Solving the Trolley Problem

The trolley problem is an extremely popular thought experiment used to examine ethical presuppositions. The idea is that there is a runaway trolley car that is headed towards 5 adults stuck on the track. There is no way to stop the car and all 5 will be killed if hit. There is, however, a nearby button that can be pushed which will switch the trolley to another track. The catch is that there is a single child stuck on this track who will be killed by the trolley. So, what do you do? Do you pull the switch, saving 5 adults by killing child or save the child by killing the 5 adults?

The Solution: This will take some set up. First, take out your handy Geiger counter and wire it to the button. Next, take out a radioactive sample that has a 50% chance of decaying and giving off an alpha particle within the time it takes for the trolley to reach the switch point on the track. If the sample decays, the Geiger counter will trigger the switch and the train will hit the child. If the sample doesn’t decay, the train will continue on and kill the 5 adults. Lastly, turn around and walk away, never looking back. Since you have not observed the outcome, the trolley is in a state of superposition having both switched to avoid the 5 adults and not-switched to avoid the child. The downside is that the trolley has also switched to kill the child and not-switched to kill the adults. The good news is that it is no longer your problem, but rather the problem of the next potential observer.


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About caplawson

biomedical engineering // christian theism // texas a&m // molinism // coffee // ratio christi

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