Hi all,



That youtube video above describes the question I'm about to ask:

Pretend you're in a hot air balloon with 5 other people. You're floating over the ocean and then someone realizes that there are 1,000 sharks swimming below you. All of a sudden, a bird flies into your craft and pokes a hole in the side. You begin falling rapidly, and your only chance of making it to shore is to lose as much weight as possible so that you can hopefully drift closer to the beach.

You toss everything (blankets, radios, etc) overboard, but that still isn't enough weight. You then realize that someone MUST be thrown overboard...otherwise EVERYONE will die.

How do you make the decision as to who gets thrown off? Do you base it on things like:
-Number of children



If you watch the video you'll gain a few other insights as well. I'm interested to see what you guys have to say.

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We discuss it.

What if the 7 children are there? What if the man hates all 7 of his children and his wife, and wants to toss them overboard? What if the wife is willing to give her life for her children, but it doesn't make one lick of difference in how fast they're losing altitude.

The sheer amount of variables in this lead me to this choice:

-We do what we can, while we can. We hopefully pull together, rather than panicking and falling apart, and probably turn on the hot air balloon propane heater thing full blast, in the hopes of making it to shore on what fuel we have--besides that, we accept our fates--sometimes we just draw the short straw, and you don't survive. Similar situations come up with things like this--a car that can carry an entire group of people to survival is working, but it's pinning someone to a tree--do you pull the car away, and perhaps condemn the pinned person to death, or wait for someone to rescue all of you?

The variables are numerous, the reasons are many, and unless someone outright volunteers, it is not fair to force the picking of straws or in any other way, throw someone overboard.

My main problem is this: Say you whittle down the people, tossing them overboard one by one, in a maniacal bid to survive--and you do, but just barely. How do you live with sacrificing them so you can go about your life? Say you die. How do you live knowing you tortured them with such a death?

In such a situation, as well---I would keep the radio. And the survival raft. Both are gonna be useful if and when they go down. The radio can be used to send out distress signals---up until the last minute, and even if they all crash into the water, someone could be saved with the coordinates. and the raft could be used to keep certain people--children, women, those who can't swim, out of the water while the others try to paddle them to shore.

I would also suggest it might be possible to  float far enough away from the shark-infested area that the people are currently over---once far enough away, it would be less dangerous to swim to shore. Will tossing people overboard bring them to the beach or simply buy them enough time.

Again, enough variables, but dissolving into anarchy won't exactly look good if you survive, or especially if they survive the fall into shark-infested waters.


Reminds me a little of Hunger Games. There really is no victory even if you make it, after you toss people out.


First off , if you are 3 miles above the water , throwing somebody overboard isn't going to fucking matter. This is the stupidest scenario ever. The sharks are pointless to the case because you're going to die when you hit the water with that altitude.

Also why would you throw the tire overboard? That shit will save you. You should have people start stripping their clothes off - lose the weight and it might distract the sharks - they might start to eat on falling clothes. But again, the sharks are pointless.

How the hell is a ruptured hot air balloon going to RISE just because you throw weight overboard? Throwing a fat person overboard is going to magically seal the hole?

It's not even answerable. But I guess if I had to take a stab at it , you would throw the fattest overboard. But that probably would not be possible because he's fat and you would need extra help. Getting any coherent and reliable teamwork to throw a fat person overboard is most likely not going to end well.

I think the most logical thing to do is to work on a plan for when you hit the water. Because you are not guaranteed to survive just by throwing someone overboard.

If you want to ask the question "who's life is more valuable' , why not just phrase it that way?

Old people get thrown first. They got to live their life now it's time they let someone else live theirs. That's about the only justification I can make.

I will poke other holes in this, but I was answering it without doing so:

-birds can't poke a hole in it. Only some sort of weapon or spear would. Then you have other problems.

-Say you get a magic hole in it--most balloons can deal with holes. you crank up the fuel and land in an emergency area.

-5 people--going over the ocean? emergency raft. So if they do land and survive, they have a backup plan.

-Sharks don't just attack people. Maybe if they were beelining straight for the middle of their feeding frenzy where a ton of schools of fish are already being killed. Maybe it's not sharks but a lovely lake of boiling acid. Whatever it is--the water can be poisonous or dangerous to land in, again, variables.

- you're right, weight won't make a hole in an air balloon lose less air. Any sort of tension in it is pulling down, and if it's losing hot air faster than the propane heater can replace it, you're fucked. You can't toss over enough people to fix it. It's like this--can you make a basket of small weights neutrally buoyant with a large balloon. Now make a specific diameter of hole in the balloon so in 5 minutes all the gas is out. How can you remove the weights so the helium will leave the balloon slower? You can't. Often holes in hot air balloons mean they plummet so quickly--tossing things over won't help because there simply is not enough time to equalize.

-You don't often go into hot air balloons, in many places, without them being prepared for an emergency crash landing of sorts--ever, some of them even have first aid and survival kits and water if you're going over desert, over water they'd surely have a survival raft and would make sure there's enough of them for all the passengers, that, and emergency beacons would be attached to the survival raft.

+addendum: Anyone stupid enough to toss over a survival raft when they may be needing it in a few seconds probably isn't going to be the best person to be in any survival situation to begin with.


Perhaps a better (at least more specific)example:

-You are in a group of 6 people:

+a fat, rotund 24 year old otaku from Japan

+a 14 year old girl who's "ugly" by your standards and mildly overweight, and suicidal/depressed

+a wonderful old grandmother, age 50, who is the grandmother of the 14 year old, who is constantly egging her about her slight amount of overweightness.

+ a crotchety old lady, age 60, who lives with 2 adult children(and currently has no will, so the adult and caring children wouldn't get anything, and instead, old lady's husband/current boytoy would get it all).

+ the balloonier, a man who runs the business by himself and with his wife and kids, the wife has a chronic respiratory disease and he barely affords the meds for her each month--he has no life insurance.

+ Yourself

You are in a lovely balloon ride over the top of a range of acid lakes. The view is beautiful, so beautiful, in fact, that all of you miss the first drop in altitude. The Balloonier regretfully informs you all that you've popped a hole in the balloon, and you need to not panic. You do. Everyone Does. Over goes the radio first, thanks to the crotchety old lady, over goes the raft that is immune to the acid, thanks to the old grandmother--, and lastly, over goes the emergency flares and survival pack, thanks to the 14 year old girl, since you'll be spending a few weeks carefully hiking out of the acid lake park once you do land.

The Balloonier is shocked, and while you are still dropping, he turns up the propane all the way, in a last-ditch effort to keep the balloon afloat.

Who's fault is it that they're all going to die? The balloonier, for failing to check his equipment enough, the old lady, for tossing over your line to help? the lovely grandmother, for getting rid of your lifeboat, or the 14 year old, for getting rid of the secondary measures of emergency alert? They come to the conclusion that it's your fault, and the 24 year old otaku's from Japan, because both of you weigh the most. They toss you over, and you land in one of the more neutral lakes, say around 6 in acidity(like a tomato), later, they land in one of the most acidic lakes and die.

Who deserved to die from the start?

Couldn't everyone had lived if they had simply pulled together instead of apart?

Can anyone even answer that situation?(I honestly can't)

I could give a thousand examples, but all of them are this: complicated, multifaceted, and full of pros and cons of each decision--all the decisions are shades of grey, not black and white. That's why I say throw no one over--even if it helped, how much does it help? I can't calculate how much it will, so I'm not going to risk forcing someone to die for me. Say we replace the sharks with acid water---you land in it, you die, then we're all probably going to die anyway. Last rites can be read, I would hold everyone's hands, and we would Not. Panic. Panic is the thing that would turn a really bad situation---like this one, into a horrible situation.

For a lovely and disturbing example I suggest you watch the movie The Mist. It's a brilliant example of how people panicking and behaving irrationally can make a situation that would otherwise not be too terrible--into a horrible situation for everyone involved.

For the sake of clarity: he said 3 miles AWAY from the water, not 3 miles above the water.  If they were 3 miles above the water, I doubt they would be able to see the sharks.


I agree that it should have just been phrased "whose life is more valuable", because that seems to be what he is getting at.  I also think that hypotheticals like this are mostly imagined by supposedly deep college students who decide to record "philosophical" youtube videos in their car before and after class (even when the sun has gone down).


Why not be more realistic and discuss the already well documented guidelines used by emergency responders in case of large scale disasters.  It's called triage and helps people make very unfortunate but necessary decisions.  For arguments sake, though: in the case of the hot air balloon, as a fat man I can still recommend that they throw the fat man out first, as that would give the balloon the best chance of sinking more slowly and floating the farthest.  It may not be fair to save the 90 year old woman who apparently lived a full life and is out enjoying a hot air balloon ride ahead of her imminent (3 years hence) death.  But I think that throwing out the fat guy first probably would give them the best chance of saving the other 5 people.


I have seen things like this before, such as imagine you are standing next to a railroad switch.  A runaway train car is heading towards a group of five people who for some reason you can't warn in time to get out of the way.  You have the ability to throw the railroad switch, saving the five people from the train car.  However, on the other track there is one person who will definitely be killed by the train if you throw the switch.  Is it moral because you save 5 people but kill one?  Or is it better to let things play out as they are? Could you make that decision?  Would anyone have the right to criticize your decision either way?


Moral of the story: stay away from railroad switches, and stay away from hot air balloon rides over open expanses of shark infested water.

My reply was more about the Shades of Grey that real life imparts to all these decisions. There really would be no black and white in either of these--if that one person is someone you love, and those 5 people are people you know, but are kind of jerky.

Also, the "Which person dies because of a switch" thing will now only remind me of the Saw movie franchise. Even in those, there are no white knights, no perfect decision.

It would be the same in any real decision like this.

Um sorry but I am a bit confused as to how you can be 3 miles 'away' from the water and still see the sharks : P


I think the guy was saying the balloon is 3 miles above the water.  That's why you are trying to get to the land areas.  If you were 3 miles away from the water , why would you need to throw people overboard to avoid sharks?  : P  


I have more picking these things apart than answering them seriously.  I agree - It's what 'deep college students' do before and after class lol  

HA you got me there, I meant 3 miles away from the land...good catch.
oh is that what he said?   I guess if it's 3 miles away from the land that makes more sense.  But still , throwing someone overboard at even a relatively high altitude will probably kill them !  The whole scenario is silly.
I'd assume the ballon is falling gradually and that eventually will land softly upon the surface of the shark infested waters (which would not be a very soft experience for all people still on board) unless someone is thrown overboard, giving the ballon enough momentum and the right weight to make the final 3 miles to land and distracting the sharks in the process.
The reason why it's a perfectly valid dilemma is people don't feel as guilty when others are killed because of their inaction. Throw the switch, and it's you who kill the lone guy. Don't, and blame misfortune: you're not 100% responsible for the five others' fate.

Interesting video...

My first thoughts were to wrestle grandma straight over the edge, but she's most likely the one who'll offer you a reward later for not doing so. I'm guessing she'll have a husband with her, half crippled, one quick knock over the head and he's a goner, everyone is happy.

If you do have plenty of time, you could probably use some spare rope to hang someone, before cutting them loose, to save on the torture below. Its such a tough choice, so many ideas!

To be honest, I think the question of value is valid, but unlikely if someone else in the basket refuses to reason with the others. We're assuming the 5 people are all fine and dandy with eachother, I know that if I was up there with certain family or partial friends, I'd be making the choice for them. Not like an aggresive person, but as an animal who would very much like to make it home in one piece. To put it bluntly, the biggest prick becomes the first to go! or... a few quick questions on religion? first person to say something stupid gets to spend the next 20 seconds feeling the force of gravity at work!

I wouldnt be the one to decide. I'd let us all die first proably. lol But I'll use you're list:


number of children




...in that order.


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