Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A dillemma

A few days ago a friend of mine asked me about a philosophical dilemma and was quite surprised by my answer (she didn't like the cold rationality of it). This got me thinking and I was wondering what you my reader would have answered and what you do think of my answer (and explanation for it). So I present to you the dilemma:

You have a choice to make, you can choose only one option (they are mutually exclusive) and nothing in the universe will be able to prevent the consequences of not choosing the other choices from happening, also you must choose something, also not all choices are as likely to succeed as the others. Your choices are as follow:
1. Save your child that is suffering from a incurable disease and will die in the next 10 minutes unless you find the cure (you have 1 in 2 chance of succeeding)
2. Save your village from an invading army that will destroy it in 1 month (1 in 50 chance of success)
3. Save your country from nuclear inhalation from an enemy country in 1 year (1 in 500 chance of success)
4. Save humanity from an invading alien civilisation that will destroy them in 10 years (1 in 5000 chance of success)

Think about it and in a few lines I will tell you my answer and why.

My answer with those odd is to save the child, it is the only one choice with a reasonable chance of success given the conditions. I might only be giving him one month to live (he's gonna die in the village destruction apparently) but at least I'd be giving someone a chance to live. The village and country solution even if they are far more likely to happen then the humanity survival one and their is also the idea that this cure could be used on other children... but that not part of the dilemma so it shouldn't matter. Now I also told my friend that with different odds I would choose a different answer, the thing is that I would save humanity if it was basically possible to do so. You see statistically a 1 out of 5000 chance is impossible in a single attempt drawing, it could happen of course that change is not 0 but it is not likely enough to be considered an eventuality. Suppose however that you increased the chance of saving humanity to 1 in 2500 (doubling your chances in a way) well you go from the real of almost impossible to the very unlikely but possible and at those odds I would try to change humanity.

This is what my friend found too rational, the fact that I was using the odds of success to make my choice. The fact that I was passing on saving humanity because with those odd it was basically doomed and that saving the child (who is supposed to be my child in the dilemma someone that would be very dear to me) is the most likely situation. What do you think.
Listening to: 02 - Evolution.The.Grand.Design
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yofed said...

I go with your plan. You have to go for what will work. And since he would die 10 minutes after otherwise, it leaves you plenty of time to tackle the other projects ;)

When you are at the scene of an accident where there are many casualties, you have to chose who lives and who dies by deciding what their odds of survival are. If someone has no chance of survival, you leave him there and cure the next guy ;)

asaathi said...

Unfortunatly according to the terms of the dilemma if you choose one nothing in the univers can prevent the other from happenning. i.e if you choose the village, the country (and the villages for that matter) get destroyed in a year and humanity follows 9 years latter... not to mention the child is dead anyway. Nothing, nada will allow you or anyone else to change that.

Krimpoff said...

I'd choose the child also, because he is worth more than me on this (from my point of view, which is the most important at the moment of the choice).

At least, knowing that the other options would happen would give my child the chance to move to another country and live 10 years. If I had to do the choice, I knew the other options. And in those 10 years, maybe the "nothing in the universe could change that" condition could be changed, who knows.