Thursday, May 21, 2009

A few weeks ago, I was in the car with my father listening to public radio. It's just the default radio station in my family. Anyway, it was this program called "Radio Lab" or something like that. They were examining a human being's innate sense of morality. What we instinctively feel towards moral dilemmas. In order to illustrate how the instinct overrides logical reasoning, they put forth what I call the Men on a Rail Problem.
Scenario 1: You are watching five men work on a railroad track that diverges into a y-shape. Four are working on one section, the other is working on another section. Next to you is a switch. A train is approaching at high speed and will hit the four men working on the section it is aimed at. However, you can pull the switch, diverting the train to the other section and only hitting one man.
Do you pull the lever?
Scenario 2: Again, you are watching men working on a railroad track. This time, you are overhead on a bridge a good distance above them. Next to you is a large man. The train is again approaching. If you do nothing, the train will kill all the men on the track. If you push the large man over the edge, it will stop the train and save the workers, only killing the man you pushed.
Do you push the man?
Ok, so if you answered yes to Scenario 1 and no to Scenario 2, congratulations, you are like most people. It just feels wrong to push a man, yet okay to pull a lever. Logically, both are the same, ending in the death of one man versus many, but one feels okay, one feels very wrong. Seemingly proving instinct overrides logic.
I propose that both scenarios are invalid. There is no such thing as a no-win situation (as any answer is in these scenarios). I propose that no matter what you do, no one will die. If these men are able enough to work on the tracks, they are able enough to realize a train is coming and that they should move. Thus averting catastrophe. This experiment is INVALID. In my humble opinion.
Reminds me of the Kobayashi Maru scenario in Star Trek. A seemingly no-win situation turned into a win-win situation by a cheat. But, it wasn't really a cheat since the entire scenario was a cheat.
Dearie me, I am a nerd. Please forgive my outburst of geek-dom. To be fair, I had seen the new Star Trek movie less than a day before I heard this broadcast.
Quoting one of my favorite web-comicers: Rock on and geek out.

This train will kill everyone you love if you don't flip that switch!

Image found:

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Star Trek...and other amusing rants

Last weekend, I went with my family to see Star Trek for Mother's day (yes, we're that kind of family).
As previously established, I love Star Trek. Not on the rabid "I'm going to dress up as a Klingon and learn the language" level, but more of a chill "I like watching the show and reading the books" level. Recently on CSI, there was an episode that paid homage to both Star Trek: TOS and the Battlestar Galactica reimagining. One of the main characters scoffed at the fanboys and fangirls until a bartender (one of a wise and empathetic race) opined that if you want to believe in a future where everyone has put aside their differences, is that such a bad thing? I agree, and work to try to make that future a reality. Or, at least the social aspect since warp travel is not in my field of expertise.
Anyways, I loved the movie. I loved the casting of the characters, the mannerisms adopted, the new interpretation. And, in true Star Trek form, they side-stepped having to adhere to canon by saying...(Spoilers)...Hey guys! We're in an alternate universe!...(End Spoilers)...That still cracks me up.
I must say that I especially liked Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy. He really channeled DeForest Kelley in his mannerisms but still made McCoy his own. Also, Simon Pegg was hilarious as Scotty. One of my favorite moments was after a pregnant pause and Scotty says "I like this ship! It's exciting!"
Well, that's mostly the end of my Star Trek rant for now, but one other thing I noticed this week is that when a character is seen typing on a keyboard (and this was on a Hallmark Channel movie from a while ago) and you watch the characters appear on the screen, they typing sounds are sometimes just random clacking noises. No actual correlation between a character appearing and an individual clack. Hm.
Live long and prosper.