Torture, Cannibalism, and Self-Driving Cars

Following on from the trolley problem we have three more ethical dilemmas in this episode: Is torture acceptable if it saves lives? Would you become a cannibal in order to survive? Should autonomous cars always prioritise the safety of those inside the car?

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Suppose that a person with knowledge of an imminent terrorist attack, that will kill many people, is in the hands of the authorities and that he will disclose the information needed to prevent the attack only if he is tortured. Should he be tortured?


We cover three real life instances of survival cannibalism.

  1. Mignonette, 1884
  2. Andes, 1972
  3. Trying to reach Puerto Rico, 2008

We also discuss whether it is morally acceptable to eat a dead body if it’s not out of necessity. The guys say ‘no’, Frank says ‘yes’.


For this dilemma, the three of us did the Moral Machine, an online platform created at MIT that asks you to decide how a self-driving car should act when it faces an ethical dilemma. Click here to do it yourself.

Our results are shown below



ALIVE, 1993

For the first ever Morgan’s Movie Review I watched Alive, made in 1993, based on the true story of a Uruguayan Rugby team’s plane crash in the Andes in 1972 and their decision to eat the dead in order to survive. It was a pretty grim film for obvious reasons so don’t expect many laughs or light-hearted moments. There were a few factual inaccuracies that annoyed me because the story is pretty unbelievable on its own that you don’t really need to embellish or change anything. Obviously they had to make up the dialogue and create some sort of narrative, and that’s fine, but they changed the timeline which was annoying and confusing.

The film was heavy with religious themes. It makes sense that a Catholic team would be praying all the time and debating by quoting bible verses but it dragged on a lot. The prayer scenes in particular were pretty exhausting and there were so many of them. Fortunately for me, I was watching it with my roommate, who is Muslim, and he started joining in on all the Catholic prayers which was pretty funny. I beat him in the Lord’s prayer but he knew more words of the Hail Mary than me, to my everlasting shame. The main theme seemed to be that they never lost faith in God and that kept their spirits up and ultimately helped them survive.

I give Alive 4/10: would not recommend. The story is very interesting but a dramatised film probably isn’t the best format for telling this harrowing tale. I’d suggest people read articles about it or watch a documentary, especially one where the survivors themselves are interviewed. On the plus side, Ethan Hawke is in the movie and he is a fantastic actor.

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