ISSN : 2266-6060

Consensus technologies


Paris, november 2015.

Everyone has been sat down into the meeting room for hours, during several consecutive days. Discussions have been rather polite and quiet, other have been more animated, even harsh. The various opinions have been expressed, shared and contested. A precarious balance has been found between a diversity of criteria, even if some still remain shared implicitly by a few participants only. Yet the multiplicity of judgments has not led to a common agreement. When it comes to choose among a variety of options, having a discussion seems to be the more appropriate solution. Nevertheless, when the time left before the deadline to reach a final decision is very short, another technology might be helpful: the vote.
In spite of the conceptions of the scientific spirit, pure and consensual, such a resort sometimes occurs in committees assessing researchers’ recruitment or promotion. In such situations, neither open voting, nor paper ballot is required. Identical remote controls, yet with a distinct number, are distributed to members in the meeting room. Then, some options are attributed to the diverse keys: for instance, 1 for yes, 2 for no, 3 for abstention. Only one person, who organizes the vote and doesn’t take part in it, is authorized to read the results on a computer screen, and make it sure that each member actually voted. When it’s not the case, she recalls the latecomers to vote by saying their remote control number instead of their name. During the vote, some would prefer either to control the other’s finger to push what they consider the “right” key, or to hack the system in order to aggregate maximum answers for the option they have chosen. At the same time, instead of a remote control, others would prefer to handle a joystick and play a game in which they would be able to punch some members in their face. A manifestation of individual opinions in secret, a respect of anonymity, a projection of contrasted emotions, a decision-making process, here are the actions accomplished by a mere plastic control box.

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