a few questions, the ranking might look like [22 - 82] indicating a wider variance (few answers). Whereas if Linus Torvalds had answered many questions the ranking might look like [96 - 98] indicating enough meausures to reliable estimate.

Error envelope rankings prevent all sorts of startup problems and complaint problems.

What is the COMPETITION?
No competition.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
Phase 1: Prototype and Initial Testing $45K/annum

In the short term requirements are a living wage, acess to an internet server with PHP and MySQL at least, Perl and secure connections would be better. None of these are costly.

Phase I objectives would be prototyping the MySQL databases, attaching them to a web application to allow

  • login and browsing of the current questions and
  • selecting one to answer,
  • recording any answers given by a user,
  • Screens to display result rankings with various searches.

For startup the questions should be about things determinable in a short time so that people see results. Perhaps sports or politics. Perhaps based upon technical matters and count on word of mouth among we dweebs and nerds to get started.

P1 Organization chart: Me. A volunteer statistician, I have two in mind.

Phase 2: Testing specializations and specialized rankings $45K /annum other funding from other sources.

Organize two volunteer teams to evaluate questions to be added by area of speciality.

I believe there could be some very interesting things done with cluster analysis applied to result information so one could say, e.g., show me the top ten in chemistry and African Politics. Phase two is time to get a statistician proposing not too controversial models for queries and analyses.

Start duplication with built in error incursion checking. Multiple servers each of which can record answers and then communicate every 'evening' to check that previous answers have not been altered and that the new aswers are correctly uploaded to each other.

Organizational: With a demonstrable prototype and results from Phase 1 and some initial results two efforts should be initiated: fund raising and establishing speciality boards for approving questions. Organizations such as the Ford Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trust ought to be interested in further seed funds. Phase 2 should sets up as an NGO, non profit organization and starts to consider staffing. If funding and staff are arranged, Phase 2 moves to Phase 3.

Phase 3: NGO staffs for separate functions: Funding from MySociety $0

  • Staff to coordinating boards for specialities - invitations, rules, squabble resolution, . . .
  • Fund raising and education: presentations on use to other organizations
  • Server Development - heightened commuications, results vaults, and security
  • Interlingua - Translations
  • Shadow Board - Well recognized people whose job is explicitly to propose alternatives to and to critique the board's decisions and directions. Two year appointments.

    We should be so lucky as to get to Phase 3 on this plan.

    The idea is entirely mine, James B. Nickson, from Summer, 1973, and is a twist on the universal poll that was written about in John Brunner's works, I think it may have been "Shockwave Rider".

    The twist is of course, instead of just a poll, record and analyse personal results which combined Brunner's description with reading I was doing at the time on statistics, cognition, and mind.

    Those concepts combined with dissatisfaction of the judgment or almost total lack thereof used by Kissinger, Johnson, MacNamara, Westmoreland, and Nixon in perpetrating a lot of disinformation (lies) to continue a crappy war in Vietnam.

    The era gave many examples of appalling judgment in leadership. Any two grandmothers chosen at random could have done better than the presidents we had at the time.

    With current internet facilities the judgment machine is inexpensive to instantiate.

    November 1, 2003 in Political, Reputation Systems | Permalink


    This idea isn't new. People can bet on the probabilities of future occurrances at such places as Foresight Exchange - http://www.ideosphere.com/fx/index.html

    Posted by: Phil Hunt at Nov 1, 2003 5:38:01 PM

    I'd trust the collective judgement of the mind of mankind over any legislative body, ever. We'll never be truly free until we collectively make all our own rules, locally, regionally, nationally, globally, and within every demographically definable group.

    As long as we continue to permit masters, we'll be slaves. And, yes, We're an angry mob. But, we'll be kind to ourselves, giving us what we all want: peace, health, prosperity, cooperation, and opportunity ~ exponentially accelerating social and human evolution.

    We're happy to announce that we're hosting the core code for the literal, digital democracy of the future at http://www.MajorityVoice.com 's interactive and votable Forum System. It will be owned and operated by "The People" and free.

    But, so far, most viewers seem to fear their direct involvement with something as radical as a system of "democracy" might endanger their remaining safety and/or freedoms. Perhaps you can help us figure out how to assure their participation and safety ~ how to make a global people's congress, to give humanity the strongest voice in our own affairs.

    Posted by: Al Smith at Jan 8, 2004 10:57:45 PM

    It's either a scatterbrained idea or a scam to make James a pretty good wage for negligible effort. Obviously politicians aren't going to co-operate anyway, so someone (presumably James, who seems to imply we should take it for granted that HE has the necessary good judgement) would preferentially select predictions the "people in power" have made public.

    Or is James genuinely hoping to champion a "people's revolution" whereby some sad ole git who happens to have got lucky predicting football match results gets swept into power on a massive popular vote? He's confusing "ability to guess (possibly not much) better than average over a broad range of inherently uncertain questions" with "ability to conceive of, articulate, and implement desirable policy initiatives in collective organisations".

    The former should only concern investors, who would benefit by "betting" on people with a track history of being right. You don't need a new system for that - you either buy shares in a company/person because they're rich (maybe that's proof they're historically good at guessing right, but maybe it just means they're good at making things work), OR you buy because of the track history of the shares. Only assholes claim to invest because they know better than most that company "X" is going places on account of some wonderful new initiative they're involved in. If such things were truly, incontrovertibly, and repeatedly "knowable" (even if only by some yet-to-be-unearthed cogniscenti), it would already be reflected in the share price before the peasants got in with their pension savings. The big investment fund managers would pay this mythical guru handsomely to steer their billions around lucratively, and he (being only human, if he weren't mythical :o) would definitely sell out for SOME affordable price. The reality is even Warren Buffet backs some losers as well as winners.

    The latter (god I ramble...) is the real target of James's search. But we already have a system for people to show they have the desire & capability to do something "we" want. It's called democracy, and in theory we're supposed to vote for people with a track record of doing good things in the past, who make attractive proposals for the future. But I'm a cynic, and I think collectively we tend to vote for physically attractive candidates with pleasing mannerisms.

    Posted by: FumbleFingers at Jan 31, 2004 1:37:00 AM