Revisiting the Age of Enlightenment from a collective decision making systems perspective

  • Marko A. Rodriguez Los Alamos National Laboratory
  • Jennifer H. Watkins Los Alamos National Laboratory
Keywords: collective decision making, computational governance, e-participation, e-democracy, computational social choice theory


The ideals of the eighteenth century's Age of Enlightenment are the foundation of modern democracies. The era was characterized by thinkers who promoted progressive social reforms that opposed the long-established aristocracies and monarchies of the time. Prominent examples of such reforms include the establishment of inalienable human rights, self-governing republics, and market capitalism. Twenty-first century democratic nations can benefit from revisiting the systems developed during the Enlightenment and reframing them within the techno-social context of the Information Age. This article explores the application of social algorithms that make use of Thomas Paine's (English: 1737-1809) representatives, Adam Smith's (Scottish: 1723-1790) self-interested actors, and Marquis de Condorcet's (French: 1743-1794) optimal decision making groups. It is posited that technology-enabled social algorithms can better realize the ideals articulated during the Enlightenment.

Author Biographies

Marko A. Rodriguez, Los Alamos National Laboratory
Director's Fellow at the Center for Nonlinear Studies
Jennifer H. Watkins, Los Alamos National Laboratory
Researcher at the Center for the Scientific Analysis of Emerging Threats
How to Cite
Rodriguez, M. A., & Watkins, J. H. (2009). Revisiting the Age of Enlightenment from a collective decision making systems perspective. First Monday, 14(8).