Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Will they use EasyPope to pick the Pope in 2050?

AP press 2050: The new pope was elected in just 2 hours using EasyPope, the software based on EasyChair, software designed to deciding which papers get into a conference. The new Pope was quoted as saying How did they manage in the old days actually Flying to Vatican to elect someone. This just seems silly.

(I do not know which is more unrealistic: That the Pope will be picked this way or that there will be an AP press in 2050.)

The recent Papal election was done the old fashioned way--- in person. Could they have done it over the web? Perhaps each Cardinal gives each cardinal (except themselves) a number between 1 and 10 for how good they would be, and a number between 1 and 3 for how confident they are in their vote.
Or a more complex system like e-harmony uses?

I doubt this will change anytime soon, and I doubt that it should. So what are the PROS of each way to meet? Some of this was covered in the Net vs Jet discussion.

PROS of meeting in person:

  1. With current technology (and this may change) its easier to have a back and fourth in person. Even now this is possible with teleconferencing, though I wonder if this would work with the 115 cardinals.
  2. You can read peoples faces and enthusiasm.
  3. There are things that can come up and be discussed that you may not have thought of if you were just alone at your computer.
  4. Technology fails sometimes.
  5. Time limited- really has to end (Papal Elections can go on for a while; however, one of the reasons for the Papal Enclave is to FORCE them to get a Pope relatively soon.)
  6. Builds connections. Recall the famous quote:
    As a society we are gaining efficiency but loosing connectivity
  7. The meeting gives you a global view of the issues.
PROS of meeting just on line.
  1. Money and Time are saved.
  2. Environmental concerns of flying
  3. Less likely to have Group Think set in.
So- which types of meetings are better for which events? And what is the criteria? Is the goal to have a better decision in the end? This is only one goal- the connections formed at the meeting are valuable also.
  1. Papal Election. There are so many candidates and so many issues that I think in person is better. I also think it won't change--- NOT because the Vatican is Tech-Shy (the last Pope had a Twitter account) but for the reasons above.
  2. The Maryland Math Competition. We used to meet four times a year, then two, and now its down to zero--- its all online now. We will go back to two meetings a year--- having someone explain a problem and its solution to you is much better than email. Note that for this a meeting is a time sink but not a money sink. A Memory--- my first year on the committee we met at the end for Pizza and Beer and they got me a non-alcoholic beer (since they knew I didn't drink). They were welcoming me into the club. By contrast I don't even know whose on the committee anymore---- just their email addresses.
  3. Program Committees- The money and time involved in getting everyone to the same place is rather a lot so I suspect these will be mostly online. I know there are some exceptions, and some meetings of subsets of the committee. At one time the COLT meeting was held AT the STOC conference where everyone would be there. Even so, it seems like the advantages of in-person are out weighted by the time and money.
  4. Conferences themselves. Could all be videotaped an available (some are) but somehow its hard for me to really GOTO an online talk.
  5. Faculty meetings. Sometimes when we try to resolve an issue online the emails just go on forever. Best to just meet and get it over with.
  6. Grad Admissions. Its now online. I miss the days when we would meet with paper folders in front of us and order a pizza.


  1. "Environmental concerns of flying"

    Will people from around the world (like our very own Vice President) still fly to the installation Mass? How many of the hundred thousand or more people there flew in for the event?

  2. EasyChair? I find HotCRP to be far better (and it is opensource). Perhaps we can adapt HotCRP to select the next pope? It could be called HotPope, or PopeCRP :-)

  3. One other reason that the conclave was put in place was to avoid political interference.

    It was felt that having all the cardinals secluded (and prevented from any form of communication with the outside world) reduced the ability of monarchs and emperors to influence the process (which they did a lot in those days).

    And it also helped reduce the chance of anyone knowing the details of the internal deliberations.

  4. I hope that the papal selection is not as noisy as many conference acceptances.

  5. I'm trying to understand your proposed online system. Do you mean that every Cardinal assigns a finite cardinal to every Cardinal?

  6. Blah blah large cardinals blah blah axiom of choice blah blah papal induction blah blah holy orders blah blah

  7. This makes me nostaglic for old days of PC-watching when conference PCs would indicate that they were ready with their paper selections by burning the submitted papers.

  8. A few points: 1) a papal conclave usually follows the funeral of a previous pope, and is always followed by the installation of a new pope, for which the cardinals will be present anyway, so there aren't any flights to save. 2) The 115 cardinals are just the cardinals that are allowed to participate in the conclave. However, before the conclave there are many meetings (both formal planar meetings, and informal small groups) about how the conclave will be run, what the profile of the new pope should be, etc. All cardinals can participate, giving a number closer to 200. In 2050, this number may even be higher. 3) Secrecy. The conclave is secret, and with all non-cardinals out of the chapel, all doors locked, and phone signals jammed, the cardinals can be pretty sure what happens in the room, stays in the room. But how would a cardinal using a teleconference know there isn't a reporter in the same room as the cardinal he's talking to?

  9. I sincerely hope that by 2050 Papal elections (and other such religious ceremonies in general) would be relegated to their rightful place on something akin to the sports pages. It just seems sad that in this day and age, the election of a religious figure should still remain an event with supposedly worldwide ramifications.

  10. By the year 2050 Football (what Americans call Soccer) will be the world religion, except in America where it will be Football
    (what Europeans call ``American Football''). So YES, the Papal election may be on the sports page.