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10,000,000 to 1

  1. Jul 17, 2003 #1
    [SOLVED] 10,000,000 to 1

    If there was a button that you could press that would save the life of the one you loved the most but would cause the death of ten million strangers, and if the death of the ten million would have no negative effect on the button presser, is it wrong to press the button? Is one life worth less than ten million?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 17, 2003 #2
    It's hard to say, every life is important, especially to he/she who owns it.

    Was the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima totally unnecessary? It all depends on who you ask.

    And, while I think the "noble" thing to do would be to make the sacrifice, that doesn't always guarantee it will happen.
  4. Jul 17, 2003 #3

    Ivan Seeking

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    I find it difficult to answer such a broad question in isolation. Why is this the situation?[reflexive question]. I might imagine either result possible. But on the whole, to answer in a vacuum of information, I would hope that I could save the 10,000,000. I think it would be easier to not act, than to act. So the result may be different depending on how you wire your button.

    Also, for every reason that you can give me to save the one, I can give you 10,000,000 reasons to save the many. How can we ignore the math? I suspect also that many of those loved one's may try to stop you from pushing the button. Would it matter if they begged you not to push the button?
  5. Jul 17, 2003 #4
    better modify the case so that many persons will be facing such decision after you until one of them presses the button.
  6. Jul 17, 2003 #5
    That is the wrong question. The question should read: is one life more valuable then that of 10.000.000 other lives?

    Since the answer is no, both the button should not be pressed, and the one who puts you into the dilemma and wiring that button, should be punished severely.
  7. Jul 17, 2003 #6
    It would be "right" to me, because i only know my friend, not the other 10 million strangers.
  8. Jul 17, 2003 #7
    I have a hard time imagining how killing 10 million strangers would have no adverse effect on you.

    1. Surely, your friend's friend's friend's friend must know someone in that 10 million, and that would have some adverse effect.

    2. Would guilt not be considered an adverse effect, even though you knew no one in that group?
  9. Jul 17, 2003 #8
    better that they suffer an adverse effect, than be dead and not have any feeling at all
  10. Jul 17, 2003 #9


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    Sure it's wrong. When individuals are willing to harm tens of millions for the comfort of those he knows personally, civilization breaks down.
  11. Jul 17, 2003 #10
    "When may someone favor members of one's family, or one's community, over other randomly chosen human beings?" Anybody who thinks that there are well-grounded theoretical answers to this sort of question - algorithms for solving moral dilemmas of this sort - is still, in his heart, a theologian or metaphysician.

    Richard Rorty, "Contingency, irony, and solidarity"
  12. Jul 17, 2003 #11


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    I'd kill the ten million people and when the person I most love and I are reunited I'd kill her too
  13. Jul 17, 2003 #12

    Ivan Seeking

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    I should point out that everyone has missed the obvious choice for any physicist: I would disable the system.

  14. Jul 17, 2003 #13
    You are a part of the system, if you disable it you die.
  15. Jul 17, 2003 #14

    Ivan Seeking

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    "I don't believe in the no win scenario"

    Name that quote.
  16. Jul 18, 2003 #15


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    Greetings !
    James T. Kirk (though I believe the precise words were
    slightly different).

    As for the question posed in this thread - my answer is yes.
    I'd press the button without a moment's hasitation.

    Live long and prosper.
  17. Jul 18, 2003 #16

    Ivan Seeking

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    Yes this was bugging me actually. :wink:
  18. Jul 19, 2003 #17
    Sanctity of the Individual

    And yet all you have to do is compromise one individual, and it spells insanity for the rest. Consider what happens when you split the atom? And indeed, all it takes is one disgruntled individual. Hmm ... I wonder if Hitler was given this choice?

    Or, just like in the body. If "one cell" succumbs to a virus, chances are the rest of the body will follow suit.

    This is a horrible choice to put on people, because sooner or later somebody is going to fail. Perhaps society shouldn't put so much emphasis on "conformity," but learn to embrace the individual instead?

    Because comformity spells hypocrisy. Hypocrisy spells rebellion. Rebellion spells chaos. Chaos spells insanity. And insanity spells the end -- "of everything."
  19. Jul 19, 2003 #18
    LoL I could never live with myself with killing 10.000.000 persons. I think if (almost) anyone would come to the situation they wouldn't do it either.

    This reminds me of Immanuel Kant's 'Instrumental Evil', where you do evil on others simply because you want good for yourself. Only add 10.000.000 lives.

    It makes me afraid and sad to see those here deciding to do just that.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2003
  20. Jul 19, 2003 #19
    You know that they live too though. Just like you. And where's the limit of knowing ?
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2003
  21. Jul 19, 2003 #20
    Of course if you had a community of 10,000,000 Borgs, what would be the point? Better off stamping out the "collective community" of one (as if it were a single individual), for the sake of yourself, rather than have it assimilate you and take over everything else. Perhaps the 10,000,000 is not worth saving?

    Now where have I heard this before? Hmm ... Seems like it had something to do with Lot and God and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
  22. Jul 19, 2003 #21
    Indeed, i do know that they exist. But i couldn't really care less whether they lived or died, simply because i have never interacted with them before, so they are just "the wind". "They brush past me but leave no impact".
  23. Jul 21, 2003 #22
    A mass murder is what it would be, it's as simple as that, through a matter of just pushing a simple button. Because you would KNOW you're killing 10.000.000 people.

    You KNOW you're killing uncounted people because of fewer. Who are you to judge one man over another, or 1 to 10.000.000. As you said, you don't KNOW what their worth, because YOU don't know them. Don't confuse yourself with God.

    And don't say they don't leave any impact on you, we all give impact on eachother through our society structure, the buildings that's been made, the food that's been imported, etc. etc.
    But this shouldn't even matter. If you kill many over a few, that's what you do.

    If I had a button in front of me which would simply kill 1 guy, because I could save another, I wouldn't do it. Because I wouldn't know the other guy.
    However if that other guy is a mass murder or something like that, things might have been different, but I still don't think I would do it.

    And no, I didn't even like how this poll was presented. As heusdens was barely into, the poll is misguided in a strong way.

    I darely hope you won't be in the military, or in an atom bomb facility with those oppinions.
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2003
  24. Jul 21, 2003 #23
    Yes. You are right. Who am i to judge one man over another, or 1 to 10000000. But the very fact that this question has been posed to everyone means that i am entitled to give my answer, together with my reasons. If we all followed your reasoning, mitch bass might as well have not created this topic, since we'd all be stripped of our powers to give opinions. Also, this question inherently gives us "God-like" powers, so if i am confusing myself with God by answering it, then so are you.

    This condition answers your question:
    Let me ask you a question. If you were walking along the edge of a cliff one day. The current that day was exceptionally strong. And you saw two people struggling in the water. One is a true friend and the other is a stranger whom you have never interacted with before. You happen to have a length of rope in your backpack. If you only had time to lower the rope down and save one person from being dragged into the ocean and drown, who would you save? Why?
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2003
  25. Jul 21, 2003 #24
    The neeeds of the many, outweigh the needs of the few, or the one

    Since we're doing quotes now:wink: To which was eventually replied:

    The need of the one can outweigh the needs of the many.

    There is no "right answer" to this. It's a question designed to determine the strength of your morality and convictions. To say that it is wrong to let 10,000,000 people die and it is better to sacrifice someone close to you (like your wife/ husband/brother/sister/mother/father/chilld) is an exercise in unfairness. I think the majority of us would feel equal pain either way, but me personally, I couldn't live with that choice. If I had to kill the person next to me to save millions, then it would be 9,999,999 lives saved, because I'd want to die along with that person I let die. I'm with Ivan. I don't believe in a no win scenario.

    So I think I can sum up my answer as this. I wouldn't let anyone die- instead I would choose to take my loved one's place,letting them not press the button, saving 10,000,001 lives.
  26. Jul 21, 2003 #25


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    Greetings !
    Oh... ? Morality ? Convictions ?
    If 10 million chickens are slaughtered every day to
    be used as food for mankind, what is the difference ?
    Why would the termination of the lives of 10 million human
    beings you do not know and that will not affect you
    from the outside in any negative manner bother you ?
    Why doesn't the termination of the lives of the 10 million
    chickens bother you ?

    Why is it wrong to terminate the life of humans but not
    of other creatures ? Why is it sometimes good ?
    What is good and wrong and who eventually determines it ?
    What's the difference, their lives will end anyway sooner
    or later afterall, so ?

    If you had a pet chicken for years would you rather kill
    it than a person you do not know if you had to choose ?

    Live long and prosper.
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