Towards Crowd-Scale Deliberation

Paper by Mark Klein: “Let us define deliberation as the activity where groups of people (1) identify possible solutions for a problem, (2) evaluate these alternatives, and (3) select the solution(s) that best meet their needs. Deliberation processes have changed little in centuries. Typically, small groups of powerful players craft policies behind closed doors, and then battle to engage wider support for their preferred options. Most people affected by the decisions have at best limited input into defining the solution options. This approach has become increasingly inadequate as the scale and complexity of the problems we face has increased. Many important ideas and perspectives simply do not get incorporated, squandering the opportunity for far superior outcomes. We have the potential to do much better by radically widening the circle of people involved in complex deliberations, moving from “team” scales (tens of participants) to “crowd” scales (hundreds, thousands, or more).

This is because crowd-scale interactions have been shown to produce, in appropriate circumstances, such powerful emergent phenomena as:

  • The long tail: crowd-scale participation enables access to a much greater diversity of ideas than would otherwise be practical: potentially superior solutions “small voices” (the tail of the frequency distribution) have a chance to be heard .
  • Idea synergy: the ability for users to share their creations in a common forum can enable a synergistic explosion of creativity, since people often develop new ideas by forming novel combinations and extensions of ideas that have been put out by others.
  • Many eyes: crowds can produce remarkably high-quality results (e.g. in open source software) by virtue of the fact that there are multiple independent verifications – many eyes continuously checking the shared content for errors and correcting them .
  • Wisdom of the crowds: large groups of (appropriately independent, motivated and informed) contributors can collectively make better judgments than those produced by the individuals that make them up, often exceeding the performance of experts,because their collective judgment cancels out the biases and gaps of the individual members…

Our team has been developing crowd-scale deliberation support technologies that address these three fundamental challenges by enabling:

  • better ideation: helping crowds develop better solution ideas
  • better evaluation: helping crowds evaluate potential solutions more accurately
  • better decision-making: helping crowds select pareto-optimal solutions…(More)”.