1455: "Trolley Problem"

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1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby azule » Wed Dec 03, 2014 7:19 am UTC

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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby HES » Wed Dec 03, 2014 7:43 am UTC

I guess he's referring to trams rather than shopping carts.
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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby hamnaren » Wed Dec 03, 2014 7:48 am UTC

The trolley problem became reality some years ago in Oslo (lookup Sjursøya train accident on Wikipedia)

Traffic control directed the runaway cars to a cargo terminal at the fjord, avoiding them to hit directly into the crowded central station. Three people died in the tragical accident

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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby jackal » Wed Dec 03, 2014 8:01 am UTC

HES wrote:I guess he's referring to trams rather than shopping carts.

Judy Garland singing, "Clang, clang, clang went the tram" just doesn't have quite the same ring to it...

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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby rhomboidal » Wed Dec 03, 2014 8:02 am UTC

And naturally, assuming that BHG wasn't the mustache-twiddling villain who tied the helpless people to the tracks in the first place.

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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby azule » Wed Dec 03, 2014 8:04 am UTC

mustache?

Tram? Is pram relevant here?
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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby Ool » Wed Dec 03, 2014 8:14 am UTC

I wonder how enthusiastic Black Hat Guy would be about the throwing of the fat guy in front of the trolley, though...

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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby keithl » Wed Dec 03, 2014 8:29 am UTC

My question would be:
"Are the five helpless people philosophers who pose foolish questions like this? If so, can we put more in the trolley's path?"

If not, throw the switch halfway, and derail the trolley before it hits anybody. If the questioner says I cannot do this, I suggest using the questioner's body to derail the trolley. Etc., until they give up in frustration.

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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Wed Dec 03, 2014 8:39 am UTC

Yeah, philosophers are dumb and we should probably kill them.
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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby Neil_Boekend » Wed Dec 03, 2014 8:41 am UTC

Sue the one who placed the helpless people on the tracks.
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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby CharlieP » Wed Dec 03, 2014 9:53 am UTC

HES wrote:I guess he's referring to trams rather than shopping carts.


I believe so, yes. Which means that "getting trolleyed" is presumably far less pleasant in the US than here in the UK.
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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby sotanaht » Wed Dec 03, 2014 10:36 am UTC

So as for the answers. the reason I might choose to flip the switch but not push the fat man would be to avoid committing an act of violence. Changing the tracks is not a violent act no matter how you word it. I may be choosing who lives or choosing not to choose, but it is not my action doing the killing. The same applies to the organ transplant scenario on the wikipedia page, as killing the traveler for the organs is another act of violence. deliberately failing to save him should he be dying for some other reason though could be more easily justified

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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby alun009 » Wed Dec 03, 2014 11:39 am UTC

I guess I forgot whom I was talking to :P

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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby azule » Wed Dec 03, 2014 12:01 pm UTC

Who are you talking to? Why is there discussion of a fat man? Why don't the PC filters change that to something more PC? You know, like PC man. (Read: couch potato.) (PC=computer)
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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby Djehutynakht » Wed Dec 03, 2014 12:01 pm UTC

alun009 wrote:I guess I forgot whom I was talking to :P


Well, we know who he's not pulling the lever for.

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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby cellocgw » Wed Dec 03, 2014 1:05 pm UTC

Yay. I love this one.
What very little I recall from my Ancient Greek History class in college includes the point Plato made that you should never let the person posing a question take control of the answers. Just because he asks you to choose between 2 doesn't mean there aren't many other possible responses.

OTOH (since I can't resist), there's a favorite poem of mine, Portrait of the Artist as a Prematurely Old Man :P
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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby Epsilon Rose » Wed Dec 03, 2014 1:34 pm UTC

In that particular scenario, aren't you the one who's supposed to be on the other set of tracks? BGH might regret someone taking that one dollar buy-in. 8-)

----

More relevant to the current discussion. There seem to be a number of people complaining about finding third solutions or that questions like this are annoying. Unfortunately, this completely misses the point of the question on two fronts.

First, in real life, there are situations where trying to save everyone results in many more people dieing than are necessary. Dealing with injured people that need medical care after a disaster, when you don't have enough supplies to go around, is a good example of this. If you try to treat everyone, you won't have enough supplies to adequately treat anyone. By thinking about this sort of problem and not looking for a third answer, you can set up triage to minimize the bad in a bad situation. Of course, that doesn't mean you should actually stop looking for third solutions in real life; just because there isn't one now doesn't mean you can't make one for future use.

On the other hand, these sort of questions also help us explore our decision making process by forcing us to directly compare two things and choose between them. Do that enough times with overlapping sets and you can build up a decent picture of a person/groups/species rules and values which would help us make better decisions and, maybe, correct certain bad values. Always trying to force a third solution prevents this and doesn't really do all that much beyond prove that you can spout rote idealism.

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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby pscottdv » Wed Dec 03, 2014 1:43 pm UTC

Djehutynakht wrote:
alun009 wrote:I guess I forgot whom I was talking to :P


Well, we know who he's not pulling the lever for.


Well, we know for whom he's not pulling the lever.

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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby RAGBRAIvet » Wed Dec 03, 2014 1:48 pm UTC

keithl wrote:My question would be:
"Are the five helpless people philosophers who pose foolish questions like this? If so, can we put more in the trolley's path?"

If not, throw the switch halfway, and derail the trolley before it hits anybody. If the questioner says I cannot do this, I suggest using the questioner's body to derail the trolley. Etc., until they give up in frustration.

Ah yes — the "Kobayashi Maru" solution.  When presented with a no-win situation, alter the parameters.

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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby orthogon » Wed Dec 03, 2014 1:52 pm UTC

azule wrote:mustache?

Tram? Is pram relevant here?

Yeah, I always hoped, by analogy, that tram was short for terambulator. Sadly not, but that doesn't stop me using the back-formed word anyway.
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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby addams » Wed Dec 03, 2014 2:05 pm UTC

cellocgw wrote:Yay. I love this one.
What very little I recall from my Ancient Greek History class in college includes the point Plato made that you should never let the person posing a question take control of the answers. Just because he asks you to choose between 2 doesn't mean there aren't many other possible responses.

OTOH (since I can't resist), there's a favorite poem of mine, Portrait of the Artist as a Prematurely Old Man :P

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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby marsilies » Wed Dec 03, 2014 3:43 pm UTC

hamnaren wrote:The trolley problem became reality some years ago in Oslo (lookup Sjursøya train accident on Wikipedia)

Traffic control directed the runaway cars to a cargo terminal at the fjord, avoiding them to hit directly into the crowded central station. Three people died in the tragical accident

Actually, the Wikipedia article states the opposite:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sjurs%C3%B ... n_accident
The set of carriages was always rolling on a freight track, and therefore there was no danger that it would roll towards Oslo Central Station.


Information isn't readily available in English, but it looks like while they may have tried changing the track the train was on, it's not clear that they were ever successful.
http://theforeigner.no/pages/news/sjurs ... ent-wrong/
Aftenposten also believes several other safety systems failed. A mechanism that automatically switches runaway trains onto a side track ending in a gravel pile was found to be faulty, according to the administration’s director Svein Horrisland...

Attempts to derail the speeding train at Alanbru by the train dispatcher were also futile because the so-called track barrier, which should have switched the tracks, was found to be too weak, according to Aftenposten.


http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/s ... clnk&gl=us
The commission recommended that state railroad Jernbaneverket immediately improve barriers on the tracks to prevent rail cars from rolling out of control out of the terminal area. The rails cars on March 24 managed to get through four existing barriers on their wild ride to the harbor.

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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby leafar » Wed Dec 03, 2014 4:00 pm UTC

So after a long time lurking, I had to create an account just to say that what Cueball is holding in his hand seems to be some sort of ultra-thin tablet displaying SMBC - I can't post a link because rules, but you may want to check comic 3556 published last week.

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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby Moose Anus » Wed Dec 03, 2014 4:23 pm UTC

leafar wrote:So after a long time lurking, I had to create an account just to say that what Cueball is holding in his hand seems to be some sort of ultra-thin tablet displaying SMBC - I can't post a link because rules, but you may want to check comic 3556 published last week.
Here you go.
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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby orthogon » Wed Dec 03, 2014 4:23 pm UTC

jackal wrote:
HES wrote:I guess he's referring to trams rather than shopping carts.

Judy Garland singing, "Clang, clang, clang went the tram" just doesn't have quite the same ring to it...

Nothing unmusical about the word "tram". Lionel Bart's Fings ain't wot they used t'be from the eponymous musical features the lines
Lionel Bart wrote:There used to be trams, not very quick,
got you from place to place
Now there's only jams, 'arf a mile thick
Stay in the human race, I'm walking

Most British people know this song and a good proportion can play an arrangement of it on the piano (second only to Chopsticks), but for some reason most don't know what it's called and almost nobody knows the bridge (which the quoted part of the lyrics corresponds to). There's also potential confusion with Mercer Ellington's Things ain't what they used to be.
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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby cellocgw » Wed Dec 03, 2014 4:58 pm UTC

pscottdv wrote:
Djehutynakht wrote:
alun009 wrote:I guess I forgot whom I was talking to :P


Well, we know who he's not pulling the lever for.


Well, we know for whom he's not pulling the lever.


Wait, does the lever make the bell toll?
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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby TV4Fun » Wed Dec 03, 2014 4:59 pm UTC

Randall apparently watches SF Debris http://sfdebris.com/videos/stargate/atls3e15.php
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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby rmsgrey » Wed Dec 03, 2014 5:33 pm UTC

Moose Anus wrote:
leafar wrote:So after a long time lurking, I had to create an account just to say that what Cueball is holding in his hand seems to be some sort of ultra-thin tablet displaying SMBC - I can't post a link because rules, but you may want to check comic 3556 published last week.
Here you go.


I assumed it was another reference to rationalists (or whatever they call themselves) after the title-text about Roko's Basilisk last Monday.

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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby Krenn » Wed Dec 03, 2014 5:33 pm UTC

Epsilon Rose wrote:. By thinking about this sort of problem and not looking for a third answer, you can set up triage to minimize the bad in a bad situation. Of course, that doesn't mean you should actually stop looking for third solutions in real life; just because there isn't one now doesn't mean you can't make one for future use.

On the other hand, these sort of questions also help us explore our decision making process by forcing us to directly compare two things and choose between them. Do that enough times with overlapping sets and you can build up a decent picture of a person/groups/species rules and values which would help us make better decisions and, maybe, correct certain bad values. Always trying to force a third solution prevents this and doesn't really do all that much beyond prove that you can spout rote idealism.


I generally accept that for purposes of this exercise, you must choose between the specified solutions, or at least limit yourself to third solutions that are clearly possible within the constraints of the problem.

So for this problem, the valid actions would be: 1. pick track A. 2. Pick track B. 3. refuse to get involved, and leave track A as default, 4, make multiple random choices between A and B, so that you can't predict which track will ultimately be chosen when the train reaches the intersection.

However, the part that I object to in this sort of question is the lack of background information. My answer in this scenario depends on the precise details; I don't accept that this is MERELY a choice between saving 5 humans or saving 1.

I see this as a duty and trust problem, not a rescue problem. My answer is basically "Who i save depends on what my obligations are to the owner of the rail yard, the one person on track B, and the five persons on track b. the correct solution is whichever one does not betray a trust."

If I'm a railroad officer, morally responsible for the safe operation of the railway, i have to choose the path with one person on it, to show that the railroad did everything possible to minimize damage.
If I'm especially responsible for the one person on track B, i may need to choose track A, and let the five die.
If i have no particular duty or responsibility to anyone, then i'm not obligated to do ANYTHING, and interfering might open myself to blame. I should only interfere if i am confident that society at large, and the Solomon Act in particular, will acknowledge my actions as a legitimate form of volunteer assistance.

The actual value of a human life, or 5 human lives, is not the most important thing here. I'm more worried about trust, responsibility, and authority.

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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby Dracomax » Wed Dec 03, 2014 6:08 pm UTC

For some reason, this is the third time I've herad the Trolley problem mentioned in as many days. I'm almost positive I don't normally hear about it in such proximity at other times. odd.
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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby johnfrye3 » Wed Dec 03, 2014 7:15 pm UTC

I have been in classes both as a student and a teacher when discussing this problem, and for me, the whole "find a third option" misses the entire point of the exercise. When I taught it, I did not say "What would you do, flip the switch or not?" but rather "Which of these two options is preferable to the other, and why?" It is a question meant to reveal ways of understanding what kinds of moral reasoning we use, not to actually think on your feet (because plenty of context is missing, as BHG points out in his usual way).

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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby azule » Wed Dec 03, 2014 9:02 pm UTC

Moose Anus wrote:
leafar wrote:So after a long time lurking, I had to create an account just to say that what Cueball is holding in his hand seems to be some sort of ultra-thin tablet displaying SMBC - I can't post a link because rules, but you may want to check comic 3556 published last week.
Here you go.
Woah, I see it now. It definitely says "SMBC" and below that are single panel wide frames stacked. They're the right colors just a different layout.

So interesting to see Randall explicitly credit the origin of his comic idea. Y'all are not crazy about the corresponding releases.
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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby keithl » Wed Dec 03, 2014 10:02 pm UTC

Trolley Problem: Five people tied to the default track, one person tied to the alternate track. Pull the switch?
"Ethical" Solution: Based on the least harm "principle", you pull the switch so only one gets run over. Actual result: The five assassins pick themselves off the track (they only faked their bondage), smile at their mangled enemy, and call the cops to arrest you for murder. Real life "trolley problems" are often arranged to justify harming minorities. This is especially true in medicine.
Actual medical example: 90% of strokes are cerebral infarctions, blockages of blood vessels in the brain and the asphyxiation of neural tissue. A quick way to save brain tissue in these patients is to administer blood thinners like warfarin. However, 10% of strokes, with the same external symptoms, are intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH); a puncture in a blood vessel and the blood-brain barrier, spilling blood into the neural tissue (where blood is toxic, hence the barrier). Blood thinners to ICH patients turn a 40% chance of death into 99%. Determining the difference between stroke types means Xray or MRI imaging at the hospital - adding delay.
The stroke "trolley problem": Should blood thinners be administered in the ambulance to stroke victims on the way to the hospital? It helps most and kills some.
The actual problem: Federally subsidized crap diets predispose to infarctions. Some genetic conditions predispose to cerebral amyloid angiopathy, a major cause of intracerebral hemorrhage. These people can be identified years before an emergency with SNP genetic sequencing (23andMe is $99) and evaluation (SNPedia Promethease is $5, understanding costs effort and/or money). Writing NO ANTICOAGULANTS WITHOUT IMAGING on the front of the medical emergency information "pink refrigerator card", and including a DVD of a recent MRI, may or may not change EMT and ER procedure. These procedures are designed by alpha males (eminence-based medicine) pointing to "the greatest good for the greatest number" to justify indifference to individual cases.

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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Dec 03, 2014 11:58 pm UTC

keithl wrote:My question would be:
"Are the five helpless people philosophers who pose foolish questions like this? If so, can we put more in the trolley's path?"

I actually think it started in behavioral psych. Assuming that you could save five people by killing one, would you do it if it wasn't a violent action, and would you do it if it was? What if the one wasn't actually "innocent"? It's been quite useful outside of any "philosophy" context.
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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby hamjudo » Thu Dec 04, 2014 12:15 am UTC

In real life, I would almost certainly do nothing, because it is unlikely that I would understand the equipment well enough to really know what was going on. In my experience, when I've thought something horrible was going to happen, it was just that I didn't see the bend in the track or totally misjudged how fast a train could stop.

The only way I would act is if the out of control thing in the thought experiment was a thing I was responsible for. For example, if my car went out of control on an icy road, and I had to decide what to hit, and there wasn't a convenient concrete bridge support.

Krenn wrote:The actual value of a human life, or 5 human lives, is not the most important thing here. I'm more worried about trust, responsibility, and authority.


To expand on Krenn. Assume I'm working for the railroad. Also assume that trolleys are not supposed to be coming down either path, such that it should be acceptable for people to be on either or both tracks. If one set of lives are railroad people, and the other set of lives are innocent people, then I should should sacrifice the railroad people/person for the good of the general public people/person. Quantity means nothing. If one path is open to trains, and closed to pedestrians, then the person or people in the wrong place get the train. Again quantity means nothing.

The only time quantity means something, is if both groups are equivalent, except for quantity. Then I only act if the switch is my responsibility. Who the hell would put me in charge of railroad equipment?

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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby rmsgrey » Thu Dec 04, 2014 12:20 am UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:
keithl wrote:My question would be:
"Are the five helpless people philosophers who pose foolish questions like this? If so, can we put more in the trolley's path?"

I actually think it started in behavioral psych. Assuming that you could save five people by killing one, would you do it if it wasn't a violent action, and would you do it if it was? What if the one wasn't actually "innocent"? It's been quite useful outside of any "philosophy" context.


Wikipedia says it was invented by one Philippa Foot, a philosopher in the field of ethics, and then the dilemma was adopted by behavioural psych as a useful test.

hamjudo wrote:The only time quantity means something, is if both groups are equivalent, except for quantity. Then I only act if the switch is my responsibility. Who the hell would put me in charge of railroad equipment?


There's a degree of authority and responsibility conveyed by being the only person in a position to do anything. Yes, if there's a driver there, then passing the buck is entirely acceptable - the vehicle is his responsibility, not yours (thankfully!), but if you're the only person around, then you're nominated...

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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby sotanaht » Thu Dec 04, 2014 12:34 am UTC

azule wrote:Who are you talking to? Why is there discussion of a fat man? Why don't the PC filters change that to something more PC? You know, like PC man. (Read: couch potato.) (PC=computer)


It's an alternative version of the problem. The default version says that there are two tracks, one with 5 people to which the trolly is headed, and one with only 1 person to which you have the choice of redirecting the trolly. Do you pull the switch, saving 5 lives at the cost of causing another, different person to die instead?

The Fat Man version is thus: "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?"

Most people respond that they would pull the switch. However, most people also respond that they would NOT push the fat man.

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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby Znirk » Thu Dec 04, 2014 1:13 am UTC

sotanaht wrote:The Fat Man version is thus: "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?"

However, most people also respond that they would NOT push the fat man.

But do these responses even mean anything? I'm sure the question intends to present an abstract choice, but people being people they will tend to actually imagine the scenario and respond to its inherent absurdity. Ask a stupid question, and you'll get rubbish data.

We're assuming a a trolley which could be stopped using one man as an obstacle who, though fat, is light enough for me to push to his obvious and certain death, probably against his will (otherwise he'd just jump) and presumably over a set of bridge railings to boot (they're not mentioned, but when you tell me about a bridge I base my mental model on known bridges over railroads). On the other hand the unstopped trolley would represent a serious danger to five individuals of unspecified and thus probably average-ish mass. My layman's gut feeling about the physics of the sitiuation leads me to believe that killing the sixth man would be a pure sociopathic act with no actual benefit to the other five victims. Of course that's not what the question is all about, but it's going to have an influence.

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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby addams » Thu Dec 04, 2014 1:29 am UTC

sotanaht wrote:
azule wrote:Who are you talking to? Why is there discussion of a fat man? Why don't the PC filters change that to something more PC? You know, like PC man. (Read: couch potato.) (PC=computer)


It's an alternative version of the problem. The default version says that there are two tracks, one with 5 people to which the trolly is headed, and one with only 1 person to which you have the choice of redirecting the trolly. Do you pull the switch, saving 5 lives at the cost of causing another, different person to die instead?

The Fat Man version is thus: "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?"

Most people respond that they would pull the switch. However, most people also respond that they would NOT push the fat man.

Yeah.
People are smart.

You have one chance and one chance only.
If that Fat Man does not fall on the track and die, he is going to Kick Your Ass.

People instinctively, deep down, know.
They just know.
Life is, just, an exchange of electrons; It is up to us to give it meaning.

We are all in The Gutter.
Some of us see The Gutter.
Some of us see The Stars.
by mr. Oscar Wilde.

Those that want to Know; Know.
Those that do not Know; Don't tell them.
They do terrible things to people that Tell Them.

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Re: 1455: "Trolley Problem"

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Dec 04, 2014 1:43 am UTC

The literal trolley scenario isn't the only way these questions are posed, though, and the sorts of results you get with traditional trolley problems tend to be pretty consistent across variations.

Even in thought experiments where you can be certain it will save lives, directly committing a violent act against another person to save those lives is a far less likely choice (opposite the option to do nothing) than when the single person dies as the result of some indirect action.

Absurd scenarios only guarantee absurd results among people who intentionally refuse to play along with the survey.
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