the only easy day was yesterday

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Trolley Problem

What y'all think... This is an old thought experiment created by who the hell cares that I just want to hear what people have to say about. Think it through from all angles. It's called the Trolley Problem.

Five men are tied to a train track and a train is travelling at full speed towards them and will surely kill them if it is allowed to reach them. You are standing near by and you have the ability to flip a switch that will guide the train to safety and save the five people, but there is yet another one person tied to the other track that the train will go onto if you flip the switch. This person will die if you flip the switch. What do you do?

Another version of this problem has the 5 people tied to the track as confirmed murderers, and the one other person as an innocent man who may commit a murder after this event if you save him. Flip the switch?

Yet another variation places you on a vantage point above the track on a bridge standing next to a large man who's weigh will stop the train if you chose to sacrifice him and push him off the bridge and onto the track in front of the train.



The W said...

In the first situation save the five and kill the one. In saving the 5, you are saving the equivelant of 5 "worlds" (all their descendants), 5 is greater than one. In the second one, save the one, as the 5 are liable to take more life if they continue to live.

Madeline Mindich said...

But what if you believe that there are too many people in the world anyway... I have a bunch of thoughts on this and they're all pretty dismal. I have heard one where the idea of children was used in place of the innocent man, which like the introduction of guilt and murderers evoked some more emotional attachment into the situation (children also signify potential, with the additive of youth and innocence).

the easiest one for me to think of is the 5 murderers and the one innocent potential murderer. On my last note of too many people in the world- i'd say let the 5 murderers live, but murder seems so greusome. It seemed like the easier one for me to think about at first- i would simply say that in the light of murderers and if we can agree 5 are more than 1, then get rid of them and save the innocent. Now i'm thinking that one survivor especially if they're innocent would be a nice component of the world- because if theyre innocent they havent placed a "design" upon someones life, and are less likely to plot against property of others, and maybe even be less greedy.

ah...this stuff makes my head hurt.

The W said...

my knowledge of your dismal thoughts on population did pop into my head when i was crafting my initial response...i quickly pushed them aside, however now i am not sure how justified i was in doing so. surely though, it is my belief that life is one of (if not the) most precious thing in this world, and having the chance to preserve it is quite the good deed. As a (hu)man i would hate to have the power to choose life or death for a group of people (especially those i do not know), however if they were innocent of wrongdoing, life would be in order. Even when viewing the potential victims from the anti-population increase standpoint, they could easily be grown people (possibly having already reproduced), thus having the right to live. Surely mass murder is not the solution to our worlds population increase (if anything that (mass murder, but not necessarily for population control measures) has proved the opposite in at least two cases that i know about...the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide, both which have lead communities to reproduce more to make up for those who were killed).
Even if the potential vicitms were in fact children, they still have the mind to decide later in life on their own whether to reproduce (either to sustain, decrease, or expand the population), or refrain from reproduction. That is their choice, not the choice of the one pulling the level switching the tracks. Having those innocent people killed, with the foresight of population control would in fact be a premeditated murder on the account of the trackmaster, not just mere apathy for the situation.

Madeline Mindich said...

"in fact children, they still have the mind to decide later in life on their own whether to reproduce (either to sustain, decrease, or expand the population), or refrain from reproduction. "

would they in a socialist/ communistic state? Ex: Chinese 1 child policy (more on that later)

The W said...

China is neither socialist or communist, but rather a Stalinist capitalist totalitarian bureaucracy (Communist states dont employ hackers to destroy the Marxist Internet Archive). In such a system the state robs its people of its freedom on numerous fronts, including the front of reproductive choice. Surely the benefits of restricting such freedom are vast, however it can be debated whether the state or the environment has the ultimate right in determining population.

The children would still be worth saving as their freedom and potential is not limited to reproductive matters, even in as backwards of a state as The People's Republic of China.

Madeline Mindich said...

Warner- did you get my email?

Jasper Yate said...

The second situation has the 5 people never commiting murder again, I forgot to add that part...

I'll just add also here that one of the biggest arguments around the trolley problem is the participation in an act of wrongdoing; whether ones morality can take the hit of doing something against it's nature, i.e. the argument I've posted about a few times concerning compromising ones morality in the present in order to affect the future.

There is another variation of the problem in which there are 5 people whom you don't know on the one track and one on the other, just as in the generic one, but the one person on the other track is your mother, father, etc.; the person who you care about most...