Re: Democracy held hostage

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Mon Oct 01 2001 - 18:02:36 MDT

Mike Lorrey wrote:
> This conflict reflects the problems moral philosophers have with the
> trolley death paradox: given a choice between 5 people dying on one
> track, or flipping a switch that will only kill one person, versus 5
> people dying in the trolley accident if you refuse to shove one person
> in front of the train, most people will look at flipping the switch as a
> more moral choice than shoving someone in front of the trolley, despite
> the equal cost in lives lost versus lives saved.

Excuse me, but when our moral intuitions say that two things are
different, they usually are. If you shove a person in front of a trolley,
and he dies, and then it turns out that it was a false threat... well,
oops. If the switch is a false threat then flipping it does no damage.
Uncertainty about the outcome of actions is one of the foundations of
ethics, one of the environmental conditions to which moral intuitions are
an adaptation, and quite relevant here. How would this trolley-accident
scenario arise in real life, anyway?

-- -- -- -- --
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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