The Good Place – The Trolley Problem (Part 2)

The veil of ignorance is a hypothetical situation created by philosopher John Rawls to help illustrate how self-interest and ego impacted decision-makers at the highest level. Rawls wanted to find a way to create a more just society by exposing individual biases that may create injustice. The veil of ignorance is a way to expose students to their own biases and illustrate how their personal experiences and self-interest may shape the way they view the world and others around them. Under the veil of ignorance decisions about justice and the allocation of resources are made by a person who does not know what position they may have in society.

The Trolley Problem is used to demonstrate the role the veil of ignorance plays in decision-making. Students are asked if they would save five people from a speeding car if they had to push one person in front of the car. They are then asked to remove the veil of ignorance and see how they would react if someone they loved were in the group of five people who would be hit, or if someone they loved would be pushed in front of the car to save the five other people. This unlikely scenario is meant to reinforce how self-interest and personal experience can impact the decision-making process.

Thanks to Jamie Wagner for the clip recommendation and summary!

The Good Place – Trolley Problem

Chidi and Eleanor tackle a famous ethical dilemma, the trolley problem. The thought experiment is popular in philosophy and ethics courses, but the same experiment can be used in an economics context when discussing opportunity costs and costs. In a literal sense, whichever way the trolley goes will have a cost associated with it based on the people who will die. Depending on the structure of your course, you may also be able to look at the trolley problem from a game theory perspective.

Thanks to Jamie Wagner for the clip recommendation

The Good Place — Externalities & Unintended Consequences


Things seem off in The Good Place, but it turns out that the as the world becomes more complicated, seemingly identical actions (like giving flowers) can have unintended consequences that most people don’t realize. Our private actions can have social costs that we’re unaware of and would probably try to avoid if we were fully informed of their costs.

Thanks to Kalina Staub (Twitter) for the clip!

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