Quadratic Voting is a method of collective decision-making in which a participant votes not just for or against an issue, but also expresses how strongly they feel about it. It can help protect the interests of small groups of voters that care deeply about particular issues. Quadratic Voting can be used in democratic institutions, in corporate governance, and blockchain-enabled collective decision-making.
In Quadratic Voting, each participant is given a number of credits that can be used to vote for an issue. However, the cost of casting more than one vote for an issue is quadratic, not linear. So, the marginal cost of each additional vote is far higher than of the previous vote.
Here is the Quadratic Voting formula: Cost to the voter = (Number of votes) to the power of 2.
Imagine that a vote generally costs $1 to put toward an issue, and you have $100 of voting credits. You want to cast your vote toward protecting endangered species. Casting one vote will cost you $1. However, casting two votes for the same issue will cost you $4, casting three votes for the same issue will cost you $9 and casting 10 votes for the same issue will cost you your entire $100 of credits.
So, while you are increasing the chances of victory for your issue with each additional vote, the quadratic nature of the voting ensures that only those who care deeply about issues will cast additional votes for them.
Use in Colorado
After Democrats won Colorado’s Governorship and both of the state’s houses in 2018, they used Quadratic Voting to decide which appropriations bills to fund first. Since legislators were likely to sponsor their own bills and vote for them, the Democratic caucus sought a method to gauge which bills had everyone’s support.
Initially, the Colorado Democrats assigned 15 tokens for each legislator to use on their preferred 15 bills. After this didn’t work well, they talked to Microsoft economist Glen Weyl, who explained how Quadratic Voting could provide a solution.
Weyl saw Quadratic Voting as a solution to the ‘tyranny of the majority’ issue. Regular voting assumes that everyone cares for an issue equally, which is rarely the case. The reality is that some legislators do not care about certain issues, care moderately about others and care deeply about a few.
So, instead, each legislator was given 100 tokens. If a legislator cast one vote each for several issues, it would cost them one token each. However, a legislator could cast more than one vote for an issue, at the following cost in tokens:
Colorado’s experiment with Quadratic Voting was largely successful.
How is quadratic voting different from traditional voting systems?
First-Past-the-Post: In the first-past-the-post system used in most democracies, a candidate can win without getting the votes of a majority of people. Let’s say Candidate A gets 35% of votes, B, 30%, C, 24%, and D, 11%. A wins, but we know that a majority of people voted for someone other than A.
Proportional Voting: To address this, some jurisdictions have adopted proportional voting systems. Here, if 35% of the electorate votes for a given party, then 35% of seats in the legislature given to that party, and so on. Though these systems can be seen as an ‘evolved’ version of the first-past-the-post system, they do not work when a binary (yes or no) decision has to be made.
Ranked Choice Voting: In Ranked Choice Voting (which is used by several jurisdictions in California), each voter ranks their favorite candidates. The candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated in each round, and that candidate’s votes are redistributed to the candidates next in each vote’s preference order ahead of the next round. Though Ranked Choice Voting has its strengths, it is a complex and time-consuming system.
Quadratic Voting: Though Quadratic Voting is also complex, it arguably better protects the interests of small groups of voters that care deeply about particular issues. By increasing the cost of each additional vote, it disincentivizes voters that don’t care about issues from casting several votes for them. It also allows voters to show the intensity of their support for a given issue by casting several votes for it – at the expense of their ability to vote on other issues.
Modern democracies have generally used one person, one vote in their elections and legislative processes. Corporations have often adopted more sophisticated voting mechanisms (for example, allowing a shareholder to designate someone else to vote on their behalf). Complicated but arguably more democratic voting systems, such as Proportional Voting and Ranked Choice Voting, have not found widespread acceptance due to their complexity.
Now that blockchain-enabled collective decision making allows votes to be tracked in a transparent, public way, more complicated voting systems can be adopted. By allowing voters to express not just their preferences but also the intensity of these preferences, Quadratic Voting protects the interests of small groups of voters that care deeply about certain issues.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of physical objects, including vehicles, medical devices and home appliances, that use sensors and APIs to connect to one another and exchange data over the internet.
Cheap processors, sensors and wireless networks have made it possible to turn anything from a pill to a plane into an internet-connected ‘thing’ that is more useful to its customer. For example, the Orenda coffee maker
can monitor when you wake up and heat coffee accordingly.
Such ‘smart’ devices communicate directly with one another without human intermediaries (engaging in Machine to Machine communication, or M2M). This digital intelligence attempts to merge the digital and the physical.
The term ‘IoT device’ generally refers to objects that previously were not expected to connect to the internet. So, computers, tablets and smartphones are not considered IoT devices.
Connectivity Enables IoT
IoT is rapidly becoming a reality, as manufacturing companies adopt private 5G networks and major phone carriers roll out 5G wireless coverage.
Tiny sensors in IoT devices send data to one another and to the cloud using wireless internet networks (Wi-Fi or 5G) and can increasingly compute and store data locally (edge computing). The principle behind an IoT-enabled smart home full of devices engaging in M2M communication can be extended to smart campuses and smart cities.
7 Major IoT Applications
1 Smart Homes
Smart homes are the first major consumer application of IoT. For example, Google’s Nest Hub can control cameras, doorbells and thermostats around the house. AlertMe, Haier, Philips and Belkin are also market leaders in this space. The global smart home market is already valued at over $80 billion and this figure is expected to rise to $150 billion by 2024.
2 Smart Agriculture
IoT-enabled smart agriculture seeks to use sensors to track light, humidity, temperature, soil moisture and other relevant characteristics to better manage agricultural systems remotely. Such smart farming is significantly more efficient than conventional farming, since it optimizes agricultural inputs (including through irrigation) and outputs (including through targeted harvesting).
3 Livestock Monitoring
Farm use of IoT devices also extends to better monitoring of the location, health and size of livestock. It can also help prevent the spread of disease by enabling the quick identification of sick animals, so they can be removed from the group.
4 Connected Cars and Remote Fleet Management
Automated vehicles require a complex network of sensors, software and connections to navigate roads. Eventually, connected cars will use Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communication to enhance safety and ease congestion. Though driverless cars are a reality, we will likely not see a fully interconnected system of exclusively driverless cars using V2V communications for at least a decade.
IoT is also enabling remote fleet management. For example, a trucking company can remotely view each truck’s speed, acceleration, location, route, fuel, load weight, performance and driver attention.
5 Smart Cities
Smart cities use IoT sensors to measure and optimize water use, energy use, waste management, traffic, air quality and other important city processes. We are only part of the way through a strong urbanization trend. The United Nations expects 68% of the world’s population to live in urban areas by 2050. Smart cities will help mitigate the resulting strain on infrastructure and resources.
6 Health Care and Fitness
By enabling more granular measurements of health indicators, remote monitoring and more timely data analysis, IoT devices can save lives and improve health. Their applications will also benefit physicians, hospitals and insurers, for example by providing more comprehensive health information, reducing health care costs and improving treatment outcomes.
The Apple Watch and other IoT-connected wearables (from LookSee, Myo, Fitbit, Sony, Samsung and others) help track and improve fitness. Soon, we will see smart clothes with embedded IoT sensors.
In manufacturing, IoT processes can improve the productivity of each worker, by automating routine tasks, providing workers with better data, allowing remote monitoring of processes, optimizing supply chains and improving operational efficiency. The automobile industry has already achieved great productivity and efficiency gains through IoT-enabled manufacturing. A potential downside of improved productivity is that fewer workers may be needed.
Security, Privacy and Compliance Concerns
As IoT technology improves, it faces three major challenges. First, interconnectedness may increase vulnerability to bad actors, including in sensitive areas like health and traffic. Second, there are valid concerns that smart homes and smart cities are highly surveilled environments, harming everyone’s privacy. Third, IoT systems will have to comply with a complex patchwork of privacy, security and consumer protection laws that may vary by country, state and city.
The Future of IoT
Globally, there has been significant public and private investment in improving wireless internet speed and reducing latency. Therefore, despite challenges, the IoT applications described above are becoming a reality.
In San Francisco, a new Target store in California sells only IoT devices. In Minneapolis, McKinsey is opening a retail store as a ‘stage’ for technology solutions. Interestingly, the rise of IoT is creating a new emphasis on physical ‘things’ and blurring the line between products and services.
Secure Multi-Party Computation (SMPC) is an important subset of cryptography. It has the potential to enable real data privacy. SMPC seeks to find ways for parties to jointly compute a function using their inputs, while keeping these inputs private.