My experience of watching game shows such as 'Deal or No Deal' suggests that people do not ascribe a low positive utility to winning nothing or close to nothing - they actively fear it, as if it would make their life worse than before they were selected to appear on the show. It seems this fear is in some sense inversely proportional to the 'socially expected' probability of the bad event - so if the player is aware that very few players win less than £1 on the show, they start getting very uncomfortable if there is a high chance of this happening to them... (read more)
On SCOTUS: My impression as a Brit is that this body is rather like the House of Lords - it's understood to act in a political way rather than just interpreting legal statutes and precedents, and indeed most of its members still very much wear their political colours, but they are appointed effectively for life by the executive, making them a long-run footprint of political control of the executive over the years (in the UK, the House of Lords is seen by some as a moderating influence because its composition doesn't change violently when there's an elector... (read more)
The whole tribal thing is something of an exaggeration when it comes to politics. You do get people who are totally dedicated to one party and would continue to support it even as its policies totally transformed, but I think more people are interested in particular issues. For instance, can you imagine an African-American fanatically opposing the Democrats in the 2006 midterms on the basis that they want to treat him as an inferior, because he decided his party alignment while living in 1950s Alabama and hasn't thought about it since? A few people may ... (read more)
Assuming spontaneous original thought is too difficult (and I doubt anything in this comment is original), how about this as a ritualised way of avoiding group-think:
A company has regular meetings to discuss its tactics. However, before the meeting, the boss tells one of the participants to be a rebel. (The others don't know who is the designated rebel at a given meeting, but it is understood that everyone will be told to play rebel sooner or later, for fairness if nothing else.) The rebel's job is to come up with persuasive arguments against the consen... (read more)
I just discovered this blog today; looks thought-provoking.
In theory, Christians can go one up on non-believers in the self-sacrificing stakes, which is to act in such a way as to condemn themselves to Hell, a fate which I would consider worse than non-existence. If they do it for the greater benefit of mankind this might be seen as a supreme act of virtue.
We then seem run into the question "Would a good God allow someone to go to Hell as a result of a supreme act of virtue?"
But that question is missing the point, unless we are trying im... (read more)