Yogesh Dhimate

Notes to Myself

Jul 6, 2022 - 1 minute read - Personal

Solving Absurd Trolley Problems

Absurd Trolley Problems is an interesting exercise. When I started at level 1 my goal was to keep the number the deaths caused by my decisions as low as possible. But at every other level this rule of thumb wasn’t useful e.g. Killing 5 elderly people to save a baby seemed moral to me.

The one question threw me off was this.

Due to a construction error, a trolley is stuck in an eternal loop. If you pull the lever the trolley will explode, and if you don’t the trolley and it’s passengers will go in circles for eternity. What do you do?

Apparantly 50% people who played, still preferred to pull the lever (potentially) instantly killing them. What would be the justification for that?

The other ones I kept thinking about after closing the game were

  • 50% chance of killing 2 people or a 10% chance of killing 10 people

  • Killing 5 people now or 5 people in the future

  • Killing 1 cat or 5 lobsters

It’s also a little bit creepy that I unintentionally followed Three Laws of Robotics to make my decisions.