Parallel universe, human in this alternate Earth are innumerate at least; they do not have a sense of counting or quantifying if you will. I am wondering since these primitive humans are beginning to speak intelligibly and forming what looks like a hierarchical structure, how can they then elect a new leader fair and square? Should they decide to be leaderless, how can they vote on important issues?
Vote using physical tokens (like stones in pots) Deciding who has the most votes is then a matter of simultaneously reducing all the piles of votes by 1 token each. Eventually you’ll reach a point where only one pile has any tokens left. This is the winner.
To expand this out to multiple voting sites you can either take the remaining tokens in the pile (which represent the margin of victory) from each site to a central counting house and repeat the procedure, or you can define each voting site as a vote cast in a second level election and repeat the process.
This is a simple extension of my answer to this question, which details how a society that can only distinguish between 0, 1 and more than 1 can use mathematics to effectively count without counting. The same is true here. If sufficiently clever members of this society can work out the rules of addition and create some way of recording number then being able to count intuitively (as we do) is not necessary, they can always work things out the hard way by adding one each time. If you want to experience what this would be like, try counting from 0 to 1760 in increments of 176. You can’t do it easily because 176 isn’t an intuitive number to count by, but maths can always come to the rescue!
Of course, the less the general populace understand the way votes are counted the lower their confidence will be in the result, so maybe stick to stones in pots...
Volume of the cheer from a crowd
Yes some people are louder than others, and the distribution of two main groups may not be uniform with regards to distance to the judge - but those problems have metaphors in current democracies (district sizes and gerrymandering).
You can also do a divide a conquer so allowing this to work for referendums in the millions or billions of people. A room of ~100 people shouts their votes, the elected representative notes the winner and travels to a district capital and shouts their vote with their peers, and then the leader of the district travels to the state capital and repeats, state leader travels to the national capital and repeats.
Say there are two leaders or issues to vote on, A and B. If the community is small enough then voters for A can pair off with voters for B. The unpaired leftovers determine the outcome. I could even imagine something like this evolving as a kind of violence-free proxy for actual warfare without either side having a notion of number.
The side with the most people will win.
The Naha Tug of war (那覇大綱挽) is an event at the annual festival held in Naha, Okinawa, Japan.... It is a battle between the East and West teams.
The event draws some 275,000 attendees annually... In 1997 the event was first logged in the Guinness Book of World Records as being the largest tug-of-war event in the world. The rope weighs about 40 metric tons. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naha_Tug-of-war
Voting is easy
Proof with the water barrel technique! It's one of many solutions to vote without counting and even to a point quantifying.
What do you need ?
- Being able to make a decision (that's obvious)
- Being able to understand that a container is full
- Being able to understand that something is taller or smaller than another one (you wouldn't dare to make a sentient species without that notion, do you?)
- Liquid holding technology (taking barrels and cups as examples)
- A liquid (taking water as an example)
- A chalk or other marker tool
Preliminary set-up :
- Take a cup, and get an empty barrel. Prepare some water too.
Preliminary set-up (once for every vote choice) :
- Mark the water level on the barrel with the chalk. Make sure the marks are distinguishable from one another (either through color or adding a symbol)
- Empty the barrel of any water and put it back where it was.
Vote process :
- Fill in the cup
- Empty the cup in the barrel if you vote for the decision.
- Mark yourself to indicate that you have voted, or go in a room of "have-voted" guys, whatever you want to distinguish voters from non-voters.
- The highest mark is the one with the more votes
- If you want votes to be hidden, then add as many barrels as there are choices. Put weights on the barrel so it can't be moved at all and cut only a small hole to pour water in and not take from it. Voters take water from outside the barrel room, then go inside it and pour their water in their barrel of choice before leaving. After this, open up the barrels, perform exactly like if they were cups : Pour one barrel in an another main barrel, mark, flush the water out, then repeat with the next one.
- You can use sand, too, but remember to level out the barrel before marking :).
- If your people can't even make out what is taller, ugh... Then they would have problems surviving in the first place ("hey, that's one nice 'small' bear!", "That cliff doesn't seem too 'high', I can jump!").
The problem lies in the choice/action creation
Note that counting is a very strong skill to understand if something is bigger or lower than another one and this will become more and more needed as your society grows up.
Indeed, as a ruler (group or person), the more people there are, the more you need to work with numbers instead of individuals. If you can't easily analyze the current state of the nation, it will be even more difficult to distinguish good from bad courses of actions, and as a democracy, to offer a choice through vote (though once made, it can be quantified in interest by the vote results). This would most probably results in courses of action more based on luck than anything else.
In other words, counting and quantifying is one of the main step of abstraction, abstraction which is often needed in any kind of political system. Not being able to is your limiting factor in making a stable, organized society, even more so than having a ruling system over another one.
You are probably overestimating the role of democracy in our early history. For large part of it the power or authoritative role has been held by one among the elderly, the priests, the warriors or the rich (or a combination of them).
It's just with the Greek civilization and their poleis that we stumbled upon the democracy. Before them, and it was a long time, there was no vote counting.
Democracy requires complex thinking, and communication, yet "these primitive humans are beginning to speak intelligibly".
Worse is "and forming what's look like a hierarchical structure".
Hierarchies are a-n-c-i-e-n-t ANCIENT, and our nearest relatives (the chimps and bonobos) are hierarchical. IOW, your humans have had hierarchies from the beginning.
As an example: chimp and bonobo hierarchies are maintained through Mob-like cooperation: the chief treats underlings well, while remaining the most powerful, and he -- she, in bonobos -- stays in power; if he's an arrogant jerk, eventually his underlings gang up and kill him.
Yes. There are simple ways you could measure votes without needing to count. Build a staircase, have people stand on either side of it to vote on an issue. Officials can check to make sure each person is standing on a step, and no one is cheating. Then, the side with more people on stairs wins.
Of course, your democracy would typically be a group of elders and the heads of affluent families, who decide matters less by democratic institution, and more by politicking.
You don't need "count" to have "more". You don't even need "one".
As an example, decisions by elimination.
You can eliminate someone from the other side along with yourself from the discussion. Maybe you can even trade yourself for someone eliminated. Whomever is left decides.
The elimination game could come from duels over an issue. Originally if you disagree, you'd fight with someone on the other side, and the eliminated person left. Someone could offer to fight in the challenged person's stead.
Later, in order to make the duels less costly, they declared the winner also was also eliminated from the decision, which led to the duels being pro-forma (actually fighting over an issue was at first gauche, then unthinkable).
Now, to speed things up, someone steps forward with a proposal. You can either accept or reject. If you reject, you and the person making the proposal are eliminated. Someone can step forward to replace the person eliminated.
Lets look at a vote for "who should be the new leader".
Suppose there are 3 parties -- red green and blue.
Red has 20 people, Green has 10 and Blue has 5.
The member of Red says "Red Prime should be the leader". A Blue person objects. Either another member of Red, or the person who spoke up, is eliminated, along with the Blue person.
R19 G10 B4
Green Prime then says "I should be leader". Red and Blue factions look at each other. Eventually, a Red member objects. A second Green person takes the hit for Green Prime.
R18 G9 B4
This continues, with each Red Prime nomination blocked by either a Green or Blue, and each Green and Blue nomination blocked by Red, until there are 5 Red 0 Green and 0 Blue. And Red Prime becomes the leader.
In the case where one isn't the majority, you run into tactical issues.
R15 B10 G10
Here, Red cannot block all of Blue and Greens nominations. Red can block every Green nomination, or every Blue nomination, but not the two of them combined. Red has an advantage, but not an insurmountable one.
While I described the process with numbers, the process itself doesn't require any numbers by the people doing it.
The answer with the staircase is pretty cool, but I still see problems and/or further interesting aspects:
If the people can't count to one, they might not be certain if somebody is standing on a step or not. They also might have problems deciding which side of the staircase is for which opinion or who wins in the end, because two opinions and two places are both too many to count. We also need to think about what this means for the psychology of the people: We support democracy because we know that we can make a difference. If they can't count to 1, they might not understand what their own vote means.
To make sure the process couldn't somehow be corrupted, you may need to take very drastic measures: The people live in a really cold environment. Both sides have only one single spokesperson that can't leave their fireplace. The people can look for wood and form into a tight circle to keep wind from extinguishing the fire and to warm each other. When the people picking wood get cold, they can step into the circle to warm up. The more people you have, the higher chances are for being able to keep your fire alive. If one fire dies, the spokesperson freezes to death and the people that supported him have to either die or start supporting the fire of the opposing spokesperson.
This system might not be as accurate as one in which counting is used, but it might have other advantages that we're missing out on: People who are truly desperate will work harder to keep their spokesperson alive and won't switch sides as quickly when the opposition has an early advantage. Younger people who'll have to live longer with the decisions that are being made will have an advantage because they're physically stronger.
Have a democratic melee battle
Include the entire voting population in the battle. Each side wears a coloured ribbon. The side with the most survivors has won the vote.
Note: The assumption is that the most numerous party will win. That is almost certainly true if everyone fights in melee rather than soldiers following the orders of generals who employ tactics.
There already are answers in that direction by @justthisonequestion and @Dan Piponi, but you may broaden and generalize the approach by familiarizing yourself with Swarm intelligence. It is a typical problem there, as developing a set of rules for achievement of a certain goal. Set of rules which agents are capable to process, as well known examples not only can't count but incapable of thinking in general like bees, ants.
The difference which may come from that is that there may be no particular voting event as such, and not much hierarchical system if you like. So if you choose it to be that way it may be inherited treat from evolution and less a cultural development. It does not have to be brain hardcoded, it can be like it was done that way since the day of creation - so there is total freedom of choices.
If your choice is a hierarchical system, meaning there is some sense/relation of recognized authority in their society, then Representative democracy or some of the flavors of it may be an option. Then you not necessarily have an election day, but it can be rolling development. In a sense, it is an old system that works up until today's time.
If we depict this approach as if there is election day, then people split into groups around people authority of which they recognize or people they wish to support. They send representatives to form a second group which does a similar but not necessarily identical thing. For example, if you can see horizon instead of heads of people around you, then the group is small enough. You may switch activities which you establish authority with, such as dancing in a chain circle imitating snake movements. Whoever breaks the chain is not eligible, continue. Or your typical sports competition grid, or plenty of other stuff of not necessarily a competitive nature (rolling dice to follow the will of gods), or in contrary the famous rule of the strongest/fittest. Those activities are means to define who are those people you describe, and depend on the story.
So for each split there can be a specific set of activities, based on all sorts of conditions or triggers, exotic or typical ones. Praying to gods of chaos with an event which has a certain degree of randomness, which can be induced/started by agent, and outcomes of which can be recognized by the agent. This can be quite a universal thing, it fits in a lot of ways to a lot of situations. One can roll dice, or look at clouds, or those behavior randomizing superstition events. Better are those which can be induced on request, or happen frequent enough and are different for each agent (look "robotic swarm" at YouTube plenty of materials for inspiration), applied in a good way they may have a good correlation with good decision making.
The ability to establish authority fast in small-medium-big groups is quite a strong survival factor. Fish shoals are a good example of that, as there are all sizes and types, the authority part may be trickier to recognize but it is there in an indirect way.
It is convenient to split part of your group for different tasks, fast and in an organized way. In some sense, you may relate to your own experience and gut feelings. However, our ancestral ways were on smaller numbers, and many decision making of that sort are substituted by traditions, habits, specialization, sticking to routines, and ways of life like nomads, etc. But the other part also had a place in culture and different games and entertainments and social interaction serve for that and other purposes.
As a note or a tip if you like
You may consider choosing a different reason for the existence of your system, different from the ability to count. The reason may be that chimps can count up to 9(?) and they are better at that on different tasks than any human. It shows that the perception of amount and counting is an essential trait. I bet many species have some counting. We can directly observe it in chimps, as they are intelligent enough so we can sort of communicate with them. I saw this in a research facility on YouTube.
Obviously yes (see @JoeBloggs accepted answer for a good demonstration), but the form it takes will be reflective of their culture and also shape it.
For example: You could see a pseudo-parliamentary system where One person at a time rises to propose something, and it passes unless someone rises to oppose him/her. Then repeat, with pro- and con- pairing off until either pro is unopposed or no-one is left to rise for it. That might be a collective society, with a strong tendency towards individual responsibility to act, all within a rules-based framework. Everyone is ready to put a shoulder to the wheel for what they personally believe in, etc.
Tweak that slightly, and you have a system where one rises for issue A, and someone rises to oppose. They go off, and the floor is open again. The next guy might rise for issue A again, or for issue B. That gives you a similar society to the first, but with much more focus on careful maneuvering and good timing to achieve what's most important instead of reflexively supporting what you like and opposing what you don't. (both versions are obviously caricatures).
If instead of just pairing off, they do some sort of ritualized combat (e.g. hold up one end of a low-weight stick until you decide to put it down; roughly analogous to a filibuster), you have a different culture again.
The key concept for democracy is that all the people are represented in decision making including those who are weaker or vulnerable and minorities. Voting is just an attempt to realize this concept – imperfect, and also never fully implemented in present politics.
Democracy also doesn't reject hierarchy in decision making. So for example you could have a leader who makes a decision after listening to the opinions of all the citizens (or their representatives, in case of a larger society). Sky is the limit. Take into account that humanity hasn't figured out the best way yet.
In the History of the Peloponnesian War Thucydides recounts that the Peleponnesian league (thats the Spartan side) made the decision to go to war in the following way. Delegates from all the member states were assembled and a discussion held. At the close of the discussion each side (pro-war and anti-war) took a turn cheering/shouting, the side that was louder was deemed to have carried the day. Why they did this I have no idea, perhaps it was some sort of anonymous voting deal. But there you have it, no counting was required. However I must point out that Thucydides thought the person evaluating the loudness had fudged the results in favour of war.
Democracy is not about counting votes as well as object oriented programming is not about objects (but messages).
Species who are unable to count do not need a leader because they wouldn't feel any rational inequality (my neighbor has more oranges than me). I doubt that the could form any hierarchy at all (elevate the strongest and the wisest).
Bees communication through waggle dance:
First thought that I had was about some kind of psionic communication based on waves or collective unconscious. Maybe they could mix their thoughts like now we can mix colors of visible light. Different wavelengths affect final color warmth - determining more positive or more negative vote. There is a concept of fuzzy logic which could be used as explanation for voting-sense behavior or emotional agreeing. (BTW, isn't voting an emotional matter?)
Although, they need to agree to this non-rational manner of making a decision.
In simpler words: it's all about waves and interfering waves - the stronger is signal when people think about that candidate then more 'votes' that person gets.
Any concept that can be used to form a democracy is equivalent to counting in the end.
If you have multi-party elections or multi-possibility votes, you certainly can have a democratic binary decision.
If you can have a binary democratic decision, then you can compare two numbers, the numbers of people who voted for each decision.
If you can compare two numbers, then you have numbers.
If you have numbers, you can increment them.
Then you can count.
I skipped a few steps and took some liberties with nomenclature, but this is a solid argument which could be formalized.
As others mentioned on this thread, tokenistic counting (1 pebble=1 person) emerged very early on, plus hunter-gather bands were usually <100 people, so "counting" was unlikely to ever have been a bottleneck.
But I think you have a lot of other assumptions in there that are coloured by how society looks now:
- Why does there need to be a hierarchy? The alternatives are consensus decision-making, independent decisions making ("I'm going to go there, you want to come?"), context/expertise dependent leadership (the respected hunter is the most influential voice for where to go during hunting season, for the winter you'd rely on someone else).
- Why is majoritarian rule fair? If 30 people in your 50 person tribe always got their way, and the other 20 people never got their way, is that fair? Could you maintain a tribe like that over time? And if the tribe broke up instead... is that even a bad thing? Even the assumption that bigger, more stable collectives are "better" is a logic that doesn't really work for hunter-gatherer societies.
I am not sure there is that much of a difference between quantification and counting. Counting is simply abstracted, formalized quantification. The rudimentary capacity for it is built into even babies, like when do they know to stop drinking milk. Even seemingly simpler animals like bees too show a fairly advanced capacity for it.
The point is that the foundations of quantization and counting arise very early in the evolution chain. At some level, this intersects with very basic details of natural selection and might not even be a part of what we would recognize as conscious mental activity, like how to viruses evolve to become drug resistant. They do so by testing out genetic combinations that them 'greater' survivability. To me this question seems to touch aspects of the mind as much outside of today's scientific understanding as consciousness or free will. It is almost like asking if zombies can form a democracy.
I think the other answers are missing an important point: if people can't count, then the notion of comparing two quantities is just out of their reach, and so is the notion of "decision approved by the largest amount of people".
You can't imagine a democracy this way. It would have to be a feature imported from the outside, by someone from our universe who has achieved great importance to these folk ?