Collective Intelligence

Strategic voting is often used to describe NDP losses. In this scenario votes that would normally go to the NDP are captured by Liberals to avoid the worse evil of a Conservative win. The phenomena implies voters make a reasonable choice (slow thinking) based on who they think will best defeat Harper. While some voters vote this way, others only rationalize their vote this way while casting their vote as a product of fast thinking in tune with collective intelligence.

With a majority of voters not likely voting for Harper, a strategic vote between one of the major non-Harper parties was a logical strategy to insure a Harper defeat. There were citizen organizations like Fair Vote Canada whose mission was to systematize this voting strategy. The rules they established were:

1. To vote for the incumbent if the incumbent wasn’t a conservative.

2. In ridings where the incumbent was conservative a vote trading system would prevail. In ridings where Liberals were likely to win if the vote wasn’t split, an NDP voter would vote Liberal with the promise a Liberal voter in a different riding bearing the opposite conditions would vote NDP.

With the defeat of so many NDP incumbents this Fair Vote Canada strategy obviously did not influence the actual voting outcome. A constituent whose vote I thought I had recruited for the NDP revealed to me he voted in the advanced pole for Trudeau claiming it was a strategic vote. In his riding the incumbent was NDP and there was no chance the conservative would come close to being a threat. In another case a constituent actually sported an NDP sign for the length of the campaign. He told me he was going to vote strategically for the NDP incumbent. On Election Day he voted Liberal, justifying his choice because he was fearful Harper would get back in. The incumbents in each of their respective ridings were NDP candidates Mathew Kelway and Dan Harris. The reasoning of these two individuals did not make sense.

These are cases where voting choice is influenced by the 98% of thought that is fast thinking. The 2% of our thought that is slow thinking is not likely the real voting motivation but the after the fact rational justification for what they did. Pentland’s thesis is people act like idea processing machines combining individual thinking and social learning to make decisions. When information from individual thinking is weak as is the case for most voters, there will be a greater tendency to rely on social information or collective intelligence. (Pentland, 2014, pp. 22-24) Fast thinking gets inputs from a collective intelligence that will influence the choices a person makes and could explain how the Trudeau Campaign captured the “anything but Harper” vote.

Pentland uses his social research based on live demographics obtained through the collection of phone meta-data (Social Physics) to formulate and validate an understanding of how innovation and change in collective intelligence occurs. (Pentland, 2014, p. 28) He discovered collective intelligence develops through two processes that manage a community’s idea flow. First, elements of the community participate in the exploration of new ideas. They discover, through fast thinking new ideas, by combining diverse ideas from diverse contexts. Individuals then use their slow thinking to formulate a viable proposition of a compelling idea presented to them by their fast thinking. The proposition is then integrated into a consistent and logical map of the world to create a narrative. Individuals then test out this proposition by engaging with others and using fast thinking to evaluate the feedback. Fast thinking uses this vast array of unconscious factors to determine an intuition, which because of the engagement spreads throughout the community as community intelligence. Whereas Lakoff notes our intelligence has evolved to run our bodies, Pentland would say our intelligence has evolved to better run our increasingly global community.

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