Your Vote Doesn’t Count

ChristakisPoliticians frequently tell their supporters “every vote counts,” and people usually say they vote in order to help their candidate win. But under what circumstances will a vote actually do that? This basic question has led to a series of investigations by brilliant social scientists, each building on the work of previous thinkers, but all leading, alas, to the same conclusion. Rationally speaking, each vote doesn’t count. The reason we vote, it turns out, has a lot to do with our embeddedness in groups and with the power of our social networks.

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Welcome to the jungle

How come there are minds? And how is it possible for minds to ask and answer this question?

The short answer is that minds evolved and created thinking tools that eventually enabled minds to know how minds evolved, and even to know how these tools enabled them to know what minds are. What thinking tools? The simplest, on which all the others depend in various ways, are spoken words, followed by reading, writing, and arithmetic, followed by navigation and mapmaking, apprenticeship practices, and all the concrete devices for extracting and manipulating information that we have invented: compass, telescope, microscope, camera, computer, the Internet, and so on. These in turn fill our lives with technology and science, permitting us to know many things not known by any other species. We know there are bacteria; dogs don’t; dolphins don’t; chimpanzees don’t. Even bacteria don’t know there are bacteria. Our minds are different. It takes thinking tools to understand what bacteria are, and we’re the only species (so far) endowed with an elaborate kit of thinking tools.

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