The Ring of Gyges

It's hard not to think Tolkien when thinking of rings that grant invisibility. But another ring did grant invisibility two millennia before the "One Ring". Glaucon was debating his famous sibling Plato on the affect that invisibility would have on human morality and told the story of Gyges, a shepherd.  

In the legend Gyges, a moral man discovers a ring that makes him invisible. The power corrupts him slowly and Gyges' morality wanes with time. Eventually, Gyges seduces the queen of the land, and plots the murder of the king, becoming king himself.  

Glaucon posits that morality is directly correlated to visibility. Socrates and Plato cannot disagree fully, but add that with understanding and rationality one can be invisible and remain moral. Plato's optimism may apply to an enlightened few, but Glaucon's sentiment surely applies to the vast majority of us.  

It may not seem so, but invisibility is the reality of many situations. If I consult with a cardiologist, i do have to defer to their judgement because i cannot "see" the true validity of the judgement. A large informational asymmetry exists and barring googling or a second opinion I have few other choices. The cardiologist here is invisible to me. Only another cardiologist can "see" whether the judgement is prudent and moral.  

I've mentored dental students for the past 6 years. Every Saturday a dental student observes my work. Over the years I've noticed an interesting phenomenon that i don't think is unique to me. I consider myself a reasonable clinician, but on Saturdays my protocols become very, very textbook. The presence of another expert in proximity shines a light on the shadows of informational asymmetry. Working "visibly" leads to better quality work and better patient outcomes. I'm certain of this.  The brilliant Australian author Prof Mark Burgman's book Trusting Judgements allows a deeper dive.

Part of the CoTreat solution is making individual judgement more visible by disseminating to a panel of peers.  

Further reading