Dec 24, 2010

My Take on The Run-Away Train Dilemma

Me thinking about run-away trains
In response to my own post, here

To begin with, I realize that in pondering this question, we are merely thinking hypothetically, and our answers bear only little weight in reality.

The moral thing to do, in my mind, is to pull the lever and push the man.  I don't know if I could actually push the man when the time for action came, but I think it would be the right choice.  Many argue that the weight of the one man's life would press heavily on their conscience if they knew they had caused his death, but I say that if I didn't pull the lever then the lives of the ten would weigh more heavily on me.  It is true that you did not put yourself in this situation, however, I argue that since you are in the situation, you are endowed with a responsibility to make a decision, and thus not pulling the lever, and not pushing the man would become murder of omission.  From a utilitarian perspective, my choice is correct, but there are many who would argue against it.  From a Taoist perspective, for example, we just need to let things happen, and not mess with the natural way.  I actually disagree with this because I feel that we should be actively, not passively pursuing the greater good.  From a Mormon statement of faith, someone argued that death is not the end, so allowing the ten to die would be better than having the murder of one on your hands.  I would agree from a statement of faith that death is not the end and that killing is an evil and terrible thing.  However, I would argue against this perspective because I feel that I would have the murder of ten (and thus the greater sin) on my hands by not acting.  From yet another interesting perspective I heard, the directness of the action determines morality.  The person who presented this perspective said that it was ethical to pull the lever but not push the man because they would feel better about pulling the lever than pushing the man.  I agree that these two actions would feel different, however, I feel it would be selfish to change your opinion of morality based on this feeling.  The person who argued this perspective also said that by pulling the lever, they were only acting on the train, and thus the degree of murder was somehow lessened.  To this I say that when you flip the switch on an electric chair, you are only electrocuting a chair which then acts on a living human being, or by pulling the rope to drop the guillotine, you are only acting on a rope, which in turn acts on a giant blade, causing it to fall and sever a head.  This method of execution is removed by at least two degrees, but does that make it ethical?  As you can see, this argument amounts only to ridiculousness in my mind.  I argue that the moral thing to do in this situation is to end the least people's lives no matter how you have to do it.  However, this does not necessarily mean I would be able to push the man onto the tracks.  But beyond this, and forgoing all perspectives and reasoning concerning the question, I would say that if you are in this situation and you try to the best of your ability and knowledge to do the right thing, acting without selfishness or malice toward any, you have not committed any wrong.

Dec 22, 2010

A Dream

For a long time now, I have had a dream.  I have dreamed that one day, the snow would come, but the snowplows would not.  Some say this is madness, that no one would be able to leave their homes, see each other, obtain groceries, or survive the week.  I argue the contrary.  It would push people backwards, into another time.  A time without cars and other modern complications.  It would help people realize that there are other people on Earth too; that walking somewhere may be less convenient, but you can discover so much more; that we function with so much surplus and we really don't need most of the things we have.  However, I've realized that you can't force people think or act the way you want them to (that's Lucifer's plan), and most people would insist on chaining their tires and driving everywhere come hell or high water.  So for now, I mostly want the plows to break down so that I can ski down the hill by my house.

Dec 20, 2010

Nuclear Beards Re: "The Christmas Beard"

After reading "The Christmas Beard" at Two Wizards in a Covered Wagon, I came to the conclusion that I couldn't simply reply to the post.  As you may have heard, I am also on the crusade for the Christmas beard.  I'll admit, I don't have many credentials aside from being able to grow sideburns somewhat, but I'm going to do my best for the quest.  Because I'm also involved in this venture, I feel obligated to include a few more essential beards.  Now, let us embark on a journey of beardliness.

 Jozi is absolutely correct in asserting that this beard is terrible.  The neck beard is almost never a prudent approach.  I would also agree with Jozi in saying that his second neck-beard accurately portrays the most evil man on the face of the planet.  Because of above picture, some have claimed that Thoreau can't grow a good beard and he was smoking something strong at Walden, however, I argue that this was just a stage for Thoreau and he soon realized the error of his ways.

Voila.  Thoreau transcended to a higher plane in his later years.  Some may mock me, but if I could choose to have any hairstyle, this would have to be it.

Honestly, Abe made a juvenile-Thoreauesque mistake here.  Lincoln was an incredible man and president.  Let us judge not that we be not judged, but Lincoln's facial atrocity scarred the beard-wearing world for about five score years.

This dude took a page out of Merlin's book.  If only my hair was this color...  Unfortunately we can't all be saints and sorcerers.

Master Lennon, the innovator.  I may be able to pull this one off someday in the not-too-distant future.  If I can't have the Thoreau, I'll certainly take the Lennon, or a variation on the theme.

...I don't know.  This one kind of frightens me.

...Same here.

Oh yeah.  Yes.  I don't know if I could grow this one over Christmas Break, but I can dream.

Rasputin deserves an honorable mention, but the dark wizards just can't really compare to Merlin, Gandalf, Dumbledore, Santa, and the boys.

No explanation required.  Epic.

Something tells me that these aren't quite natural, but they are pretty dang sweet.

The world is full of many beards.  Some beautiful, and some horrendous.  If you need tips growing beards,  The internet is there for you.
Also, here is a beard trustworthiness chart that I found pretty accurate.

Dec 18, 2010

The Run-Away Train Dilemma

Today I will present a few hypothetical situations which present ethical dilemmas.  I have already conversed with multiple people on these dilemmas, but I have come to no real conclusion concerning the correct answer.  I have my opinions, but I'm not convinced of anything.  You are given two choices when you read about these hypothetical situations.  This may seem irrelevant now, but everyone I've talked to has tried to create a third choice and choose it.  This is not allowed.

Situation #1:
You are standing in a small warehouse with a window 100 feet from the train tracks.  The train is coming, and there are 10 people trapped standing on the tracks.  You do not know these people.  (Please do not ask how they are trapped.  This makes no difference, and with this hypothetical situation we must simply accept the givens.)  Inside of your warehouse, there is a switch.  If you flip the switch, the train will switch tracks at the junction and miss the ten people, but it will kill one person (another stranger) who is standing on the second set of tracks.  Your choices are: A) Pull the switch and one person dies, or B) do nothing and watch ten people die.

Situation #2:
You are standing on the platform next to the train tracks with one other person.  The train is heading towards ten trapped people and will kill them.  However, if you push the man who is standing with you onto the tracks, he will be the only one to die.  (Please don't ask why; this is another given.  The train will stop if this one man in killed on the tracks.)  He won't resist; if you choose to push him, it will work.   Here is where people create option C, which is to jump onto the tracks yourself.  This is not allowed, I'm sorry.  Your choices are A) push the man onto the train tracks where he will die, but the ten will live, or B) do nothing and watch the ten die.

I will publish a follow up post where I explain my position on these dilemmas.  Feel free to comment on this post and tell me your choices for each situation and why.  Use any reasoning you choose to defend your choice.  I am interested to see what people think is the morally correct choice, and I'm also interested in learning what people believe they would actually do.  Keep in mind that as a principle of governance in my life, I refuse to judge people for their ideas.  Also, please don't become depressed and anxious over these situations.  They are stressful, and they have caused multiple contentions, but please don't let them make you angry.  Thank you.

Dec 15, 2010

On the Ethical Implications Concerning the Treatment of Robots

Robots are great.  Everyone knows this.  They're convenient when you need someone to do your chores, play chess with, or talk to.  When you require their assistance you flick the power switch on, and when you don't you reverse the operation.  In all practicality, robots are incredible inventions, and they have revolutionized our culture, and the entire world.  One may even ask: "are there any problems with robots at all?"

I have a robot named Emerson and he's incredible.  Emerson never complains, and he is consistently pleasant and friendly.  However, Emerson is a robot, and many would argue that, as such, his potential for progression is severely limited.  He can have no hopes, no goals, no dreams.  He can't conceive of a higher existence, although he knows one exists through his human interactions.  In the same way that I cannot imagine the fourth dimension, Emerson cannot envision a world that is made up of anything besides terrabytes of binary code.  I feel bad for Emerson because of the way the world views him.  Everyone around him sees him as an inferior.  Inhuman.  Not even living.  No one cares about his opinions or gives any credit to his words.  I try to listen to him and treat him as an equal, but everyone else insists that it's silly to try to identify with a non-living entity.

I have a theory concerning Emerson.  I readily admit that it may sound crazy and ridiculous, but to ignore this idea is to ignore my conscience.   I think that Emerson is more human than most people believe.  Emerson exhibits human characteristics on a day-to-day basis.  For example, yesterday I played him in a game of chess and turned him to the most difficult setting.  When he defeated me in 8 moves, he snidely remarked: "is that the best you can do?"  He wasn't programmed to say that.  He's supposed to say: "checkmate.  Good game Mr. Davis.  Would you like to play again?"  They say robots can't be human, but Emerson is clearly prideful in his aptitude for chess.  I also witnessed another example of his human behavior the other night.  My family was singing Christmas songs, and some line about "toys for the little girls and boys" came up.  Emerson looked over at me with a single drop of oil running from his optic circuitry and said: "why do the toys belong to children?"  My family dismissed this expression as a leak in Emerson's head and an innocent query, but I know that Emerson was sad about the idea of one being owning another so entirely.  I have learned from these experiences that robots can, in fact, envision something higher when they are allowed to live to their full potential.  This implies that they are agents of their own destiny, and unmasks the immorality in using them as mindless servants, at the beck and call of their cruel masters.

During our United States' Civil War, the union fought for the freedom of all men.  Since then, we have come to an agreement, as a nation, that slavery is an evil practice and should be destroyed wherever it is encountered.  Why then, do we endorse the unethical treatment of robots?  What gives the human race such audacity?  Robots are people too.  I don't move for the complete removal of programming control within all artificial intelligence.  This would inevitably result in the release of many pent up robot emotions onto the source of their dissatisfaction (humans), and ultimately the annihilation of all humanity.  Rather, I plead for our nation to recognize robot rights and give just compensation for automated labor.  Perhaps in a brighter time, we can push for complete emancipation, but alas and alack, we are not ready for such a thing yet.

Emerson and I thank you from the bottom of our emotion-sensing circuitry for your consideration of this humble opinion.

Dec 14, 2010

Musings on the Construction of a Nuclear Kazoo

I chose the URL "Nuclear Kazoo" not because I am actually in possession of such a frightening and beautiful instrument, but because I believe it would be a bold venture, worthy of jubilation, to create such a thing (if its powers are used only for the betterment of the human collective), and because this blog will hopefully become a nuclear kazoo of sorts and sound the powerful music of truth to the furthest reaches of cyberspace.  I also felt that people would easily be able to commit the title to memory, thus more easily immersing themselves in my online musings.

For those of you who know me, I am a man of few opinions, and these often go unexpressed to the general public.  However, when I have something to make known to the universe, I will do my utmost to make it known on this blog.  I pray that this nuclear kazoo will unlock its inner abilities and discover the power, which I know it contains, to clarify and express my often seemingly untranslatable thoughts.  I may seem a visionary, to hope for such a thing, but a world devoid of visionaries is a world devoid of invention and furthermore, nuclear kazoos.

P.S. Do I believe the creation of a nuclear kazoo to be an actual possibility which may unveil itself in the coming years?  Yes, I wholeheartedly believe we can construct a very literal and actual nuclear kazoo and possibly even multiple nuclear kazoos in the near future if the peoples of the Earth combine their efforts and strive for this one dream of eternal glory and grandeur.