Thursday, 2 August 2007

An Interesting Insight into Decision Making



A group of children were playing near two railway tracks, one still in use while the other disused. Only one child played on the disused track, the rest on the operational track.

The train is coming, and you are just beside the track interchange. You can make the train change its course to the disused track and save most of the kids. However, that would also mean the lone child playing by the disused track would be sacrificed. Or would you rather let the train go its way?

Let's take a pause to think what kind of decision we could make

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Most people might choose to divert the course of the train, and sacrifice only one child. You might think the same way, I guess. Exactly, I thought the same way initially because to save most of the children at the expense of only one child was rational decision most people would make, morally and emotionally. But, have you ever thought that the child choosing to play on the disused track had in fact made the right decision to play at a safe place?

Nevertheless, he had to be sacrificed because of his ignorant friends who chose to play where the danger was. This kind of dilemma happens around us everyday. In the office, community, in politics and especially in a democratic society, the minority is often sacrificed for the interest of the majority, no matter how foolish or ignorant the majority are, and how farsighted and knowledgeable the minority are. The child who chose not to play with the rest on the operational track was sidelined. And in the case he was sacrificed, no one would shed a tear for him.

The great critic Leo Velski Julian who told the story said he would not try to change the course of the train because he believed that the kids playing on the operational track should have known very well that track was still in use, and that they should have run away if they heard the train's sirens. If the train was diverted, that lone child would definitely die because he never thought the train could come over to that track! Moreover, that track was not in use probably because it was not safe. If the train was diverted to the track, we could put the lives of all passengers on board at stake! And in your attempt to save a few kids by sacrificing one child, you might end up sacrificing hundreds of people to save these few kids.

While we are all aware that life is full of tough decisions that need to be made, we may not realize that hasty decisions may not always be the right one.

"Remember that what's right isn't always popular, and what's popular isn't always right."

11 comments:

Ethereal said...

After reading first two paragraphs I'd say it doesn't matter if you let the train go its course or change tracks. The children will get out of the way regardless. They're much smarter and perceptive of their surroundings unlike adults who wouldn't even hear an airplane coming their way.

It is my personal observation that children cross roads in a safer manner than most adults who deliberately slow down in the middle of the road or would jump down the zebra crossing just as the traffic lights turn green. I never honk at children. They know what they're doing. I don't honk at adults either. They wouldn't get out of the way anyway!

Ethereal said...

OK, just read the rest... Here I would like to narrate a particular incident in a Star Wars RPG game I played a few days ago:

My character goes to a certain planet. There are refugees living there. A poor guy comes upto me and asks for 5 credits. I say alright no problem I've got lots of credits. But as I hand him 5 credits my mentor (an old Jedi Lady) reprimands me. I say what's the harm in helping this poor guy. And she's like you need to think deep and far. You may by thinking that you're helping this guy when infact you're not. Just then a bully comes up beats up that guy as he's walking away and takes his credits because he wasn't supposed to have any. "Let this be a lesson to you", I'm told, leaving me actually stunned for a good moment.

Just as the train scenario the most simplistic of actions that may borne out of nothing but goodwill can lead to greater disasters and/or utter ruin.

Syra said...

-sometimes we don't have much time to think too deep..we have to make a decision on the spot,there and then.
-seems like a constructive game,star wars walee,
-sometimes while u r helping others, you yourself end up getting into trouble
-do good endlessly,wholeheartedly, with sincere intentions, InshahAllah the result will always be in the best of interest for everyone

Din said...

My thought was.just shout to thye kid's playing in the used track's way to get off....the lesson in thyat would be I guess that people who make the wrong choice can be saved and put on the right "track"

:-)

regardless...I agree with your choice..what everybody does is not always right....so it is always good to reftect on what you are doinga dand why before you act...

Attique said...

Saira, you know what, everything you've mentioned in your post applies to this particular game :)

PS: If anybody likes Star Wars then he/she might want to read these reviews for XBox[1] and/or PC[2]. Or better still, try the game out.

[1]http://xbox.ign.com/articles/569/569096p1.html
[2]http://pc.ign.com/articles/586/586154p1.html

Syra said...

maybe the developers of the game were inspired by Leo Velski Julian...I play nintento..don't have xbox or play station..would have surely tried it otherwise..the game seems interesting

Ethereal said...

You can play the PC version on your computer. :)
It's like a cross between a book and a movie. You play a little then think what you've done then think what you would have liked to do. Then think what you would do next. It sure is interesting. Got me hooked during the very first conversation. Excellent plot/story.

Ethereal said...

The game's main support character (Kreia) was rated as the Best Character as part of Game of the Year Awards. Here's what they[1] have to say:

"Kreia can teach a player more about basic moral philosophy and the flaws of Nietzsche in one game than a full semester in college -- and make a trip full of heavy-duty thought a whole lot of fun."

[1]http://goty.gamespy.com/2005/pc/index23.html

Ethereal said...

With reference to my second post here's the exact quotation[1]:

[Just given alms to a guy and gets to listen to this...]
"And what is it you think you have accomplished? If you seek to aid everyone that suffers in the galaxy, you will only weaken yourself... and weaken them. It is the internal struggles, when fought and won on their own, that yield the strongest rewards. You stole that struggle from them, cheapened it. If you care for others, then dispense with pity and sacrifice and recognize the value in letting them fight their own battles. And when they triumph, they will be even stronger for the victory."

[1]http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Darth_Traya

Syra said...

ethereal,that was nice, depends on the context of help

Ethereal said...

Yes, I was shaken to the core when I first thought over it. Really hate pasting more spoilers here but this[1] aptly describes the situation:

"If you are to truly understand, then you will need the contrast, not adherence to a single idea."

[1]http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Darth_Traya