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What If Your Future Had Been Decided By Someone Else's Coin Toss?

From a reader we’ll call O.X.H.:

I listened to your podcast on letting a coin decide your future – and wanted to make my own, small contribution to your piece. I am an attending physician now – but back when I was in medical school (early 2000s), I helped out with the admissions process by interviewing prospective candidates. On one day of interviews, my faculty colleague and I conducted six interviews – and by the end of the day, our job was to rank each of the candidates that we had interviewed. We independently agreed on No. 1 and No. 2 (and No. 5 and No. 6), but neither of us could decide between No. 3 and No. 4. He asked me how we should resolve this – and I (jokingly) suggested that we should flip a coin. Ironically, he loved the idea – and pulled out a coin, and then we assigned each candidate to heads/tails. We said that whoever won the coin toss would get 3rd. (Interestingly, we flipped the coin only once – not two out of three.)

So what happened? The candidate who won the toss finished 3rd – and was part of the incoming first-year class in the fall. The candidate who finished 4th didn’t get in, but may have gotten into a med school elsewhere (there’s no way for me to know). And so, while a coin toss didn’t decide my future – it certainly did decide someone else’s — in a big way. I lost track of what happened to the 3rd place candidate after I graduated medical school – but it’s a story that I thought you would certainly enjoy.

If you were candidate No. 4 and somehow found out about this, how would you feel? Was their decision “fair”? If no, was it less fair than what happens every day in many situations, but without the benefit of any coins being flipped?