So, a bunch of aliens come along and tell us this:
We are beings from another dimension. In case you're wondering, we are the ones who created the comos in which you live. We can destroy it instantly or let it continue on as is. Your choice."
We ask, "What, then, is the choice?"
"Just give us an 8 year old girl who we'll make immortal and we'll give you back your cosmos."
"What will you do with her? Whatever we want. Primarily, we enjoy torture. We'll torture her till the end of time. If you won't do that, we'll bring everything you know to an abrupt end. What is your choice?"
How would you analyze this? The greatest good for the greatest number or what?
AMEN to that.
I laughed, but now I'm wondering... maybe this has already, actually happened?
I'm glad my idea has at least gotten quite a few laughs - but in all honesty, I was completely earnest in my response. Thank you, thank you, I'm here all weak!
I hope you applied scepticism:
1) Why should I believe the aliens created the cosmos? They could be pathalogical liars.
2) Is it relevent whether they created it, if they have the ability to destroy it? Why did they create the cosmos - has their purpose been filled, and will they really destroy it?
3) Why should I believe that they can - and will - destroy the cosmos?
4) If I accept that they are sufficiently immoral to torture a child for pleasure, and to destroy all life, why would I believe that they would refrain from doing so if I acceeded to their demands?
5)If they are so powerful, why do they need our consent to torture a child? Couldn't they just create one, or take one without our knowledge? This could indicate they are less powerful that they claim?
6) Are these aliens themselves immortal, or can I kill them before they have a chance to destroy the world?
7) Is there a third option? Can we persuade the aliens not to torture anyone, or destroy the cosmos? Maybe if we offer them chocolate and high-speed internet they will be satisfied and leave us alone?
8) How long would the 'destruction of the universe' take? Beings that can make others (and presumably themselves) immortal, and created something as complex and as vast as the universe, might think in timescales too great for us to care. If the destruction of the cosmos is going to take more than a few thousand years, then humanity doesn't have much to worry about.
Well the thing about these conundrums is they are posited to be airtight.
We are told to assume that the aliens have proven to everyone's satisfaction (including yours) that they are who they say they are and can do what they say they can do. And that we only have the two alternatives given, no "out" in a third direction.
Of course the scenario is unrealistically constrained; the point is to force you to choose between two ridiculous and horrific alternatives.
I find the number of people here who--apparently--have simply decided it would be a positive good thing to end existence now (even without regard to saving the girl an eternity of torture)--who think it and life are net negatives--appalling.
As much as people complain about religious nuts who think the second coming is nigh, having their finger on the red button, this attitude is worse.
"..have simply decided it would be a positive good thing to end existence now.."
I expect that many of the bloggers here have read 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'. It clearly mentions a point of alien philosophy concerning the opinion that, 'it might have been a bad idea'.
For most species, this could clearly have been the case, for us, the jury is still out, but might be close to a decision. If the 'Fractal Nature of Existence' is true, our demise is simply a near by system state where we no longer exist. As we transition to greater and greater degrees of 'unfitness', this could slowly become 'true'. With the most delusional, the most 'superior', grasping at the last straws, as the curtain comes down, and their beach front property becomes excessively soggy.
If someone believes it would be a good idea to end their existence now, they are by all means free to do so. But they shouldn't presume to make the decision for everyone else on earth and the rest of the universe. And that's what's being discussed here.