Mike Burr - log

[mind] The trolly problem of the pathologically self-assured

It's trolley problem both because it's a pure thought experiment and also because it involves ethical questions.

Suppose that we discover a chemical system in the body that makes it literally impossible for someone to admit that they're wrong? I mean literally in the same sense that one can literally not resist the impulse to pull a hand away from a hot stove (or to do some base sex thing.)

If you now think that I am trying to excuse someone's bad behavior I will point out that that person is necessarily a hypothetical person. None of this is actually happening, okay? I forgive!

Does it sound too unlikely? Do you think it is physically impossible for such a situation to exist? Our good old salt-of-the-earth, common-clay-of-th-west, solid dependable hominina homo is not susceptible to this?

If you cannot participate in this thought experiment on religious grounds you may sit it out under the bleachers with the stoners and the goths, but only if you have a note from your parents.

So for the rest of you, imagine this. There is a tractable, understandable chemical mechanism that explains why the definitely-correct are the way they are.

And by way of experiments performed on deniers, racists and tax evaders, we have discovered that the system can be altered to correct this trait.

Unless isolated, the terminally-correct are a "social force of destruction". Now, again, relax. Don't go jumping to conclusions amidst my struggle to make myself clear and not be misunderstood.

If we see and understand the mechanism and we "know" that there is a direct causal link, then we have our hands on the switch lever and have a juicy quandary on our hands.

"Know?", you say. This is a GE, suppose we know in the same sense that we know antibiotics fight disease, or in the sense that we know insulin replacement therapy is a net-good.

A Good Enough Gedanken Experiment?

Can we pin down the patient and forcibly inject the cure?

If it were a matter of self-harm, I don't think we could. And there is self-harm. The others-harm that occurs is hard to measure but is often recognized.

Brandine, that engine is not on fire!!

When the engine is on fire and two people are about to die in a fire because the "boss" has pride to protect, maybe that's a problem. Brandine is not my concern.

End-stage obstinance also doesn't affect just anyone. Folks who are not cornered or locked-in by the obstitrician are affected. Everyone else just walks away. "Have fun on your planet then."

The idea of chemistry-gone-wrong or maybe a well-placed tumor comes to mind for me here is because these people, if you've never had the pleasure, will have a topic (or sometimes it's all topics) that no amount of reasoning, clarity, common sense, objectivity or even regular pleading can cause even the smallest shift or re-thinking. The "ideas" in their heads are like a kind of newtonian fluid. The more force is applied the more firmly the anchors of true-at-all-costs latch on and refuse to let anything budge.

It's noteworthy that those-that-walk-away are unfamiliar with this activity; this "debating" about the true-just-because universe of topics. They may know the feeling. One cannot know one way or the other just by witnessing the walking away.

In fact, these are almost exclusively one-on-one interactions. A 3rd opinion is not welcome.

Maybe: Explain all of the chemistry to the sufferer and hand them a loaded syringe (and walk away.)

- 1 toast