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  • Imagine you're watching a runaway trolley barreling down the tracks straight towards five workers who can't escape.


  • You happen to be standing next to a switch that will divert the trolley onto a second track.


  • Here's the problem.


  • That track has a worker on it, too, but just one.


  • What do you do?


  • Do you sacrifice one person to save five?


  • This is the "trolley problem", a version of an ethical dilemma that philosopher Philippa Foot devised in 1967.

    這就是所謂的電車難題,是一個由哲學家 Philippa Foot 在 1967 年所設計的其中一版的道德困境。

  • It's popular because it forces us to think about how to choose when there are no good choices.


  • Do we pick the action with the best outcome or stick to a moral code that prohibits causing someone's death?


  • In one survey, about 90% of respondents said that it's okay to flip the switch, letting one worker die to save five.

    在一項調查中發現,約有 90% 的受訪者認為翻轉轉轍器、讓一名工人死亡、以換取另外五名工人的存活是可被接受的,

  • And other studies, including a virtual reality simulation of the dilemma, have found similar results.


  • These judgments are consistent with the philosophical principle of utilitarianism, which argues that the morally correct decision is the one that maximizes [the] well-being for the greatest number of people.

    這些判斷和效益主義的哲學原理一致,它表明了道德上的正確決定就是最大化最多人的幸福 。

  • The five lives outweigh one, even if achieving that outcome requires condemning someone to death.


  • But people don't always take the utilitarian view, which we can see by changing the trolley problem a bit.


  • This time, you're standing on a bridge over the track as the runaway trolley approaches.


  • Now, there's no second track, but there is a very large man on the bridge next to you.


  • If you push him over, his body will stop the trolley, saving the five workers, but he'll die.

    如果你推他一把,他的身體將使電車停止,並拯救了那五名工人, 但這個男人便會死去。

  • To utilitarians, the decision is exactly the same: lose one life to save five.


  • But in this case, only about 10% of people say that it's okay to throw the man onto the tracks.

    但在這個情況裡,大約只有 10% 的人認為把人丟到軌道上是可接受的。

  • Our instincts tell us that deliberately causing someone's death is different than allowing them to die as collateral damage.


  • It just feels wrong for reasons that are hard to explain.


  • This intersection between ethics and psychology is what's so interesting about the trolley problem.


  • The dilemma in its many variations reveal that what we think is right or wrong depends on factors other than a logical weighing of the pros and cons.


  • For example, men are more likely than women to say it's okay to push the man over the bridge.


  • So are people who watch a comedy clip before doing the thought experiment.


  • And in one virtual reality study, people were more willing to sacrifice men than women.

    在一個虛擬實境的研究中,人們更願意犧牲男人,而非女人 。

  • Researchers have studied the brain activity of people thinking through the classic and bridge versions.


  • Both scenarios activate areas of the brain involved in conscious decision-making and emotional responses.


  • But in the bridge version, the emotional response is much stronger.


  • So is activity in an area of the brain associated with processing internal conflict.


  • Why the difference?


  • One explanation is that pushing someone to their death feels more personal, activating an emotional aversion to killing another person.


  • But we feel conflicted because we know it's still the logical choice.


  • Trolleyology has been criticized by some philosophers and psychologists.


  • They argue that it doesn't reveal anything because its premise is so unrealistic that study participants don't take it seriously.

    他們認為這並沒有揭露了任何事情,因為它的假設是多麼地不切實際以致於研究參與者沒有認真看待它 。

  • But new technology is making this kind of ethical analysis more important than ever.


  • For example, driverless cars may have to handle choices like causing a small accident to prevent a larger one.


  • Meanwhile, governments are researching autonomous military drones that could wind up making decisions of whether they'll risk civilian casualties to attack a high-value target.


  • If we want these actions to be ethical, we have to decide, in advance, how to value human life and judge the greater good.


  • So, researchers who study autonomous systems are collaborating with philosophers to address the complex problem of programming ethics into machines,

    所以那些研究自動化系統的研究人員與哲學家共同合作, 來處理把倫理道德編程到機器上的複雜問題,

  • which goes to show that even hypothetical dilemmas can wind up on a collision course with the real world.


Imagine you're watching a runaway trolley barreling down the tracks straight towards five workers who can't escape.


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