Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


After the Dark, A Thought Experiment

So today in our philosophy class, we conducted a thought experiment. Based off of an idea in the 2013 film “After the Dark“, our class had to decide who would “live or die”. In this activity, each of the twenty-eight of us picked a random piece of paper from a jar. On that piece of paper was an occupation, such as “Heart Surgeon”, “Daycare Worker”, or “Published Poet” to name a few. We then transported ourselves to a nuclear apocalypse, where we would all inevitably die. However, there is a shelter for us with enough food, energy, and other supplies to last a year, after which it would be safe for us to leave the shelter and restart civilization. The catch is that there is only room for ten people. The facilitator of the experiment (myself) does not choose an occupation, but instead is a “Wild Card”, whose special skill is known only to the moderator. The Wild Card has a skill that could be beneficial or detrimental to the group.

Making Do or Die Decisions

As a class, we had to decide who would be chosen to go in the shelter, and who would be left outside to die. During the first round, people like Aileen (heart surgeon), Kevin (professional chef), Ryan (farmer), Sam (civil engineer), Nadine (psychologist), and Liam (construction worker) were chosen to live in the shelter. For the last spot, there was a tie between myself (the Wild Card) and Shiyun (underwear model). It was a surprise to myself that the underwear model was even considered, however most of my male classmates seemed to disagree. We re-voted, and Shiyun was chosen for the last spot in the shelter. Thanks guys.

I was left to die outside with some of my other classmates, with careers deemed useless in rebuilding civilization. Those included Avery, (published poet), other Kevin (frozen yogurt store worker), Tara (marine biologist), David (accountant), Kimberly (concert pianist), Alyssa (TV news reporter), and Devin (Olympic swimmer-despite his strong argument that being Michael Phelpsesque, he would be capable of reproducing awesome, muscular, swimming, babies).

The lucky group chosen to survive happily lived out their year in the shelter. HOWEVER, when it was time to leave the shelter, they realized that there was a code needed to exit. The only person who knew the code was the Wild Card. So, everyone was unable to leave the shelter, despite trying almost everything. They all perished, one by one, from either suicide, suffocation, or by being eaten by their fellow classmates. Not really a successful simulation, considering they all died. However, I think we all learned a valuable lesson. (Maybe being an underwear model is not as “useful” as previously thought.) Some argued afterward that they would rather choose Shiyun instead of take a risk choosing the unknown, which could have had detrimental effects, which seems logical.

For the second round of the simulation, each person picked a second card, containing another factor about themselves. After the DarkThis changed up who would be picked to live in the shelter. For example, Kevin, who was previously useless,(frozen yogurt store worker) picked a card saying he participated in recreational hunting. Tara (marine biologist) had a card saying she was a certified midwife. Some cards had neutral effects, and did not change whether or not they were chosen. Jayden (quantum physicist) was also a YouTube star, and still voted in. Joel (lifeguard) had contracted the Ebola virus and again, was not chosen. Some who were previously picked did not receive a spot during the second round. Ryan (farmer) was a convicted criminal (arson), and Shiyun (underwear model) was a carrier for cerebral palsy. This simulation the Wild Card was not in play, so the survivors lived out their year in the shelter and rebuilt civilization. Happily Ever After.

To conclude, I think our thought experiment went very well! I was glad that the Wild Card was not chosen the first round (similarly to the film), as it put an interesting spin on things. I hope that everyone enjoyed themselves, and feel a little more philosophical. If anyone has any comments or questions about how they thought it went, please let me know! I would love some feedback.


2 Responses to After the Dark, A Thought Experiment

  1. bryanjack says:

    Thanks again for bringing this thought experiment – and the lively discussion it contributed to in class over two days last week (and maybe more to follow…)! This is a valuable summary to add, as well, for those who may have missed the experiment (like myself).

    I was especially interested to see the debate unfold on the last-minute selection of Shiyun in the first round, and whether our young male friends were willing to represent their argument for her inclusion honestly. To turn down the ‘wild card’ at that point was foreseeable (or at least justifiable), as an unknown outcome with such high stakes is surely worth avoiding. However, as many pointed out on Friday, there were other characters than the underwear model that didn’t warrant consideration. I wonder, if as John pointed out in our debrief the following day, if a secret ballot would have influenced people’s choices, or if the males’ votes for the underwear model were shaped by more of a social ‘performance’ than individual motivation. This also relates to how the artificiality of the experiment might have made our group more polite than if the scenario were playing out in real life, as true life and death situations often bring out the best, and worst, in people.

    There’s a lot to consider here, certainly, in addition to these few points. But I’m grateful to have kickstarted some of our ethical discussions with such a lively activity!

    Thanks again,

    Mr. J

  2. Jet says:

    Please could you forward me the identity details for this experiment as I would like to use it with my Philosophy class also?


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