9 votes

The Trolley Problem

25 comments

  1. [22]
    skybrian
    Link
    In case anyone is wondering, this is a joke. Variations on trolley problems were a fad in philosophy for a while, and then people realized it was getting silly, and now it's gotten to the point...

    In case anyone is wondering, this is a joke. Variations on trolley problems were a fad in philosophy for a while, and then people realized it was getting silly, and now it's gotten to the point where there are even TV episodes about it.

    7 votes
    1. [21]
      MonkeyPants
      Link Parent
      If that were true, surely it would be funny. Do you find it funny?

      this is a joke

      If that were true, surely it would be funny.

      Do you find it funny?

      1 vote
      1. [4]
        wervenyt
        Link Parent
        I find it funny. It's a joke for people who've spent a lot of time contemplating thought exercises and other silly aspects of modern philosophy, and relies on a lot of domain knowledge for humour....

        I find it funny. It's a joke for people who've spent a lot of time contemplating thought exercises and other silly aspects of modern philosophy, and relies on a lot of domain knowledge for humour. If you are one of those people, and still don't think it's funny...then you didn't find a joke funny, congrats. I'm not going to say it's some brilliant piece of comedy, but it's not unfunny to me.

        7 votes
        1. [3]
          MonkeyPants
          Link Parent
          I've spent a lot of time analyzing logic/ lateral thinking puzzles. This one is so cleverly thought through, but poorly worded, I'm not sure what it is ridiculing.

          I've spent a lot of time analyzing logic/ lateral thinking puzzles.

          This one is so cleverly thought through, but poorly worded, I'm not sure what it is ridiculing.

          1 vote
          1. [2]
            wervenyt
            Link Parent
            Practically every detail is a common trope of philosophical thought experiments, and the general shape of it follows common lines that a Philosophy 101 professor would take when demonstrating the...

            Practically every detail is a common trope of philosophical thought experiments, and the general shape of it follows common lines that a Philosophy 101 professor would take when demonstrating the value of thought experiments to the uninitiated.

            You usually start with "You can either watch as multiple people die, or actively lead to the death of one person so that the aforementioned people survive", then adjust the intimacy of the decision, "Would you push a very fat man off a cliff over the tracks to prevent the deaths of five people?", or the moral value of the people involved, "On track A are Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela, and on track B is Hitler, do you kill Hitler to save the others?" As the discussion continues, these nuances layer upon one another over and over again, "Would you push someone with a 50% chance of preventing genocide and a 10% chance of causing worldwide nuclear winter onto the track to prevent a baby with the maximum mental capacity of a mouse but whose continued existence increases the world's net happiness by a factor of three from dying?"

            Eventually, the already-absurd circumstances reach absolutely ridiculous levels, and may be getting at particulars of the answerer's moral code, but are often simply fun nonsense problems.

            5 votes
            1. MonkeyPants
              Link Parent
              I'm familiar with the fat man and the trolley. They assume the future is known. In this puzzle, in both situations, the same five men are killed, and same busload of orphans are spared. The...

              I'm familiar with the fat man and the trolley. They assume the future is known.

              If the railman on the left side of the track lives, he too will kill five men, in fact the same five that the railman on the right would kill.

              In this puzzle, in both situations, the same five men are killed, and same busload of orphans are spared. The detailed description of the five men killed and the thirty orphans spared, which comprises a large portion of the problem, is simply a distraction.

              Then there is a subtle distinction in terms of which railmen are killed, and who gets a heart transplant vs a kidney transplant. But again, the puzzle says the brain knows hearts, the brain doesn't know kidneys, and the brain might be confused by a demon, so how can the brain be certain about anything.

              I think this problem is ridiculing the ticking bomb scenario, which challenges your morals but assumes you can perfectly predict the future. But this problem is so poorly worded, I can't even predict their intent, let alone the future. Which is either incredibly ironic, or might be their point.

              1 vote
      2. [2]
        Keegan
        Link Parent
        It is very clearly meant to be humorous in how over the top it is. I find it funny. Your comment isn’t constructive at all.

        It is very clearly meant to be humorous in how over the top it is. I find it funny. Your comment isn’t constructive at all.

        3 votes
        1. MonkeyPants
          Link Parent
          True. I misread it. After reading it a second time, I realize I have nothing constructive to add.

          True. I misread it. After reading it a second time, I realize I have nothing constructive to add.

          3 votes
      3. [14]
        petrichor
        Link Parent
        I also find it funny. Partly because I started reading thinking it was just a straightforward attempt to clarify "but what if" scenarios, and then realized it was a little too absurd for that....

        I also find it funny. Partly because I started reading thinking it was just a straightforward attempt to clarify "but what if" scenarios, and then realized it was a little too absurd for that.

        Anyways, I'd tell the brain to steer right.

        2 votes
        1. [13]
          MonkeyPants
          Link Parent
          You wouldn't try to stop the train first?

          You wouldn't try to stop the train first?

          1 vote
          1. [12]
            wervenyt
            Link Parent
            One of the assumptions built into trolley problems as a genre is that you can only select within the options posed. Otherwise, there's absolutely no purpose to asking "would you pull the lever and...

            One of the assumptions built into trolley problems as a genre is that you can only select within the options posed. Otherwise, there's absolutely no purpose to asking "would you pull the lever and kill one person, or watch five die?", as a rational person would attempt to remove the people from the tracks, stop the cart, or destroy the intermediary tracks, rather than choose who dies.

            2 votes
            1. [11]
              MonkeyPants
              Link Parent
              True But that is not true in this problem.

              True

              There is no way in sight of derailing or stopping the trolley and the brain is aware of this, for the brain knows trolleys.

              But that is not true in this problem.

              there is an intermittently active Cartesian demon deceiving the brain in such a manner that the brain is never sure if it is being deceived.

              1. [10]
                wervenyt
                Link Parent
                How does the brain's inability to discern absolute truth mean that the person recommending an option to the brain has the ability to stop the train?

                How does the brain's inability to discern absolute truth mean that the person recommending an option to the brain has the ability to stop the train?

                2 votes
                1. [9]
                  MonkeyPants
                  Link Parent
                  Please take another look at my earlier comment.

                  Please take another look at my earlier comment.

                  the brain knows trolleys.

                  the brain is never sure if it is being deceived.

                  1. [8]
                    wervenyt
                    Link Parent
                    I can read, I'm asking for clarification, since I do not follow.

                    I can read, I'm asking for clarification, since I do not follow.

                    1 vote
                    1. Keegan
                      Link Parent
                      From what I interpret it means that perhaps the brain has been tricked into thinking that the train hasn’t been stopped. But I believe that stopping the train isn’t necessarily the best solution.

                      From what I interpret it means that perhaps the brain has been tricked into thinking that the train hasn’t been stopped. But I believe that stopping the train isn’t necessarily the best solution.

                    2. [6]
                      MonkeyPants
                      Link Parent
                      Sorry. The brain thinks it is in a vat, and thinks it is controlling the trolley. The brain thinks it can make the trolley turn left or right, but the brain thinks it can't stop the trolley. The...

                      Sorry.

                      The brain is causally hooked up to the trolley such that the brain can determine the course which the trolley will take.

                      there is an intermittently active Cartesian demon deceiving the brain in such a manner that the brain is never sure if it is being deceived.

                      QUESTION: What should the brain do?

                      The brain thinks it is in a vat, and thinks it is controlling the trolley.

                      The brain thinks it can make the trolley turn left or right, but the brain thinks it can't stop the trolley.

                      The brain can't be sure of anything. Maybe there are no people on the track. Maybe it can't foresee the future. Maybe it can stop the train.

                      It doesn't make much sense to hook a brain up directly to a trolley's controls and not give the brain emergency stopping powers, so the simplest thing is surely for the brain to try to stop the train, or slow the train down to see if it appears to work.

                      1. [5]
                        wervenyt
                        Link Parent
                        The brain is being arbitrarily deceived, but we are the ones being posed the question. The brain can't be sure of anything, but we can be. In addition, just because the brain is wrong about its...

                        The brain is being arbitrarily deceived, but we are the ones being posed the question. The brain can't be sure of anything, but we can be. In addition, just because the brain is wrong about its reality doesn't imply that it has the ability to act in discordance from its perception.

                        None of this makes any sense anyway. This isn't a puzzle with a correct answer.

                        1. [4]
                          MonkeyPants
                          Link Parent
                          We aren't observers or participants, we are just being asked what we think the rational choice would be for this brain (or future brains) to make.

                          The brain can't be sure of anything, but we can be.

                          We aren't observers or participants, we are just being asked what we think the rational choice would be for this brain (or future brains) to make.

                          Assume that the brain's choice, whatever it turns out to be, will serve as an example to other brains-in-vats and so the effects of his decision will be amplified.

                          1. [3]
                            wervenyt
                            Link Parent
                            Exactly, we aren't observers or participants. We've been told the situation, and not by the brain, by some third party who is equally uninvolved. That the brain doesn't know the facts of the...

                            Exactly, we aren't observers or participants. We've been told the situation, and not by the brain, by some third party who is equally uninvolved. That the brain doesn't know the facts of the matter for sure doesn't mean anything about what we know.

                            1. [2]
                              MonkeyPants
                              Link Parent
                              How does that help as an example to other brains-in-vats who face similar decisions?

                              How does that help as an example to other brains-in-vats who face similar decisions?

                              1. wervenyt
                                Link Parent
                                The brain has its perception of events, we have ours, other brains have their own. Whether our perception aligns with brain A's doesn't meaningfully impact how the other brains interpret the...

                                The brain has its perception of events, we have ours, other brains have their own. Whether our perception aligns with brain A's doesn't meaningfully impact how the other brains interpret the recommendation, since their understanding may be unrelated to brain A's anyway.

  2. ShroudedMouse
    Link
    I'd advise the vat-brain (and all others) to rethink their commitment to consequentialism. There's no simple answer here - just as in real life. Better to abdicate responsibility for this choice...

    I'd advise the vat-brain (and all others) to rethink their commitment to consequentialism. There's no simple answer here - just as in real life. Better to abdicate responsibility for this choice and nip down to the vat-pub.

    4 votes
  3. [2]
    knocklessmonster
    Link
    I would hate to be somebody tasked with coming up with a justification for a decision on this problem.

    I would hate to be somebody tasked with coming up with a justification for a decision on this problem.

    3 votes
    1. mundane_and_naive
      Link Parent
      Imagine you're a lawyer for a self-driving car company

      Imagine you're a lawyer for a self-driving car company

      4 votes