The Trolly Problem is Broken

I love “The Trolly Problem” and have for a very long time. I will stick with the version I know best, but Saania proposed a fantastic version involving a mad man and some theatrics that is very much worth your time.

The concept is simple: you are the conductor of a trolly. Driving your route, you notice that the breaks are out. Ahead, there are three people working on the tracks. Their equipment makes them completely unaware of your impending vehicle, and, the way they are situated, you will surly kill them all.

You then notice that there is a fork in the track that you are able to activate and take advantage of. Unfortunately, there is a solitary person sitting, enjoying the view away from you, clearly unaware of the impending doom. Of course, if you switch the track, he will surely be killed by the metric tonne of steel you drive.

The question that is supposed to sit at the end of this situation is “What do you do?”

Do you kill three to save one? Or do you go the path of sacrifice one for the many?

I have noticed that in every version I have seen of this conundrum, you are always given a situation that is out of your control. It has been my experience that people will rationalize and find ways to avoid blame.

It’s the mechanics fault. He should have checked the breaks better.
It’s the cities fault. They shouldn’t have workers on an active track without notifying the right people.
The solitary man should know better than to be near the tracks at that time.

This brings you to now, where I am trying to solve this issue with a situation that can not be thwarted.

The exercise is supposed to be about where the value in a human life sits. Is it actually better to kill three? Or is it better to destroy one life?

I really enjoy how The Good Place illustrated it.

The episode kept swapping out the solitary man or the workers for people the protagonist knew. One time, it was his mother or three important people from history. One time it was a mother with a stroller vs. a collection of nuns. It quickly became greater than one life vs. many and became more a question of morality.

Does one appearance matter more than another?

Again, my frustration with the question is that it is in a bubble. There is no credence placed on the guilt that forms after the event. No ramifications of resulting law suits or familial issues arise.

To be fair; the problem was devised to see what people would do in one situation and there was never supposed to be emphasis placed on any long term issues that arise. MIT released a version looking more in depth, but it still avoided “the next day” in every version that it brought up.

None of the issues detract from how much “fun” the thought experiment is, though!

The Good Place

My wife and I have been making our way through The Good Place for the second-ish time. I say “ish” because we saw the first season about five times before the second and third came to Netflix. We love this show for many reasons, but I know that I am drawn to it through its mockery of moral philosophy and the people who wrote papers on the subject.

I am in no way a philosophy learned person. I am, however, drawn to the quandaries they present. Especially when faced head on with questions that may come up in the common day to day. The Good Place does that bit perfectly. It is the opposite of preachy, and just poignant enough to be deep.

It got me wondering where I would wind up. Without spoiling the show, the good place and bad place are what they sound like: places for your “soul” to end up after you leave this mortal coil. Looking back at my life, I can say with great confidence that I have no clue where I would end up.

It raises the question that because I am even asking the question of how things would end up, is that actually a negative trait or a positive one? Is it selfish to dilute actions without taking into consideration intentions and mitigating factors?

The very concept that we have papers and books and essays written on the topics of moral decisions, would they even matter in the grander scheme?

Then, I got wondering if “The Good Place” is really just something we do to ourselves? If our actions and self-punishment is potentially worse than any scripture or text could ever predict?

It’s very possible, in my mind, that we create our own heaven and hell. The way that we perceive our actions today dictates how pleasant our today is. To assume that we are going to be tormented for all time for something I do today is a bit, well, silly. There is a good chance that our own self aware mind is punishment enough.

I have toucher’d and tormented myself for things I have done over the last 30 years. Some of them, I should really get over and accept that either it was situational or an accident. Some things I am so ashamed that I have ever considered. Some things only I see as horrible because I know the motivation behind it.

Maybe, we’re all Good.
Maybe, none of it matters in the long run.

That brings me to a mild and brief explanation of my view: nothing matters. What matters is making now great. Now, does that mean live in extravagance? Look at it this way: is what you’re doing now hurting you later? That’s more what I think about when I say “nothing matters”. Now is all that you can admit to ever experiencing, so why not make now better?

On this topic, amazon.ca and amazon.co.uk have fully updated my book release to the newest version. amazon.com is giving me a world of grief, but I have been informed there is NOTHING I can do. As soon as I see this rectified, I will make sure to post something about it.

In the meantime, the Friessen Press bookstore continues to be the more reliable way if you want to pick up your copy. Unfortunately, I have no information on how their digital copies hold up, but hardcover and softcover? Unmatched, somehow. They do printing in the states, the UK, and Canada, and they do individual orders. And, for full transparency, they are the best for me. Just saying.