Researchers at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have created AI that automates an election system invented in ancient Greece.
From about 594 to 321 BC NS. in the Athenian polis there was a democratic form of government. It is called the world’s first democratic system. Any citizen had the right and even the obligation to participate in the work of the National Assembly. During the heyday of Athenian democracy, about a third of citizens simultaneously held one or another public office.
Instead of elections, most positions – including those in legislatures, governing councils, and magistrates – were filled by volunteers who were selected through a random lottery. At these meetings, citizens discussed and approved laws, made foreign policy decisions, and controlled the military budget.
Citizens’ gatherings are returning today. For example, in Ireland, this form of decision-making has led to changes in the constitution, as well as the legalization of abortion and same-sex marriage.
One of the biggest challenges in organizing these gatherings – both in ancient times and today – is deciding who will be in the meeting. The selection should be random, ideally all volunteers have the same chance.
Previously, the ancient Athenians used the cleroterion for these purposes – a drawing device that randomly selected groups of volunteers from different tribes. Now a team of programmers from the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences John A. Paulson (SEAS) and colleagues from Carnegie Mellon University have developed an AI that will do similar tasks.
The research team examined a typical two-step process for selecting candidates. At the first stage, thousands of random people are invited to participate. The final assembly is done from a pool of volunteers using an algorithm. However, the pool of volunteers, as a rule, is not representative, as it is likely to include people with a higher level of education. Therefore, the new algorithm uses a panel survey and quota sampling. As a result, the random group of participants is the most representative.
This open source algorithm has already been used to select more than 40 gatherings of citizens around the world, it has been used by: Denmark, Germany, USA, Belgium, UK.
You can use the new AI for free at Panelot.org.