Social Question

poisonedantidote's avatar

Hypothetical: The train is out of control, who dies?

Asked by poisonedantidote (21549 points ) November 1st, 2010

An empty train is out of control, it is speeding down the track and nothing will stop it. In 15 seconds the train will smash in to 5 workers who are working on the track.

You are in a control booth, and you can see the 5 guys. there is a fork in the track, and a lever, if you pull the lever, the fork will switch tracks, and the train will be diverted, where it will hit and kill 2 workers instead.

If you dont pull the lever, the 5 people will die for sure. and if you do pull the lever, 2 different people who would have otherwise been fine will die instead.

You have three options:

- Pull the lever.
– Don’t pull the lever.
– Try to warn the 5 workers (15% chance of saving them all)

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12 Answers

DancingMind's avatar

I’d blow the train’s whistle and hope all seven workers don’t happen to be oblivious

iamthemob's avatar

Uhm…warn them. I’m not making that choice. They better know how to run – if they don’t, what the hell are they doing working on the train tracks anyway?

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downtide's avatar

Warn them. If the workers are not trapped or unconscious they’ll move. If the train is 15 seconds away they’ll be able to hear it already: it makes the tracks vibrate for a good long distance.

judochop's avatar

I just saw this trailer and thought…Wow, someone’s making an entire movie out of that huh? Then I remembered that one movie about the run away bus with the bomb….Anyway….
It’s a train. Blow the whistle. People will move. I’m gonna go with the 15% chance.

Kayak8's avatar

Wow, they run to the other track and I have just pulled the lever and take out 7. Perhaps one of them has a fear of cows and we can release the bovine terrors and everyone lives.

Cruiser's avatar

I’d blow the horn!! Not once but a bunch of times!! 15 seconds is a huge amount of time to get out of the way and unless this was a road crew of deaf workers you can hear a train whistle from a mile away and a train 15 seconds away would be quite loud!

Whitsoxdude's avatar

Why can’t I warn the two workers and pull the lever?

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@judochop That movie is based on something that actually happened. They’re going to change stuff around of course, but the general idea was based on true events.

gorillapaws's avatar

I’d flip the switch. In my opinion these types of scenarios tend to lend themselves to utilitarianism. When you’re only dealing with 1 life, then other moral systems often tend to make more sense.

I’m also partial to the moral theory of John Rawls which roughly states that things are right/wrong based on how we would create them in a veil of ignorance. Basically, this means that if we could all get together when we were yet-to-be-born, we don’t know if we’re going to be train-conductors, rail workers, or rich/poor, smart/dumb, slow/fast etc. how would we want people to behave in that scenario knowing we could either be the victim or the guy forced with making the choice. If we had to make one law that would be as fair as possible to all people in this situation, then that would be the right thing to do.

ucme's avatar

Record the carnage & stick it on youtube!

SavoirFaire's avatar

Pull the lever. There is no difference between an action and an omission, and the chance of saving the workers by warning them is too low.

(I assume the reason we cannot pull the lever and warn the two workers is that we are too far away to do both actions in the time available. Otherwise, that would be my preference.)

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