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Saturday, January 07, 2017

The Ticking-Bomb Man Cometh

 Black Sunday

I have decided to rewrite the moral dilemma of the Ticking Time-Bomb Problem. This was used - and probably still is being used - to debate the morality of using torture to persuade a terrorist who has planted a bomb ticking away a couple of hours in a crowded venue to tell us where the infernal device is.

We have touched on the goofiness of moral simulation in The Trolley Man Cometh   [ ]  already and I am going to subject everyone to it again.

Alan Dershowitz - whom we have all recently seen in The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story - argued for torture. I copy part of a review of his book:

Chanterelle Sung

WHY TERRORISM WORKS: UNDERSTANDING THE THREAT, RESPONDING TO THE CHALLENGE. By Alan Dershowitz. New Haven and London: Yale University Press 2002. Pp. 260.
Abstract: Alan Dershowitz’s book examines recent acts of global terrorism and analyzes the reasons why terrorism is successful. In an effort to reduce the frequency and severity of terrorist attacks, Dershowitz discusses different proposals that would deter terrorism while striking a balance between security and liberty. One of Dershowitz’s most controversial proposals calls for the use of judicially sanctioned torture to force a terrorist suspect to reveal information that would prevent an imminent terrorist attack. This Book Review explores the justifications for judicially sanctioned torture and ultimately argues that such a proposal would be morally and legally prohibited.


In the wake of September 11, 2001, FBI agents suggested that they might resort to torture to compel terrorist suspects to reveal information necessary to prevent a recurrence.1 A senior FBI aide stated, “it could get to that spot where we could go to pressure . . . where we won’t have a choice, and we are probably getting there.”2

While many countries have condemned torture, the reemergence of this issue in public debate reflects the extent to which terrorism currently threatens national security.3 In his timely book, Why Terrorism Works: Understanding the Threat, Responding to the Challenge, Alan Dershowitz analyzes the reasons why terrorism has succeeded thus far and offers proposals to deter terrorism while striking the appropriate balance between national security and civil liberties.4 Dershowitz confronts and raises many difficult moral and legal questions regarding the extent to which our democratic society can effectively deter terrorism while continuing to uphold fundamental values of liberty and privacy.5 He argues that it is possible to deter terrorism on both a macro level, by confronting different types of terrorism, and on a micro level, through controlling it on a smaller scale.6

Dershowitz begins with the premise that some terrorists are rational actors who crave attention to their cause.7 Policies that address the root causes of terrorists’ behavior, therefore, do not deter them but merely reward them with the attention that they crave.8 Thus, in order to deter terrorism and preserve national security, society must punish terrorists through collective accountability and incapacitation.9 To this end, Dershowitz offers various proposals to increase our sense of security without eroding the liberty that is central to a democratic society.10 ...
 (emphasis mine)

First, even economists are admitting that markets are not really based on the behavior of "rational" actors, and the so-called rational actor is a construct we use to make things easy to analyze, sort of like reducing turbulent water flow to linear equations.
To begin with this premise... well, he should have stopped, dropped, shut 'em down, and closed up shop! Right there!

Second, as pointed out in The Trolley Man Cometh,  and as evidenced by Mr. Dershowitz's use of a construct called "rational actor", we may change the scenario any way we desire. The sky is - literally! - the limit.

So all that remains to be done to refute the Ticking Time-Bomb Problem is to rewrite the script!
In the world of imaginary morals, NOTHING is forbidden. Ask the Marquis de Sade, ask the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, ask Mr. 50 Shades Grey.

In the alt-script of The Ticking Bomb, the terrorist has nano-bots within his blood stream that monitor the state of the organism (his body) and if stress applied to the body surpasses a certain level, the ticking bomb goes off ahead of schedule.

Or, the terrorist has hired a group of trained stochastic runners (or "couriers" as Mr. Trump prefers) to move the ticking bomb around to random crowded venues every 20 minutes or so. This group will -like - pose as a flash mob singing Mozart or some other innocuous thing that NO rational actor would think of linking to terrorism........

Morality is action.
Good actions are learned...
So, how are we educating the youth?


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