The Graph of Evil

Allow me to present a new invention of mine. I call it: The Graph of Evil.

Really, it's not so much a graph of evil as it is a graph of values, or a graph of financial sensibilities, but "The Graph of Evil" is catchier, so it sticks. Basically, every point on the graph is a possible financial offer.

Imagine that you encounter the great and powerful Hypothetical Situation Genie. This genie is offering you a dollar - a single dollar. This dollar comes to you free of any strings or catches, and we don't have to worry about the effect a spontaneously materializing dollar will have on inflation. The dollar is free and clean, and the only question now is - do you want it, or not?

Most sane people will say that yes, they do want the dollar. So we mark the [0,1] position on the graph thusly:

Now, let us suppose that the genie offers a similar deal, in which we can obtain such a dollar, but now, that dollar comes from the pocket of some other random human. You don't know this person, but you will be able to observe their sorrow at having spontaneously lost a dollar. This person is a lot like you - a dollar is worth as much to them as it is to you, and they are neither more nor less deserving of it than you are. If you accept this deal, the affected person will not be able to trace their missing dollar to you, and you will never be prosecuted for your choice, save by a guilty conscience. Do you accept this deal?

Many people would say that no, they would not accept such a deal. This is stealing, and stealing is wrong. So we mark the [-1,1] position on the graph thusly:

Now, let us propose something a little more interesting. Suppose the genie offers a deal in which you obtain two dollars, and the random other person only loses one. The universe sees a net gain of one dollar, but you are still depriving your fellow man of a single dollar without his consent or permission. Would you accept such a deal?

This situation is a little less black-and-white. After all, you could conceivably walk up to this person after the deal is done and give him back his dollar, pocketing the excess for yourself. But then, since this theft is caused by the invisible genie and cannot be traced to you, the stranger would be confused, and probably offended by the offer. Some people accept this deal, and others refuse it. For our sample graph here, let's refuse.

Eventually, after six or eight well-asked questions, you can usually plot out someone's entire graph, predicting in advance which situations they will find tolerable, and which ones they will refuse. A finished graph looks a little something like this:

Now, of course, when you fill out your own graph, or graph others, you don't need to be so fancy. My graphs usually look like this:

And I have found, in sampling my friends and relations, that different people will have quite different graphs. You can actually see their character qualities in the slope of their line, thusly:

 Altruistic Selfish Malicious Proud Logical Ascetic

This is, of course, far from a perfect system, and a lousy way to judge someone's character. Obviously, the answers to the questions change with a person's mood or mitigating circumstances. The curves skew when the graph extends out to thousands of dollars. But, as an exercise in hypothetical moral quandaries, I think it is, at least, interesting.