Posts Tagged ‘morals’

… So here’s another thing I will whip out if I want to mess up my potential future kids. I’m pretty sure the list of “Tools for psychological experiments on children” that I’m unofficially making has grown quite long during the last year. Now, this video starts off as a normal pretentious children’s show, but make sure you watch until the end.

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So you’ve probably heard about the homeless guy with the great radio voice. So has FOX, who came up with this ~*great*~ idea. I just wan’t to kill them sometimes.

Sometimes I think about whether I’d rather live a meaningful life or a happy one.

I know those things usually are connected, but if you could hypothetically separate them, what would you choose? I think unhappy people in general achieve much greater things, because they simply have more reason to. They have causes because they aren’t satisfied with the way things are. Obviously there’s unhappy people who never amount to anything, or never even tries, but would a completely happy person ever try to achieve something? And is it possible to have the strength to lead a meaningful life when it will never give the person who lives it happiness?

A clarification: by meaningful, I mean e.g. contributing to a better world, either through physical labor or research that will make people’s living conditions better. Relationships can also be meaningful but lack happiness. I’d say understanding oneself and which theological belief one has, is also meaningful.

A meaningful life could for example be: You have a cause (like anti-racism, ending world poverty, converting people to a religion, advancing science) and work hard to achieve this cause. Your hard work has an effect, but you remain miserable. You find a significant other, get children, and work hard to perserve their happiness.  You love your family, but your worries about the world never goes away, you see inequalities, moral corruption, dangers and after a while you simply become accustomed to being miserable. Since you can’t make yourself happy, you dedicate your life to fixing the problems that make you unhappy. Your cause has now expanded to making sure your family is safe and fulfilled on top of working towards a better world. Even though your life is devoid of enjoyment, you view staying alive as a duty towards the world and your family, so suicide is not an option. You live this way for the remainder of your life, and lives to see several of your efforts make a difference in the people around you and the world as a whole. When you finally die, your one, last feeling is similar to the one you feel when you go to sleep after a day of very hard, but rewarding work.

A happy life could e.g be this: You’re born into a loving family and have a normal childhood. You have a lot of friends in school and get fairly OK grades when you graduate. Your interests are mostly in things that doesn’t require that much mental activity: listening to music, watching TV, watching sports, but mostly just having fun with your friends and significant other. You work in some different jobs before you get married and have a kid, which is when you decide to settle at a job at an office with OK pay. You don’t think much about death, war or injustice, and since you feel unable to change these things anyway you make an effort not to think about them more than necessary. You go through life feeling quite content with your house, car, family, friends and work. You feel safety in your everyday routines. When your parents eventually die, you already have grandchildren and a strong social network that helps you cope. You have a consistant theological faith that comforts you when times are rough. You live to be a great-grand parent with many friends, and this is to great pride to you even though you haven’t contributed much to the world. You die without ever conteplated in depth your own morals, faith or importance, but you die happy.

So what would you choose?

Okay, I’m a bit late with this so I guess a lot of people already knew, but I found it interesting so here it goes anyway:

In a disputed French documentary, the filmmakers makes a modern version of the Milgram experiment by staging a fake reality tv-show where the contestants are asked to give electric shocks to a man (who they don’t know is an actor), in increasingly high voltages until he dies.

If you don’t know what the Milgram experiment is, it’s basically the same thing, although conducted in the 60:ies. The scene wasn’t a reality show, but a lab, where the testsubjects were asked by the experimenter to give another testsubject (actor) increasingly sever shocks. You can read about it here on wikipedia. Anyhow, the study showed that ~65 % of the participant would go along with the study until the fake test subject died.

Since my studies involve a lot of psychology, my teachers have mentioned this experiment a several times. We’ve also talked about it when we’re studying ethics in the context of research and health care. If I remember correctly, a lot of the participants in Milgram’s experiment were happy to have participated; thet felt that the knowledge about how easily they had been swayed by authority would prevent them from ever doing something similar again. However, other subjects didn’t take it so well and couldn’t come to terms with the fact that they were capable of practically killing a man just because an authority figure told them to.

I think that most people would agree that the Milgram experiment gave a lot of insight and raised a lot of questions on how the human psyche works, although if my teachers are correct, it’s not an experiment that legally could’ve been done in this day and age. It pretty much violates some ethical oaths, especially since you need the test subjects who signs up for the experiment to not really know what it is they’re signing up for. Today, most research with test subjects relies heavily on informed consent, but if the subjects in Milgram’s study already had been informed that they would participate in a study where they would be asked to both risk another persons health and their own psychological wellbeing, it’s probable that the group of test subjects who agreed to this would differ a bit in their mental predisposition from the “average” person.

My point is, even though I’m probably going to see that French documentary out of curiousity, I’m a bit sceptical about the scientific value of their test. First of all, they would have to make sure that the people who participated didn’t know about the Milgram experiment. Secondly, there’s the informed consent issue; the “contestants” in the show had to have at least a clue beforehand about what the test was about. I’m sure most people who showed up also knew what a massive law-suit the TV-company would suffer if anyone actually died as a result, which must have clued them in that this was fake. One could of course argue that they might put too much faith in the producers. The contestants probably trusted them to know what dose of electricity that could be delivered without actually harming the test person. I’m not saying that it isn’t a naïve thing to  believe, but I think both the circumstances and participant’s reasons for obeying were quite different between the French documentary and Milgram’s experiment. Milgram’s experiment was to show how easily and how far we obey authority; the French documentary seems to be more about greed (I’m assuming the “contestants” in the fake TV-show was offered some money. I know the people in Milgram’s study was given some money, but it was like $4 which wasn’t even that much in the 60ies. I could be wrong though) and naivety.

Anyhow, here’s a trailer for the documentary. BTW, if you’re interested in ethically questionable experiments, check out this list. Hell, most of these aren’t even questionable, they’re downright evil. Interesting to read about though. 🙂