Question of the Week #178

You are leading 100 people whose lives are in danger and you must choose between two courses of action. One would save only 90 people; the other would have a 50 percent chance of saving everyone but were it to fail, everyone would die. Which would you choose?

I’d go with door number one. I’m guaranteed to save 90 and I’m okay with that. I’d rather know I can save 90 than have a 50/50 chance of losing everyone.

Who elected me leader of these people, anyway? I didn’t ask for this! Am I attached to any of the 100? If not, then it’s really no skin off my nose if 10 of them die. We’ll draw straws to see who gets left out of the guaranteed plan.

What would you do? Save the 90 or take the chance?

*The Question of the Week can be found in The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D.

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4 thoughts on “Question of the Week #178

  1. Hmms I think I might take the second? Just to be different lol cos if it fails and everyone dies then I’d be dead to so I wouldn’t really have to deal with that consequence. But if I had to let 10 people die, then I’m not sure if I could be ok with that

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Well, the cold logical answer is to save the 90 – a very simple analysis of expected loss/gain says that’s the right choice. However it assumes people are rational beings. We’re not. Our decision-making is rooted firmly in our emotional centers not our rational forebrains. The only reason we can maintain the illusion of being logical is because we are superb at rationalizing the choices that our emotional side have already made.

    You could try thinking about a more clear-cut dilemma. You’re in a situation where if you do nothing, two people will die. However you can choose to kill one of them – either one – and that action will save the other. It’s crystal clear here that the right thing to do is save one of them, but most people will have great difficulty deliberately killing someone to do so. And mix up the thought experiment a bit, and see what difference it makes if you choose who will live and who will die, versus an action that will kill one at random and save the other. Logically, there’s no difference, but emotionally it makes a great deal of difference.

    Back to the original question, I would probably take the all or nothing gamble, even though I know it’s not the “logical” choice. Rather that than kill 10 people who would have had a 50/50 chance of living.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’d take the second. If we failed, I would have tried, at least. And if we succeeded, everyone would live happily after. I couldn’t live with losing ten lives. Although, I admit that your line of thinking sounds valid too, but I am too emotional to feel or act rationally, and if I was in an extreme situation, I would probably not think twice, take the group, and we would all be doomed.

    Liked by 1 person

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