# The Trolley Problems

Discussion in 'Ethics, Morality, & Justice' started by ElectricFetus, Jan 23, 2017.

1. ### ElectricFetusSanity going, going, goneValued Senior Member

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How do you solve all these Trolley Problems?
1.You must decide on choosing the track the trolley will run: will it run over one person or five people?

But wait there is more!

2."As before, a trolley is hurtling down a track towards five people. You are on a bridge under which it will pass, and you can stop it by putting something very heavy in front of it. As it happens, there is a very fat man next to you – your only way to stop the trolley is to push him over the bridge and onto the track, killing him to save five. Should you proceed?"

3. Not not even close, it gets weirder:

4. More!

5.

James R likes this.

3. ### ElectricFetusSanity going, going, goneValued Senior Member

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James R likes this.

5. ### DaveC426913Valued Senior Member

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Hah! This is hilarious!

We were discussing the trolley problem around here a few months back in relation to the advent of self-driving cars.

7. ### James RJust this guy, you know?Staff Member

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33,468
Here are my initial answers to these, though I reserve my right to change my mind if somebody can convince me I'm wrong. And I'm not going to explain my reasoning in any detail (for now).

1. Switch it to the one.
2. I don't think I could bring myself to push him, even though it seems the utilitarian thing to do.
3. Yes, but I don't know if we can take this one too seriously. After all, it seems like there'd be plenty of time in practice to save the 1000 mile guy rather than spending time on rebuilding the trolley as it rolls.

4. If I switch, the best case scenario here is that 4 people die. Worst case is 8 die. On the other hand, if I don't switch, 5 die. Assuming there's a 50-50 chance the other dudes will switch, we get the following table if I switch it:

Code:
Deaths...Probability
4 ... 1/8
6 ... 1/2
7 ... 1/4
8 ... 1/8
The "expected" number killed if I don't switch is therefore 6.25. This is worse than killing 5, so in this case I'd leave the switch alone (provided I had enough time to mull over the maths).

5. It might be my moral duty, but I honestly don't know what I'd do if was in the actual position of having to choose to pull the lever. I hope I'd pull it.

6. Given the short time between deaths here, I don't think it matters much. But I think I'd let the 5 die first.

7. Heh.

8. Switch to track 2. Trust the Predictor. (I don't know whether I've thought this through properly, though. Arghh.)

9. Sure. No problem. What's a bit of unthinkable pain, compared to 5 deaths? Wolverine copes with that stuff all the time.

10. No. Because.

8. ### SarkusHippomonstrosesquippedalo phobeValued Senior Member

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8,556
Yeah, I think you have. The key is that predictor is never wrong... So if it knew you were going to switch to track 2 it will leave the box empty, so kill only the 1.
If it knew you were going to pick track 2, 5 people die.
If we assume the predictor really is never wrong then this is no different to a simple 1 v 5 scenario.
If you think the predictor can be fooled then you would weigh up the potential loss against your assessment of how wrong the predictor might be. E.g. If you think there's a 20% chance you can fool the predictor then the expected loss is the same (assuming you gamble to save everyone), but rather than a certain 1 there is a range of 0 to 5.
But the predictor is never wrong... So surely such an assumption (that the predictor can be fooled) is merely denial of the choice that needs to be made.

Also, this has the danger of tending more into game theory than strictly ethics, with the game being to reduce the casualties. It no longer becomes about ethics but simply numbers.
Maybe that is how people view such scenarios?

When it's 1 v 5 then it might seem to be numbers, but what if that 1 is your partner, your child, your parent etc, and the 5 are unknowns?
What if the 1 owes you money and the 5 are people you owe money to?
What if the 1 is stunningly attractive and the 5 are unfortunately aesthetically challenged to a hideous degree?
What if you knew that the 1 was a doctor and the 5 were all unemployed with little chance of ever meaningfully contributing to society?

So is this thread really about the ethics of the situations, or simply about game theory (not that the two are mutually exclusive)?

9. ### ElectricFetusSanity going, going, goneValued Senior Member

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The Trolley Problem is a staple of ethics, here I present several takes on it that are thought provoking, comical or both.

10. ### CapracusValued Senior Member

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1,266
1. One person dies

2. The fat man dies

3. The trolley goes 1000 miles

4. Spare the first five

5. Kill myself

6. Kill five first

7. Kill one

8. Track 2

9. Torture Wolverine

10. No