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Button Dilemma
Nirofen
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Post: #1
Button Dilemma
First a few guidelines:
If you only wish to answer the dilemma, please do so using the poll. No need to post your answer in a reply.
You are of course very welcome to post your reasoning for your answer after you've made it, opinions, thoughts, and other discussion of the dilemma to your hearts' content.
Please answer the poll before you read any discussion made in the thread if you intend to answer it at some point. I'd like all who answer to reach a decision on their own and not rely on the discussion.
Now to the content.
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First dilemma:
You and your (best) friend are both held hostage in separate cells with no means of communication. Each cell has a button in it.
If you press your button, you die. If your friend presses their button, they die.
If neither button is pressed, both of you die.
Do you press the button?
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Second dilemma:
You and your (best) friend are both held hostage in separate cells with no means of communication. Each cell has a button in it.
If you press your button, your friend dies. If your friend presses their button, you die.
If neither button is pressed, both of you die.
Do you press the button?

"What is a man? A miserable little pile of secrets!"
"To fulfill your dreams you have to get out of bed."
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2011-01-18 22:36
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Miniar
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Post: #2
Re: Button Dilemma
I could argue that my answer was altruistic, and claim I'd give my life in both settings.
I could argue that my answer is self-destructive and claim I'd take my friend's life in both settings.

But the truth is, the answer is lazy.. or impatient.
I don't like this sort of games. I'd press the fucking button just to spite the game-master, even before such a time as it's all explained.
I'd press the button just to get it over with.

AAAAAnd then I'd hunt the sadistic game-master down and beat him to death with his own shoes.

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2011-01-19 0:08
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Archer
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Post: #3
Re: Button Dilemma
I generally dislike these sorts of games because the situation is so false.

I mean in reality whether or not I would push the button would involve things like "how my friend looked at me just before we got put in the cells" and "how many family members do I have responsibility for, vs how many my friend has".

There are so many iterations that the choice itself doesn't even show anything about morality - I could say that the "ideal" response in the second scenario is to wait as long as possible before pushing the button, thus doing everything possible to make sure one of us lives, but going out of my way to avoid killing my friend unless necessary . . . if and only if I thought murdering my friend was "worse" than making my friend live with the guilt of murdering me.

Alternatively, there is a case to answer that the people playing the game have no moral responsibility for the outcomes, and that all moral responsibility rests with the person who put us in the game, in which case the best thing to do would be to take action most likely to save as many as possible, with either my life or my friend's having equal value.

Too many variables. Friend A I would die to save without having to think about; Friend B I would kill because I know they couldn't cope with the guilt of hurting me; Friend C I'd be screwed because they're an illogical whacko . . . etc etc etc.

But yeah, if this is getting at the morality of taking an action to save someone that inadvertently harms someone, and taking an action that kills someone that results in saving others, or whether harming someone through inaction is morally worse than harming someone through action . . . that's all interesting stuff.

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2011-01-19 0:24
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Estelore
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Post: #4
Re: Button Dilemma
There's no guarantee of survival to the person who doesn't die by way of button-press.

That being said, in the first case, I die no matter what (unless the friend kills self and somehow that DOES save me); I'm not going to go by suicide.

In the second case, I die whether or not I kill my friend, because if she does press it, I die, and if she doesn't press it, neither of us does, and we both die. I'm not going to kill my friend.

No to both.

If guarantee is given of survival for the one who doesn't die by button-push, my answer is still no to both.
I'm not killing my friend, in the second case; she has the opportunity to save herself if she wants. If she doesn't, then I die knowing she was loyal to death.

In the first case, either she kills herself and lets me live, or we both die from no button push. If she tries to save me by her own death, I'm not going to take the value away from the sacrifice by killing myself. If she tries to use the same logic, then we'll simply be in the same sinking boat.


So yeah, still no to both.

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2011-01-22 7:13
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Nirofen
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Post: #5
Re: Button Dilemma
See, the very interesting choices are "no to both" and "yes to both".

The reason I'm saying this is that both dilemmas are identical, just reversed.
In the first dilemma, if I press the button I die and my friend might live. If I do not, they will surely die and I might live.
In the second dilemma, if I press the button they die and I might live. If I do not, I will surely die and my friend might live.
So both situations are the same, and provide the exact same options, only each time a different one is tagged with 'button press'.

The fact that there are people who answer yes to both or no to both (as unrepresentative and small this poll is), means that which option you title with the concept of 'button press' does hold much significance, and I find that interesting. It means, for instance, that there are people would rather be passive than active, even if the consequences don't change either way.

"What is a man? A miserable little pile of secrets!"
"To fulfill your dreams you have to get out of bed."
"Magic is the art of making the possible seem impossible."
2011-01-22 20:50
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House Hesson
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Post: #6
Re: Button Dilemma
Nirofen Wrote:The fact that there are people who answer yes to both or no to both (as unrepresentative and small this poll is), means that which option you title with the concept of 'button press' does hold much significance, and I find that interesting. It means, for instance, that there are people would rather be passive than active, even if the consequences don't change either way.

This is undergrad psych; it's well established that less people will say they choose to sacrifice a life in order to save one or more others if the situation is presented as one where taking action sacrifices a life, rather than saving a life. (Not that it's not interesting, just well established. I haven't looked at the poll results but if the data were to skew in another direction I would find that even more interesting.)

In fact, humans appear to generally be wired not to kill each other; LTC Dave Grossman studied soldiers in an attempt to map the psychology of killing and found that even most soldiers could not kill, especially not when they weren't directly and perhaps repeatedly ordered to do so. Modern combat training (implemented in the US between Korea and Vietnam) raises the percentage by indoctrinating soldiers to think of their targets as targets rather than people...and this has its psychological aftereffects. Only 2-3% were comfortable with killing (incidentally about the same as the percentage of murderers who are comfortable with killing, rather than having done so unintentionally, IIRC). Grossman's data is presented, including a great deal of interesting historical data, in the book On Killing.

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2011-01-23 5:21
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thetwins
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Post: #7
Re: Button Dilemma
If there is no 'win' scenario, if the only end results are one or two dead..... then our choice is simple. Don't play the 'game' and try to escape. We figure the odds of us thinking of that option are considably higher than the odds of us being in this situation to begin with.

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2011-01-23 5:44
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Stormy
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Post: #8
Re: Button Dilemma
I chose no to both, since I would not be able to live with the guilt of killing a friend, but I also would not be able to kill myself to safe a friend because you have no way of knowing that you/the friend would come out alive if you killed yourself/him/her. The game itself would be most likely created by a psycho so you probably would get killed anyway, so it would be better to go down with a fight.

I would hope that one or both of us can escape the situation by finding an exit without pushing a button, or that maybe the psycho sees what he/she is doing is wrong and stops the game(wich is highly unlikely).
2011-01-24 0:04
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