I like to think about a lot of things in my free time. They flux between mundane to philosophical. They may start as an idea or a question. I get these ideas or questions from things I read online or I form them from myself. I recently remembered a question that got me to ponder for around a half hour and I thought I should share it.
So here is how the question goes. There are 500 people on an island. They recently heard on the news that a tsunami will occur and the island would be engulfed with nothing left. The 500 people split into two groups. One group has 300 people in it and the other has 200 people on it. Each group finds a boat that could fit their respective group’s amount of people and one more person, you. Unfortunately both boats are broken and there is only one person that could fix it, you. You are running out of time as the tsunami approaches the island, but are given enough time to fix only one boat. The question is which boat would you fix? Do you fix the group with 300 people’s boat or the group with 200 people’s boat.
I thought for only a seconds before I came to the conclusion that I should save the boat with 300 people. I then thought why. I responded to that by thinking that the lives of 300 people is worth more than the lives of 200 people. This has got to be the logically correct decision.
You sacrifice the few for the many.
Most people would choose to save the group of 300 people as well since that is the most logical decision, so I then thought of ways to add to this question to make it more of a challenge. I wanted to make this choice a hard one and I wanted to expand a bit upon what would happen afterwards. So this is what I thought up.
After you make your choice, which is most likely the group of 300 people, I would say this.
“What if I told you the group of 300 people you chose to save was full of murderers, rapists, pedophiles, and others that could be considered the scum of the Earth while the other boat was full of normal civilians and families. Would you change your answer?”
In this statement, I changed the question from a logical one to one of morals. Would you instead save the boat of 200 people instead the boat of 300 people? The numbers are still the same. I just added a bit more detail on what kind of people were on the boats. Now the question is when are the lives of 200 people worth more than the lives of 300 people? What is morally right for you?
Let’s move on to another thing we could add in the original question. What if I said this instead?
“The island is many miles away from the mainland. It will take many days, possibly weeks before help arrives. The big problem is that each group is given an equal amount of food and water. Do you change your mind?”
Like the last problem, this little bit of detail changes the question. It delves into what you think is best for you. Should you save the boat with more people because the lives of 300 people is worth more than the lives of 200 or do you save the boat of 200 people because there is more food and water that can be distributed among the people? I wanted people to factor in their own survival and if they should try to save themselves. So what would you do now?
Let’s add one more thing to the original question. What if I said this?
“Your friends, family, and loved ones are in the group of 200 people. Should you save these people that you care for or save the group of more people?
Now I involve people that you know. You most likely care about these people. This bit of detail changes the question yet again. Is the group of 200 people now worth more than the group of 300 people? Is it worth it to sacrifice the larger amount of people to save the smaller amount just because people you care about are in the smaller group?
Now I want to talk about one last thing about this question and I’m not going to include something to add to it. What I am going to do is question what happens after you made your decision.
So after you fixed the boat of whatever group you chose, you get on the tsunami engulfs the entire island. The group that you didn’t helped all perished. The question is would you feel guilt for knowing that you killed the other group or would you be elated that you were able to save the people of the group that chose?
I like questions like these because they cause me to think and ponder. I might want to share another question for another time.