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[To Vote or Not To Vote: A Swarm Approach]

Multi-agent systems Philosophy Added on 19/01/2012

I’ve never voted. I am not sure why, I perhaps don't care enough. People always tell me: 'Imagine everybody would decide not to vote! You have to vote because every small opinion counts towards the final results'. I've never agreed with it, although I couldn't express why. On one hand, it seems like democracy works because decisions depend on opinions of many people, yet it seems like your own vote does not matter at all. The answer to this dilemma can be found in principles of swarm behaviour.

The main strength of biological swarms is in collective decision-making about a common action like what to hunt or where to migrate. However, swarm behaviour only works because of interactions between individuals. One single unit on its own has no impact, even if it keeps repeating its behaviour over and over. An ant can forever walk back and forth to a bad nest site if it doesn't distribute pheromone. A bee can repeatedly collect nectar from a weak flower source if it does not dance to attract other nest mates. It is not the action itself but the passing of information about one's action that results in emergent global results, which is also what makes swarms hard to engineer.

I would therefore argue that there is nothing wrong with not voting. As long as you keep it to yourself or at least don't try to persuade others to behave as you do, your decision to not vote has no impact on who will be the president or who a parliament will constitute of. The same goes for your choice of whom to vote for if you decide to. Your individual action does not matter. Only waves of your impact on others do.


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