From Jim Gilliam's blog archives
the evolutionary origins of altruism and reputation

June 24, 2006 3:00 PM

might have come from coral reefs.

can you imagine if there was a universal rating system for other people. a website, where anyone could rate anyone else, either anonymously or not. myspace is like this, only it's just positive ratings (my friends and their testimonials), so it only tells half the story. ebay has it for transactions.

if people actually used it.. it would like.. change everything, right?

it's not "am i hot or not?".. it's "am i a good person..or not?"

anyone with a rating of 3 1/2 stars or more, gets into heaven.

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the evolutionary origins of altruism and reputation (06.24.2006)

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Read the 7 comments.


If you could ensure it was difficult to spam ratings then this sort of site, complete with a comments section and amazons "Was this review helpful to you" method of screening comments, then i could see this being a very good tool.

Know anyone who can code it and wants to get it off the ground?

Sun Jun 25 2006 12:23 AM

Dave E.:

This is an interesting possibility...but in the fish analogy from the article, the reputation is created from intimate observation of the little cleaner fishies.

For something like a website, so far as the ratings include anyone who doesn't know you, has worked with you, has had a relationship of some kind with you to base a calculated and subconscious "score" to give you, then I doubt it'd be something to tote around town as something representative of the truth.

I may stumble across a dude who likes the band Wilco and rate him high because Wilco kicks ass; that same dude may be a total dick. If he only knows a couple people who all rate him down appropriately, but all the lunatic Wilco fans (me) outnumber his unfortunate friends saddled with a crummy friendship, then the score doesn't show his total dickness and would be misleading.

The accuracy of a ratings system like this would degrade the further out it extends from a person's close peer group.

That's why websites like myspace (as an example) and the internet (in general) really fascinates me personally. We get to present to other people our superego's and nothing else: who we think we are, minus all the faults. Seems to me, the more impersonal our lives get more inflated our sense of self becomes - less negative feedback to chew on.

My .02

Anyway...great post and interesting article. Struck a thoughtful nerve here. Now back to being perfect :)

Sun Jun 25 2006 12:48 AM

Jim Gilliam:

That's very insightful. Hmm..

it would have to somehow figure out the kind of relationship people had. the intensity level?

if it was stated explicitly by the rater, it would be very easily gamed.

it could partly be inferred if you tapped their email stream somehow and counted the frequency of email passing between them. this isn't practical and would only really work for older defunct relationships if you had emails for a long time.

(as an aside, does anyone know any extremely large company with very rich geniuses in charge who are collecting all this information en masse? it's like gaggle or something)

or maybe...
others could rate the ratings for importance. like 'holy crap that's a big deal'.. to 'yeah, whatever' to 'this isn't true'

so these two ratings levels: the initial, and the follow-up reseponses by others. would then all be weighted recursively by everyone's reputations. (a wee bit of math!)

so it would allow you to get someone else (say, NOT anonymously) to stand up and sasy 'this isn't true'.. sticking their own reputation behind it.

it could identify things that are 'hotly contested' (just like wikipedia has articles whose neutrality are disputed)

Sun Jun 25 2006 11:38 AM

Dave E.:

Assuming the ratings system arrives organically at a figure that can be trusted, how would it change everything?

It was all about employment with the cleaner fishies...would it be another bullet on a resume? (I've heard that employers are checking applicants myspace pages now, and are usually horrified, but that's antithetical to this ideal ratings system I suppose).

Providing that number gets properly policed, what good would it be? Something else to brag about, but having no practical use? I guess you could begin introducing yourself to strangers by saying "Hi. I'm Dave and my score is 4." Or, getting really futuristic, we could attach the number to the name. "Hi. I'm Dave4."

I can't help but return to the fishes using their close scrutiny of the cleaner fishes as a means to weed out cheaters (don't bogart the mucous man).

For a realistic social application, there would have to be real teeth to not having a good score. What would the penalty be? No job? Would the score be grounds for a once reputable person losing their job?

It seems the value of anonymity is beginning to surface with me. Do we begin scarlet lettering all assholes? Sounds tempting...but a little fascistic also. Damn.

Anyone know any science fiction that has tackled something like this?

Sun Jun 25 2006 1:36 PM

Jim Gilliam:

i know there's tons of research into reputation systems.. it's a whole little industry. things tend to get pretty complicated pretty quickly.

the teeth would be entirely based on whatever people attached to it. reputation is a pretty big deal though in general.

right now, people don't actually say 'my net worth is $320,029' they use proxies.. aka the bling.

and there are proxies for how 'good' a person is too. what church someone goes to, whether they drive a hybrid or a hummer. all of which fuels a person's reputation..

which is another wrinkle. drug pushers might rate rush limbaugh a five (he always pays on time), while 150 million other people give him a zero.

okay this is getting kinda huge now. ha!

do people actually want to say something bad about someone else? socially can we even handle it? can we handle it *more* if we're behind a computer screen?

but maybe there's something simple in here that can shake things up a bit. maybe not.

Sun Jun 25 2006 6:56 PM

Jim Gilliam:

It just occurred to me. We already have this. It's called google. Anyone can say anything they want about anyone, and it'll show up on there. Duh!

Fri Jun 30 2006 6:50 PM

Tom from Madison:

Another obvious, but very narrow model is ebay feedback. Maybe profiles could be assembled by compiling dimensions constructed from various sources.

Mon Jul 3 2006 5:14 PM

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