Voting protocol aha!

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Fri Nov 17 2000 - 00:09:35 MST

A possible solution to the problem of last-minute voting in an election
protocol which permits vote-switching:

Have a non-predetermined cutoff time. That way, anyone who tries to vote at
the last minute is gambling with their vote. If they switch their vote too
late, they lose their vote (or wind up voting for whomever they voted for
originally); if they switch their vote early, then others will have time to
react, which is a desirable property of the system.

So there are four days in which you can vote over the Internet; then three
days following, the Days of Uncertainty, in which your ability to vote could
be cut off at any moment - as determined by random-number generators or
lottery balls or (most preferable of all) Schrodinger's Cat or similar
non-tamperable non-predictable protocols. The four original days should be
enough for all legitimate purposes, like switching your vote to a main party
if the third-party thing didn't work out, with the three days following enough
for honest folk to respond to genuine last-minute developments, while
discouraging maliciously last-minute voting.

Hey, maybe that protocol would work for Ebay... the last three hours are
Random Death time, producing a sustained frenzy of desperate bidding (each
moment might be the last!) while giving the other bidders time to respond
(probably!). If anyone turns this into a new e-commerce site, I get 0.5% of
the stock. (If anyone tries to patent it, I'll have your guts for prior art.)

(Hmmm... while I'm on the subject, another thing Ebay could try is a system
whereby each new bid extends the deadline to five minutes beyond the time of
that bid, with a final cutoff point of one hour after the original closing
time. Those last-minute trumps are incredibly annoying. And no, the "highest
bid you're willing to make" system isn't the same - not psychologically,
certainly. Rarely does someone really know, down to the dollar, how much ve's
willing to pay...)

-- -- -- -- --
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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