Testing our Value Systems-The Doomed Island Scenario

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Oct 04, 2012 12:32 AM GMT
    Hi everyone!

    I am Rubrod64 and I am interested in your responses for the following scenario I will share. There are no "right" or "wrong" answers, just honest or dishonest ones. The goal of this exercise is to discuss our personal values about relationships, family and community. Please answer the questions that follow the description of the scenario. I look forward to read your thoughts! Please do not focus on how realistic or scientifically valid the scenario is and instead focus on the ethical dilemma it presents.

    The Doomed Island Scenario

    Imagine that you have invented a device that can “beam” people from one place in the Earth to another. You brought that machine with you when you went on vacation to an island with three relatives you feel closest to, your best friend, your spouse/life partner (the love of your life!), and a child you are both raising. The seven of you visited a village in the island and you found that the inhabitants that you encountered seemed hostile to your culture or way of life. You felt mistreated when you visited a restaurant and felt harassed by a policeman. Your group instead decided to spend the rest of the time in a cabin on a hill to enjoy the rest of the vacation. One afternoon you left your family and friends behind to visit a scientist colleague in another side of the island. Meanwhile, your spouse/life partner left with your child and best friend to the beach and your three relatives decided to remain in the cabin. When you visited the scientist colleague, he informed you that he was doing a study about the origins of the island and said that he has noticed some unusual activity in the island. Then the colleague stepped out to get something at the village and left you alone with his computer. Suddenly, his computer revealed that the island was actually a giant volcano that will erupt in one minute. The computer’s calculations revealed that the entire island will be destroyed and everyone will die. You have your “beaming” machine with you and you can use it to save people. However your machine can only “beam” people from two spots in the island at the same time, your spot and another spot from the island. This means that you have three choices: 1) Save yourself and the village that you visited (20,000 men, women and children); 2) Save yourself and your three close relatives who are in the cabin; 3) Save yourself, your spouse/life partner, best friend and the child who are in the beach. You have one minute to decide who to save and everyone including you will die after one minute if you do not make a decision.

    • Who would you save if you were certain nobody would know that you made this decision?
    • Who would you save if you were certain that the next day you will have to explain your decision in national TV?
    • How did you come up with your decision and what personal values important to you did you apply when you made it?

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Oct 04, 2012 3:53 AM GMT
    Very interesting story rubrod64. I've always loved the "what if ..." stories.

    I just feel like I need to point out a few flaws though (Sorry, its just part of my natureicon_rolleyes.gif )
    First if the island was a volcano, someone would have to know. Historians, tour guides, someone. icon_confused.gif
    Second, if it was going to erupt, there would be warning signs, smoke, earthquakes, smaller eruptions, something
    Third, if it was gonig to erupt in one minute, it would still take some time before the lava reached the people, unless the whole island exploded at the same time. This time time before the lava reached the people, would allow the majority of people to be saved. icon_confused.gif
    Fourth, assuming the "beam" takes less than a minute to work (and it should since teleportation is usually instantaneous) wouldn't you get enough time to save multiple groups if not all of them? icon_confused.gif

    If we are going by my logic, I would save the people closest to the volcano, and try to beam as many groups as possible, or get the people closest to each other to group into bigger groups then beam the bigger groups. Then warn whoever is left and have everyone make a run for it. But my family would be the most important to me to save, since everyone else can make a run for it. This is the decision that is most logical to me and would be explained well if asked why I did what I did. icon_biggrin.gif

    If I went along all of your scenario's rules up to a point, I would save my partner one/friend/child and the village. My family would most likely be family of my age or older and although I don't like the idea of sacrificing them with me icon_sad.gif, I know my parents wouldn't want to live, knowing so many younger people died. And I couldn't live with the deaths of so many people on my shoulders. icon_cry.gif

    Following all of your points completely, I would have to save myself, my partner, friend and child. Though I love my family, when it comes down to it, I am looking out for those closest to me. And i would make this decision even if it was kept quite or if I had to explain it. I know I would be hated (and maybe even killed) for making these decisions, but I love my family and always put them first. I would probably spend the rest of my life trying to make up for it, maybe making the teleportation device owned in every major possible disaster area.
    It is a tragedy I would try to avoid at all costs, and most likely I couldn't live with whatever decision I made.
  • tautomer

    Posts: 1010

    Oct 04, 2012 5:13 AM GMT
    First, I did not look at anyone elses replies because I did not want them in some way to influence me.

    • Who would you save if you were certain nobody would know that you made this decision?


    I would not save anyone. Myself included. I would very likely panic and be left indecisive as it is. Still I could not under any circumstances make an accurate value judgement on who is worth saving and who is not. I would be racked with guilt, terribly crushing guilt for the rest of my life.

    • Who would you save if you were certain that the next day you will have to explain your decision in national TV?


    my descision would not change.

    • How did you come up with your decision and what personal values important to you did you apply when you made it?

    Really, my (lack) of decision stems from the fact that in truth, I am simply too afraid to pick someone else. I feel far too unqualified, and far too illogical to make the correct judgement. Ultimately I would just want to save myself and whoever I am closest with (which is easy to decide), but that is morally unjust and unfair so I would squash those feelings and die along with everyone else.

    Further, another reason why this makes me so terribly uncomfortable is because there IS no right answer. In moral scenarios that directly involve myself, that contain no correct answer deeply bother me. Mostly out of fear that I may be wrong. Because one of my deepest discomforts is error, I end up feeling like every decision is wrong, because every decision has a chance to be better or worse then another. With something so final, I basically decide to take myself out of the picture, because that basically prevents me from ever finding out what could have been.

    I know it's terribly fatalistic, and taking this stance actually is very likely morally far WORSE, because it's all for purely selfish reasons at the end of the day, not alruistic in the least.

    I'm going to stop/writing thinking about this. Stuff like this makes me terribly terribly upset because it ulimately makes me reaslise in my quest for a sort of moral purity, it actually makes me much more morally impure.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Oct 04, 2012 5:38 AM GMT
    I'm positive I would save my child over anybody else, and children over adults.
    I'm also positive I would save 1000 people of all ages over my child, as long as I don't survive either.
    But I have no idea how to balance number of people with strength of attachment to them.
    All about how many adults for a kid, how many foreign kids for a kid of mine etc...
    5 ? 10 ? 10 000 ?
    I would never explain my choice on media, as I can't imagine how I could be forced into it. Justice is something else, but I don't think any potential legal consequence can be worse than the guilt, whatever my choice.

    So I think I would chose to save the 20 000 islander, and then consider suicide.
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    Oct 04, 2012 5:49 AM GMT
    By the way, you used the national TV to force us to weight external judgment.
    You can make it far worse if your partner, kid, best friend and relative are informed by telephone about the situation, and aware you are choosing if they will live or die;)
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Oct 08, 2012 1:46 PM GMT
    • Who would you save if you were certain nobody would know that you made this decision?

    I would save mylife partner and our child.

    • Who would you save if you were certain that the next day you will have to explain your decision in national TV?

    I would save the same people. The people that lived on the island were very hostel. They treated outsiders disrespectfully and it sounds like they wouldnt spend 5 dollars to save your life. I also couldnt imagine them being very productive memebers of society. Lets not forget how your partners family would feel. My only comment to the media would be "what would you have honestly done if your were in my shoes".

    • How did you come up with your decision and what personal values important to you did you apply when you made it?

    I am a strong believer in balance. I believe balance is the key to life. With that being said, I will only do to someone what they would do to me (good or bad). I believe my reletives would understand. As far as the 20,000 people, I have a hard time given the back story that even 1% of them would do the same for me. For the one or two people that would, Im sure they made it to haven anyway.