In my last post, I introduced the general idea behind the decision engine. This post walks you through an example of what the decision engine might look like from a user’s point of view, and hopefully give you an idea of how it could result in more intelligent group conversations.
You see a sceen that says:
Consider the following statement:
“Romney would make a better President than Obama”
Do you think most people will:
Agree | Disagree
What would you guess? Well, if it’s the months leading up to the 2012 presidential elections, then you know that people are pretty divided on that subject, but you know Obama is ahead in the polls. So you select “Disagree.” You now see this:
CORRECT! Only 47% of people (ironically) agree with this statement
You earned 100 points!
Now, how about you? Do you:
Agree | Disagree
Suppose you agree with the majority that Obama is the better candidate, so you click “Agree”
Thanks for your opinion. You earned an additional 10 points.
Now, earn additional points by responding to one of the arguments below, or posting your own.
Wow, it’s easy to earn points in this game. And now I’m curious about what people have to say. So I look under the comments section, and I see this:
Which do you think is the top reason that people DISAGREE:
- He’s a Republican
- Mormons are Polygamists
Interesting. I know that Mormons no longer practice Polygamy, and that most (I hope) people know that. I think a lot of people are pretty partisan and choose Obama just because he’s a democrat, so I choose the first.
Sorry! 58% of people that DISAGREE with the original statement chose this as a reason.
Now how about you? Is this one of the reasons you agree?
Yes | No
Darn! Humanity has disappointed me. But I don’t give up without the opportunity to express my opinion. So I click “No.”
Thanks for your input! You earned another 10 points.
You now have the opportunity to challenge the majority and earn 1000 points. Submit your counter-argument below, and you will gain points for every person that is convinced by your argument.
So I write up my argument:
SUMMARY: That’s a Myth
Okay looks folks, the Mormon Church did away with Polygamy in 1890. Get with the times! And although there are some offshots of the mainstream Mormon church that still practice it, it’s pretty rare. You can find it all in this article.
I click submit, and then go on with my day. The next day, I receive an email with the following email:
SUBJECT: Congratulations! You have convinced the majority. You earn 1000 points.
Only 45% of people are convinced by the argument “Mormon’s are Polygamists“, after reading your argument “It’s a Myth“.
Wow! I didn’t expect that. I changed the percentage of people that were convinced by the silly “Mormon’s are Polygamists” argument from 58% to 45%?
Will People be Rational?
How did that happen?
Well, first of all, a lot of people simply don’t know a lot about Mormons. That’s good for me, because ignorance can be cured with information. For some, just reading my comment or reading the Wikipedia article was an eye opener, and was enough to convince them.
Second, the system was asking new participants on the discussion what they thought after reading your comment. These new participants are less likely to be entrenched in a position, and will not take a position until having read your argument. The fact is, a group of people just asked to answer based on what they know will answer, no average, differently than a group of people that are first asked to reads relevant information.
Third, participants will be forced to consider whether other people will find your counter-argument convincing, before taking a position. This helps replace a knee-jerk reaction with a thought process such as “will I get shot down if I take this position? Is that statement really true? Is that article reliable? Will there be a strong counter-argument?”
Finally, participants have the opportunity to gain lots of points if they correctly guess whether the argument and counter-argument will be accepted or rejected. If they think that the “Mormon’s are Polygamists” argument is ultimately weak, even if it is an argument supporting their position against Romney, they will not only be encouraged to reject the argument but even to pile on their own counter-arguments. If they want to convince people not to support Romney, they will find a stronger argument and support that.
So I hope this example gives you an idea of how the right conversation structure and scoring mechanism can encourage people to act rationally and produce more meaningful, intelligent conversations. I won’t know if this particular process really works until testing with real prototype, but these are the lines along which I’m thinking.