Elevate Your Mind.
Through the Re:Mind Newsletter, delivered every other Tuesday, we unleash your full potential and upgrade decision-making. We’ll explore mental models and life design.
Morality: A Mental Models Cookbook
By Juan Carlos
Making moral decisions can be a challenging and complex process. First, one must identify the ethical values relevant to the situation. Then consider the potential actions that could be taken and apply different moral principles. Take time to consider others’ opinions and choose an action most consistent with the prescribed moral values.
The Kantian Fairness Principle, Moral Hazard, and the Tragedy of the Commons are three mental models that can help individuals and groups make more moral decisions.
- Recognize that folks should be treated fairly and respectfully as a guiding principle for making moral decisions and evaluating actions.
- Analyze situations where individuals are not held accountable for their actions to identify potential risks and consequences.
- Understand circumstances where groups are using a shared resource in a way that is not sustainable. Then develop solutions to prevent resource depletion.
- Kantian Fairness Tendency is the natural inclination of individuals to treat others fairly and with equal respect regardless of their race, gender, or other factors.
- Moral Hazard is a framework for understanding the potential negative consequences that can arise when individuals or institutions are not held accountable for their actions.
- The Tragedy of the Commons is a concept in economics that refers to the depletion of a shared resource due to individuals acting in their self-interest.
Kantian Fairness Tendency
Humans share a desire for fairness at any cost, and this need can be at odds with systems that work better when they seem less than fair. An example might be seeing a colleague receive a promotion when you know you’ve done as good or better a job. The feeling you have doesn’t consider any other aspects of why they might have received the promotion. As such, it’s easy to ascribe what fairness is for yourself, but deciding it for others is more error-prone. Suppose you are making the rules for a system or redefining one; it’s more important to ensure balanced incentives and rewards than guaranteeing that one person is fairly treated. Regardless of whether an option would make someone better off, humans frequently refuse propositions that seem unfair — misconstruing or confusing how the system works can lead to an unbalanced solution. Keep in mind that a fair system will need to consider the human psyche.
A person or group who does not have to bear the full responsibility for an action is more likely to behave recklessly. The canonical example is when a corporation is willing to take on more risks because they know their insurance company will have to cover all losses. The concept can help you evaluate whether a person or group has a reason to exhibit riskier behavior because they won’t have to pay for the associated costs that result from it. If they don’t shoulder any costs for their actions, they are much more likely to practice dangerous or careless behavior.
Tragedy of the Commons
An individual overuses a shared resource for an immediate gain rather than a group’s long-term preservation, leading to a negative communal outcome. For example, a seaman finds a spot where the fish are plentiful, others hear of the bounty, and soon folks are catching more than can be replenished by the ocean’s ecosystem. After a while, there are no more fish. The individual’s action fails to consider the long-term consequences of their immediate gain. The actions taken are not a cognitive bias where someone is acting irrationally; it’s the opposite. Someone is acting entirely rationally, and that leads to collective ruin. Learning to share resources strategically on long time horizons is essential to maintaining and preserving complex systems.
Unlock Clear Thinking
Fueled by a passion for storytelling and excitement for life design, I find joy in reframing narratives to illuminate paths toward fulfillment. My experience spans high-growth startups, filmmaking, and social impact. Through mentoring and coaching, I guide teams and individuals to discover purpose and cultivate a meaningful life.
I started in film, directing award-winning features such as ‘Know How’ and ‘Second Skin.’ These cinematic endeavors earned me recognition and allowed me to serve as a spokesperson for Adobe. I founded the White Roof Project, a grassroots climate activism campaign that mitigated the urban heat island effect and spurred community-led social change.
I carried my storytelling skills and passion for societal transformation as I transitioned into the startup ecosystem. Initially, I contributed to social impact apps, converting complex issues into accessible solutions. This early experience laid a foundation for my later work, where I led the development of groundbreaking products within high-growth startups. My work has underscored the potential of technology to innovate and amplify the quality of human life.