JAN 18, 2017 2:07 PM PST

The Trolley Problem: Would You Sacrifice One Person to Save Five?

WRITTEN BY: Jennifer Ellis

What if you saw a trolley travelling down a track towards 5 workers who were stuck on the track? And what if you were right next to a lever that could make the trolley switch tracks to avoid the 5 workers but still hit one other worker on the second track? What would you do?

This is the Trolley Problem, an ethical dilemma posed by philosopher Philippa Foot in 1967 to learn about how people make decisions when there are no good choices. This creates an intersection between morals and psychology, or between human nature and logic. Research around the Trolley Problem can be applied to autonomous machines, such as self-driving cars, where the car might have to decide between causing a small accident to avoid a larger one.
About the Author
  • I love all things science and am passionate about bringing science to the public through writing. With an M.S. in Genetics and experience in cancer research, marketing and technical writing, it is a pleasure to share the latest trends and findings in science on LabRoots.
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