The Burning Building

A trolley problem is usually defined as a thought experiment in ethics. Although it doesn’t necessarily have to involve a trolley car. Theres also not supposed to be a particularly right or a particularly wrong answer.

Scenario #1

A building is on fire, there is a child on the second floor. Without thinking you rush into the inferno firmly intent on rescuing the child. Half way up the stairs you notice a priceless Rembrandt hanging on the wall. Do you can carry on, rescue the child or… do you save the irreplaceable masterpiece?

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Scenario #2

A building is on fire, there are two children in the building.Without thinking you rush into the inferno firmly intent on rescuing the children. Half way up the stairs you realise the fire is out of control and you will only be able to rescue one child… armed with perfect knowledge you know that one child has an IQ of 140. The other sub 80. Which child do you save?

Scenario #3

A building is on fire, there are two children in the building.Without thinking you rush into the inferno firmly intent on rescuing the children. Half way up the stairs you realise the fire is out of control and you will only be able to rescue one child… armed with perfect knowledge you know that one child will one day cure cancer. The other child is your best friends kid. Which child do you save?

It doesn’t really matter what you answer. Unless you’re a sociopath its likely you are likely to be bothered by whatever choice you make….

I can’t overstate how much I love trolley problems. I’m especially fascinated by programmers who are going to have to teach self-driving cars the algorithms required to make life or death decisions. Does your self-driving car sacrifice you by smashing itself into a brick wall… or does it mow down the child that broke free from its mothers grasp and ran into the road?

Decisions, decisions… decided in 0.05 seconds.

What a great time to be alive that we can mull over such things 🙂

 

If you’re interested… my post on the  The Shallow Pond. For more ethical hoodoo.

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