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Would Reliable Truth Detection Make Torture More Ethical:

So, it's generally accepted that torture is bad. At the very least, it's despicable because it's something no one would want done to them. (Even masochists typically want a specific kind of torment.) Also, it goes against our ideals involving empathy.

However, there's also the argument that torture is wrong because it's not a reliable source of information. Using the "ticking clock" justification has also become discredited, because the general idea is that the person being tortured would know that all they have to do is waste time (either by holding out or lying with no time to fact check). So, torture is not only morally questionable, but impractical. So it's double wrong.

However, let's assume one thing: that there's a reliable, 100% effective method of lie-detection or truth assessment. (The logistics or specifics of this don't matter; let's just beg the question and assume it's plausible.) Does this mean that torture is no longer impractical? After all, the threat that they'll say anything to make the pain stop is gone.

DISCLAIMER: I am NOT an advocate of torture. I'm simply posing a question for debate.

 2 Best Of, Fri, 12th Oct '12 10:43:53 AM from Finland Relationship Status: Falling within your bell curve
With Mod Hat On
The topic is whether or not torture would be impractical if there was a guarantee that the info that you get is correct. It is not about who you would like to torture and how; and it's not about how horrible torture is. It is horrible, this shouldn't need saying.

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest to children ardent for desperate glory that old lie: dulce et decorum est pro patria mori
 3 Ekuran, Fri, 12th Oct '12 11:05:10 AM from somewhere. Relationship Status: watch?v=dQw4w9WgXcQ
Hi.
Yes, if torture was 100% effective it would be practical.

The question kind of answers itself.
[Insert seemingly profound or amusing phrase here.]
 4 Best Of, Fri, 12th Oct '12 11:13:37 AM from Finland Relationship Status: Falling within your bell curve
FABRICATI DIEM, PVNC!
[up]Actually, that's what I thought, too. It seems as if the OP asks a question that it already answers. Then again, I don't want to expand this topic because we haven't been able to talk civilly about torture before. So I opened it to see if there's more to this than met my eye when I read the OP.
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest to children ardent for desperate glory that old lie: dulce et decorum est pro patria mori
 5 Michael, Fri, 12th Oct '12 11:17:08 AM Relationship Status: THIS CONCEPT OF 'WUV' CONFUSES AND INFURIATES US!
So that's what this does
Wouldn't this essentially turn torture into Mind Rape?
Balance - the original sixth sense.
 6 Madrugada, Fri, 12th Oct '12 11:28:59 AM Relationship Status: In season
Zzzzzzzzzz
I'd say it remains impractical to a degree. Being able to tell if someone is telling the truth with 100% accuracy doesn't mean that you'll know who knows the truth before you torture. And it doesn't address the situation where the questioners know what they want to hear, even if it's not the truth. Nor does it address "exact words" truths, or truths that have a measure of subjectivity on them. Both of those latter two have been long-used in "telepath questions someone and knows whether they're telling the truth or not instantly" scenarios.

I guess what I'm doing is drawing a distinction between "100% accuracy in knowing whether the victim is telling the truth" and "100% effective".

edited 12th Oct '12 11:30:19 AM by Madrugada

'He strutted across the bedroom, his hard manhood pointing the way' sounds like he owns a badly named seeing-eye dog. 'Sit, Hard Manhood!
Euo will do!
[up]Then there are the truths that are actually downright misunderstandings by the person you're questioning. Granted, this lies under "subjective truth", but, you can honestly belive something that is manifestly incorrect on an objective level.

Just stating it outright. smile
"When all else failed, she tried being reasonable." ~ Pratchett, Johnny and the Bomb
 8 pvtnum 11, Fri, 12th Oct '12 11:43:56 AM from Kerbin low orbit Relationship Status: We finish each other's sandwiches
linkup
So we have a widget or method that is the Ultimate Lie Detector? Impossible to spoof? Well, then all you need to do is ask questions. Provided that the detainee speaks up, you'll know if they're telling the truth or not immediately.

Of course, you could always answer the question "where were you on the night of the murder" with "Two plus two is four. Well, sometimes five, if you have to round stuff." And not get called out on it, since it's the truth.

...just not applicable to what was asked, is all.
Happiness is zero-gee with a sinus cold.
 9 Barkey, Fri, 12th Oct '12 11:59:09 AM from Bunker 051 Relationship Status: [TOP SECRET]
War Profiteer
Depends on what the method was. If the method is foolproof or not, balanced with how much(if any) suffering it inflicts, and the 100 percent rate of success, that would essentially just shift around the balance of if people support it or not.

I'd support methods that had a 100 percent guarantee of success, even if it was still extremely painful and uncomfortable.
The AR-15 is responsible for 95% of all deaths each year. The rest of the deaths are from obesity and drone strikes.
 10 Tam H 70, Fri, 12th Oct '12 12:09:43 PM from 合計虐殺 Relationship Status: [TOP SECRET]
War ALWAYS changes. Man does not.
On torture, I think Quentin Tarantino put it best in Reservoir Dogs

"Nice Guy Eddie: If you fucking beat this prick long enough, he'll tell you he started the goddamn Chicago fire, now that don't necessarily make it fucking so!"

 11 Madrugada, Fri, 12th Oct '12 12:21:32 PM Relationship Status: In season
Zzzzzzzzzz
Just to clarify: by "exact words" truths I'm talking about

Q: "Do you know where Joe is?"

A: "No." (Even though I know where he was 45 minutes ago, and I know where he said he was going when he left, and I know where he plans to be later today. I don't know where he is NOW. I could make a good guess, but I don't know.)
'He strutted across the bedroom, his hard manhood pointing the way' sounds like he owns a badly named seeing-eye dog. 'Sit, Hard Manhood!
 12 Barkey, Fri, 12th Oct '12 12:28:57 PM from Bunker 051 Relationship Status: [TOP SECRET]
War Profiteer
Yeah, the truth is easy to twist. It's how people beat lie detector tests.
The AR-15 is responsible for 95% of all deaths each year. The rest of the deaths are from obesity and drone strikes.
 13 Drunk Girlfriend, Fri, 12th Oct '12 12:36:04 PM from Castle Geekhaven
Even if it were 100% effective, I think the ethical-ness of torture would still be based on a cost-benefit analysis.

I mean, it would probably be more ethical to torture someone about the location of their doomsday device that's going to kill half the globe than it would be to torture someone about where they hid the Halloween candy. tongue
"I don't know how I do it. I'm like the Mr. Bean of sex." -Drunkscriblerian
[up][up] The method in which lie detectors are beaten is not valid in this topic. It's a different matter whatsoever.

Also, Exact Words can be rectified by extremely loaded questions which rule out information.

"To the best of your knowledge, will Joe be anywhere within (insert distance here) of (insert specific named location here) between now and (insert time frame here)?"

If they answer, "No" and it's the truth, then you still got information of where the guy WON'T be according to this source's best answer. If they answer "Yes", then you can start narrowing it down with more torture.

edited 12th Oct '12 12:41:44 PM by KingZeal

 15 nightwyrm zero, Fri, 12th Oct '12 12:50:37 PM Relationship Status: Complex: I'm real, she is imaginary
Even if you could be 100% sure the prisoner is telling the truth, you'd still have to verify through independent means since there's no guarantee what the prisoner believes is the truth really is the truth.

Torture is actually pretty effective in non-timed scenarios: I remember hearing an interview with an ANC guy about how at first they were all 'rar traitors cowards etc', but that pretty soon it became clear that everyone (or at least most people) would break under torture, so the goal became 'last three days so the other members of your cell can GTFO of there'.

I don't see what that has to do with the morality of it. Even if you want to make a utilitarian argument, I would suggest that allowing torture probably has a toxic effect on the organisation, and on society as a whole.
Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
 17 pvtnum 11, Fri, 12th Oct '12 12:57:09 PM from Kerbin low orbit Relationship Status: We finish each other's sandwiches
linkup
Would probably be better to administer some truch serum or something and tape record everything that the person blabbed while under the influence. Then verify all the tidbits that they spewed forth. If you get a group of guys under the serum and cross-reference all the junk they say, you might be able to construct a common theme from the stuff.

That is, if there was a truth serum that actually worked decently.

However, such a drug would probably be akin to Mind Rape.

My personal view is that interrogation does not need torture to work effectively, though.
Happiness is zero-gee with a sinus cold.
 18 Gabrael, Fri, 12th Oct '12 12:59:22 PM Relationship Status: They can't hide forever. We've got satellites.
A Polar Bear Named Gabrael
Meh, seems like it just makes interrogation more tricky.
 19 Fighteer, Fri, 12th Oct '12 1:35:18 PM from the Time Vortex Relationship Status: Dancing with Captain Jack Harkness
If you can perfectly detect when someone is lying, then that is no more a reason to torture than otherwise, since it is possible to interrogate a person without torture.
Neoclassicism, AKA the Tinkerbell school of economics.
Interrogate yes, but you need an incentive for them to answer.

 21 Drunk Girlfriend, Fri, 12th Oct '12 2:07:18 PM from Castle Geekhaven
[up] Basically, this. Otherwise there's nothing keeping people from lying or refusing to answer until you keep them long enough that it becomes a sort of psychological torture in and of itself.
"I don't know how I do it. I'm like the Mr. Bean of sex." -Drunkscriblerian
 22 De Marquis, Fri, 12th Oct '12 7:41:04 PM from Hell, USA Relationship Status: Buried in snow, waiting for spring
Who Am I?
I'm going to interpret the OP to ask if it is moraly acceptable to torture someone if you know for certain that the answers you get will be accurate. (Because otherwise the question doesn't make a lot of sense to me- if I'm wrong I hope that the OP will correct me.) Provided that the questions are such that we have a right to know the answers ("Where is the bomb? Who is the murderer?) then yes, it is.

One may have an obligation to cause harm if one has reason to believe that doing so will prevent harm to someone else who is more deserving or innocent. Its even possible that we could torture someone if knowing the truth would help redress a wrong that has already been committed ("We have reasn to believe you are a murderer, are you?"- inflict torture).

Given 100% accuracy, the use of torture would become acceptable across a much wider range of situations, although there would still be some restrictions on its use, of course.

It makes me actually glad that it isnt so accurate.
“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”
 23 Kayeka, Sun, 14th Oct '12 2:27:51 AM from Amsterdam Relationship Status: Brony
World's biggest wannabe
Interrogate yes, but you need an incentive for them to answer.

"You have the right to remain silent."
Is that cake frosting?
I think that torture would still be grossly unethical — even if it were 100% reliable, and even in "ticking bomb"-style situations.

As I understand it, if an action is evil — and intentionally causing extreme pain in a fellow human being definitely qualifies — then nobody should do it, ever, regardless of circumstances or consequences. Compromises are not acceptable, and neither is committing evil "for the sake of good".

edited 14th Oct '12 4:27:02 AM by Carciofus

But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.

So you're a complete pacifist, even in the case of self-defence, or defence of your family?

I have a lot of sympathy for that position, but I don't think it's entirely practical yet (it may become possible in a future Utopia, but I think that's at least a few generations away).
Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
Total posts: 132
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