Up until the third millennium, it was okay to philosophize moral conundrums and propose all kinds of abstract solutions while being absent to their practical repercussions. A typical philosophical scenario that can be touched on along the lines of this argument is called the Trolly Problem.
Here’s how it goes:
“There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person on the sidetrack. You have two options:
- Do nothing and allow the trolley to kill the five people on the main track.
- Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person.
Which is the more ethical option? Or, more simply: What is the right thing to do?”
Now bring a driverless car into the picture and all of a sudden this grueling philosophical problem becomes an engineering problem. How?
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Our world has advanced so much as to reach a point where the only way we can further that progress is by providing practical answers to the hard philosophical questions we have been shunning for so long.
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Imagine a scenario where our driverless car is heading towards a dangerous collision with an innocent passer-by. The only way to save him is to make a quick turn and drive the car off a cliff, killing the passenger on board. Who is to be sacrificed and why? The driverless car has to make a decision now.
To answer such a morally loaded question essentially means to implement morality into our technologies. In other words, any proposition we make, we cannot make it without the knowledge that we will have to live with its consequences.
That’s a hard practical problem right there — hard enough to turn a forward-thinking engineer into a pragmatic philosopher.
“Spirituality is not the renunciation of life; it is the art of living fully” – Acharya Prashant
How Spirituality fits into this equation
If you look at it from a limited viewpoint of individual happiness, spirituality may not relate so much as a tool that can demystify problems of moral and philosophical nature. But if you widen its boundaries and let it shape the thought processes that concern a world beyond your own, then spirituality can play an unprecedentedly important role.
You just can’t arrive at a universally acceptable moral decision without the help of a clear, all-embracing, and least prejudicial mind. And spirituality, as far as the human experience knows it, appears to be the only tool we can use to help us attain these rare higher qualities.
What’s more, there’s a fairly general application of spirituality in the lives of modern humans. We are surrounded by and immersed in the tools, devices, and mechanisms that may have given us the material comforts we needed, but have also made us sacrifice something of much greater value: our spirituality.
In the presence of all these modern inventions — the communication devices, the internet, entertainment tools, digital games, and all other kinds of mechanical tools/apparatuses — we can hardly practice the good old exercise of meditation and self-reflection. It’s only through thinking and observing the flow of our own inward thoughts that we can come up with practical answers to the moral questions — questions that concern the whole of humanity and our world at large.
This, I believe, is a time in history where we are faced with elusive emotional, psychological, and physical problems that can only be squared off with a mix of intelligence and spiritual force.
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