General Question

JackAdams's avatar

Would YOU press the red button?

Asked by JackAdams (6536points) September 24th, 2008

On March 7, 1986, a Twilight Zone episode was aired, with a segment titled, “Button, Button,” in which a financially-strapped couple is given (by a mysterious visitor) a box with a red button on the top.

If the red button is pressed, two things will happen: (1) The couple will receive $200,000 cash, and (2) Someone whom the couple does not know, will die. In this episode, the woman decides to end her financial problems by pressing the button, and, as promised, she and her husband receive $200,000 cash.

If this scenario was presented to you, would you press that red button, knowing that a total stranger (to you) would die as a result?

There is no way that I would push that button, even if the offer was for $200 million.
(Maybe I would, if it meant using the money to save the life of someone whom I loved, very much.)

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33 Answers

Nimis's avatar

Would the cash finance a much needed surgery for a loved one?
In that particular instance, I might.

JackAdams's avatar

I added a “qualifier” for myself, after Nimis posted the first answer.

Please forgive me, because normally, I don’t do somethinhg like that.

chromaBYTE's avatar

There’s a similar short film that won several short film awards, called “The Black Button” found here. It’s really creepy!

I’d never push it. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself knowing what I did. Even if I did have that money.

osullivanbr's avatar

Normally I wouldn’t. But I have to agree with Jack and Nimis here I think. If I could use the money to save the life of a loved one I would.

@chromaBYTE Could you live with yourself knowing that a loved one died even though you could have saved them? That sounds all confrontational and everything but I don’t mean it that way, I’m just curious.

eambos's avatar

Kill to save a life, maybe. Kill for fininancial gain? No thank you.

aanuszek1's avatar

Gee, I really love not having a conscience.

SuperMouse's avatar

I don’t think I could press the button, definitely not for the cash, but even if killing a stranger meant saving my loved one. If I did decided to push it I would be haunted for the rest of my life by the fact that I had taken a loved one from someone else. There is a family out there feeling a despair that I thrust upon them, I would not want that on my head. There is also the whole idea of the Butterfly Effect to consider here, how widespread would the ramifications of that death be? Would it come back to me and mine in ways I never even considered?

In my lit class we read this story by Ursula Le Guin, it presents a similar quandary. What is interesting to me is the way most decided to accept this as a fact and either stay and reap the rewards or simply walk away. In both cases, no one did anything to change the situation.

deaddolly's avatar

i think i would do it. i’m the type to not really think something is real unless I actually see it. So, if i didn’t see the person get killed – i doubt it would bother me.

Just a thought, can i pick the ramdom stranger?

sits back and sips her diet pepsi, waiting for the do-gooders and happy, love everyone folk to reply with hostility

deaddolly's avatar

omg, sorry Jack. I spelled RANDOM WRONG. I beg forgiveness…

SuperMouse's avatar

@DeadDolly, I would not respond with hostility to your answer. It is yours and not my place to judge. I appreciate the fact that you answered the question honestly. I think it is out of line for anyone to respond to your answer in that way.

There are people I would trade my life for that is for sure, and sometimes I wish I would be willing to take someone else’s life to help someone I love. I can think of a couple of situations where it would be hard to pass up a deal like this, but I just don’t think I could enjoy the rest of my life knowing what I had done. That would defeat the purpose of saving the person in the first place.

Another thing that just occurred to me is the people in my life that I would do this for would be horrified by the idea and wouldn’t want me to do it in the first place. I know that I wouldn’t want anyone to take someone else’s life to save me.

deaddolly's avatar

@ supermouse…thank you. I guess I must be selfish…but I honestly think some ppl
shouldn’t be allowed to live. But that’s a whole different thread.

syz's avatar

On some days, I’d probably do it without a thought. But only on those days that I’ve spent dealing with people who are a waste of carbon.

Mtl_zack's avatar

there are other ways of making money. Don’t be lazy.

deaddolly's avatar

Being lazy has nothing to do with it.

GAMBIT's avatar

No I would not push the button and I would return the box back to Temptation the one who put the fate of others in my hands.

Also If I received a large sum of money for only pressing a button and harming another human being I would be doming my own self as well as the person whom I critically injured. I in turn would run the risk of becoming lazy, self loathing and sinister knowing that I was receiving this cash in such a Machiavellian way.

This scenario puts in mind that money can be the root of all evil.

flameboi's avatar

Yep, I’d press tha button…

JackAdams's avatar

In the TV episode (which I have, on DVD) the husband tells his wife, prior to her pressing the button, that, “You could be killing a newborn baby, who hasn’t done anything bad, to anyone.” [not an exact quote]

Also, when the stranger returns to retrieve the box (and pay the couple their cash), he informs them that the box will be “re-programmed,” and adds, turning to the woman, “and don’t worry; the next person it is given to, will be someone who doesn’t know you.”

cak's avatar

Nope. I wouldn’t press it.

My luck stinks…but I have a good life. With my life, assuming I was in the scenario you mention at the end, you might consider it to save the life of someone that I loved, very much…well, that person would probably be the one to go. Then I have the money, but I’ve lost the one that I loved, sooner than I would have had I not pressed the button.

Nope, I’ll be poor and struggle; however, I would have my loved ones.

bodyhead's avatar

I wouldn’t press it. We’re dealt what we’re dealt.

I would only be able to press the button if my life could be given to save someone else’s. There isn’t enough money in the world for me to justify profiting from someone’s death.

Nimis's avatar

Aren’t you also dealt the choice?

JackAdams's avatar

I need to re-emphasize that when someone presses the button, they are killing someone whom they do not know.

So you would not be killing a friend or relative, or even someone whom you have met.

AstroChuck's avatar

Of course not, under any circumstances.

bodyhead's avatar

@Nimis, We’re dealt a lot of opportunities that I would consider cheating.

It’s wrong to kill others. Maybe I’m just old fashioned that way.

Nimis's avatar

It is wrong. But I think I would still do it.
Another person or myself. Either way.

cak's avatar

JackAdams…I should really be awake when I read!

Nope, still couldn’t do it. That guilt. Someone must die? No….I don’t think I could. That means I just took someone’s son/daughter, mother/father, sister/brother, friend/spouse…something.

Guess I’ll go without money.

dalepetrie's avatar

In the original version of the story, it is actually the woman’s husband who dies, and it is is explained that “she never really knew her husband.” You always have to remember, when you make a deal with the Devil, you’re going to get tricked.

But in the show version they made it pretty explicit that it wouldn’t just be “someone they didn’t know”, but “a complete stranger”. And of course the catch in the show was that after the button was swapped for cash, the button was going to go to another person, assuredly someone “they didn’t know.”

I’d have to ask questions. I mean, is this part of the cosmic rules of how things work? If I press the button am I offing someone at random, or is it the last person who pressed the button (or someone who pressed it in the past), in other words am I in some way making myself part of this pool of people? Or maybe this is the way deaths are decided…every time a button gets pressed, someone dies (and every time a bell rings, and Angel gets its wings). Maybe it’s part of the circle of life (cue crappy Elton John music here).

As with all things, being an Accountant, I have to kind of do a cost/benefit/risk analysis. Heck, if I don’t press it, will the next person who does kill the same person, or am I actually sparing someone’s life by not pressing it? You gotta think through these things, man! I see moral peril to either way of doing things, and that doesn’t even count the money.

Maybe I’m killing someone who really deserves to die…I suppose I’d have no way of knowing this. Maybe I’m killing someone who would do great things in the world. Maybe I’m killing someone who would die anyway. Maybe Karma would sort it all out. Basically, I’d have to try to discern whether this would be a net good or net bad thing. And the degree to which I’d be willing to take the risk that I was doing a net bad thing, assuming I couldn’t assuage all my fears I suppose could in some small way be impacted by the amount of good I could do in my own life and for others with the amount of money being offered. I really don’t think that amount of money would be worth the moral peril, but I supposed adjusted to inflation, it could probably get me out of debt, which would mean that my standard of living and my ability to be more generous and charitable could increase dramatically, so a lot would have to depend on what downsides might exist to pressing the button (on a global scale).

I’d have to ask a ton of questions, and really look at best case/worst case scenarios for the answers I couldn’t get. If I came up with a set of responses and assumptions that led me to believe that the worst case wouldn’t be too bad that I couldn’t live with it, and the best case far outweighed it, I suppose I’d do it. It’s hard to see that happening, but who knows…I’d just have to think through all the loopholes and pass if I couldn’t get comfortable with my decision. And in the end if I thought it ended up being a matter of karma, and what I did or didn’t do wasn’t going to harm my life in any way, and I had no idea whether my decision would be good or bad on a global scale, I might just have to leave it up to a coin toss, which is what pressing the button ultimately boils down to anyway, doesn’t it?

Sueanne_Tremendous's avatar

The way I look at it is that there are thousands of strangers who die everyday. If I push the button one of them was bound to die anyway.

SpatzieLover's avatar

No. I don’t believe I was put here to play God.

deaddolly's avatar

I’ll play, since I don’t believe in a god.

wildflower's avatar

I’d hold out for quite some time, if I’d give in at all – I have a fairly high threshold for cognitive dissonance and don’t let myself off the hook for doing something that’s against my morals. Killing someone for no good reason other than an easy way out would be very much against my morals and I’d probably end up killing myself for having done it, so it’s kinda pointless…

DrasticDreamer's avatar

I would never push it. People die every day, but never by my hand. God, no god… I don’t care. I just wouldn’t do it.

augustlan's avatar

Nope. Not even a chance.

cwilbur's avatar

You missed the twist ending, which dramatically changes the context: the couple decide to push the button, and the stranger shows up with a check and collects the button. One of the couple asks, “What are you going to do with that now?” And the stranger replies, “I’m going to give it to someone else. Someone you don’t know.”

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