Absurd instances of the trolley problem by Neal Agarwal

8 July 2022

Most people have heard of the trolley problem. In short, you’re standing beside a rail line, near a railroad switch. A train is coming along the track, but there are five people tied to the track, in its path. You have the option to pull the switch lever, sending the train along a side line.

But another person is tied and bound to the side line. What should you do? Stand there, do nothing, and allow the train run over the five people? Or send the locomotive down the side line, where one person will be killed? Presumably there is not time to free any of the people, so you are left with the difficult choice. Do five people perish, or one?

This format of the trolley problem was created by Philippa Foot, a British philosopher, in 1967, while Judith Thomson, a philosopher at MIT, devised the quandary’s name. American creative coder and developer Neal Agarwal, meanwhile, has thought of a few more, absurd, trolley problem instances.

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