John Rawls' "Veil of Ignorance" is still one of the most intriguing though experiments to me:

"Suppose that you and a group of people had to decide on the principles that would establish a new society.

However, none of you know anything about who you will be in that society. Elements such as your race, income level, sex, gender, religion, and personal preferences are all unknown to you.

After you decide on those principles, you will then be turned out into the society you established."

@fribbledom I've never seen anyone do actual polling based on it? Like the idea is people will act with maximal risk-aversion and accidentally encourage general equality.

But I bet if you actually asked people from all walks of life and plotted their answers on an axis you'd get different tendencies towards equality of opportunity/condition/etc and with different ideas of how it should be implemented.

It's a great thought experiment, but it also seems like it'd be a great _actual_ experiment.

@fribbledom I think none of the people in question would actually believe they'd end up among the "unlucky" ones, whoever those unlucky ones are in their concept. It's really hard to get someone out of their own concept of self. :P

@werekat @fribbledom Judging by the numbers of people who oppose taxing the right higher, I guess you are right.

@werekat @fribbledom

If someone really did an experiment, this is what they would find.
This toot is sheer genius.

@fribbledom Have you read how the argument continues? That is the first step.

@fribbledom just modify this slightly and ask « you will be turned into the society you established *100 years later* ». You won’t get the same results.

Nice extension of the "you divide, I choose" method of splitting a piece of cake. Except that extending it to more than 3 people is a hard mathematical problem.

I bet everyone will analyse the problems from their own viewpoint on society. It's hard to consider roles in society which you know almost nothing about. And of course every person's suggestions will be coloured by their opinion of "ppl r stoopid lol".
They'll learn a lot in the first 5 versions of society they create ...

@fribbledom The idea was originally proposed by Economist Harsanyi in....1959? ish?

Harsanyi did the hard Maths on possible results - something sorely lacking in Philosophy.

That said, I can see why the non-Maths version's more popular at dinner parties.

@malin I don't see how to turn the concept into a math problem. Can you explain?

@jaranta I think he was using something similar to Game Theory, but I couldn't follow the notation.

You'd do something like finding that if system X has 10% of citizens living in poverty, you rate 10% of that payoff, then continue across all societal stratas till there's an average payoff.

Utopia is an immense theme.
You can start by reading Plato's Republic (which, I believe, influenced Rawls a lot), go through Thomas More's Utopia, T. Hertzka's Freeland, W. D. Howels Traveler From Altruria, H. G. Wells' Modern Utopia, T. Huxley's Island, and end up with M. Stansfiels's Learn How to Fly, or J.O. Lee/B. Kaufmann's Global Citizens In Charge (just to mention some I can remember now).

@fribbledom You will only conclude that there are no set of rules able to "structure a society of free, equal and moral people".
The problem is not in the rules, is in the raw material - people.
Plato himself said that "States are made out of the human natures that are in them", and warned that utopian panaceas are impractical, that paradise will be compromised by human appetites for greed and luxury.
The best example is, however, what Christian millennialists call The Thousand Years Kingdom. ..

@fribbledom According to the book of Revelation (and several other prophetic texts), that kingdom will be the place "where Christ and the Father will rule over a theocracy of the righteous". (
The evil ones are supposedly all dead and Satan is chained in some pit. Even so, after a thousand years there will occur an insurrection, the new evil ones will be destroyed, the earth will be "uncreated", and God will create "a new heaven and a new earth".

@fribbledom I remember reading that for class and going "way cool". He didn't take it far enough, eg, "I don't know everything, so I should... ask ppl about their lives", because while this is a good step one, if you just never thought about or didn't know about some particular group, you won't be ABLE to consider what they'd need.

@fribbledom seems like this would make a good basis for a game. Having a decent simulation of society where you can tweak the knobs and see how it turns out would be interesting.

@fribbledom stanislaw lem wrote an interesting story along slightly similar lines. a populace on a foreign planet (calling themselves indiots -not a typo, the n is important) lived happily knowing that each day at noon everyone would leave their appointed position and get a new one assigned randomly. so they had no fear of any consequences for what they did all day but had to endure the consequences of what their predecessor did on the day before...

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