# Trolley Problem, Variant 218

[Another Difalco fanfic, this one a riff on his story “Relapse”]

A drunk driver careens through a busy intersection. You, a fiction writer, are standing some distance off, next to a lever. You have two options: (1) Pull the lever to the left, and the runaway car crashes into a second car, killing both drivers. (2) Pull the lever to the right, and the runaway car crashes into a pedestrian: the pedestrian dies, but the driver of the runaway car survives.

The driver of the second car is:
(a) a middle-aged man;
(b) a recovering opioid addict, on the wagon for six months;
(c) a heavy drinker when under stress, though sober as he drives through the intersection;
(d) a drug mule, transporting a sizeable quantity of hashish in his car for delivery to his connection.

The pedestrian is:
(a) a young woman;
(b) a recent immigrant from Guatemala;
(c) the mother of three small children;
(d) accompanied by one of her children as she walks through the intersection — the child will witness her death if she is struck by the careening car.

Which lever will you pull?

## 6 thoughts on “Trolley Problem, Variant 218”

1. salvatore difalco says:

This is interesting. I have been away. Much has happened. My stories are getting around, true. Not sure what that means. Some of the venues are iffy. Not sure why they exist. But waiting months and years for responses–most often rejections–from “more reputable” publications became a drag. I decided not to discriminate. It’s been interesting. I found the analysis of Relapse absorbing. I’m not entirely sure what to make of the above riff. I will need time to digest it all. More to come.

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2. I was going to email you but you beat me to the punch.

Here in Durham our daughter works in an interdisciplinary “Moral AI” lab at Duke. One of the hot topics circulating in those realms is the self-driving car and how it should respond to imminent collision scenarios like the ones posed as thought experiments in the trolley problem. Apparently the Mercedes ads in Europe assure would-be buyers that their car’s AI algo would prioritize the lives of its driver and passengers over everyone else; the Saab ads claim that their car’s algo would make the “right” decision, even if its driver paid the ultimate price. I don’t know how the BMW algo is programmed. So this trolley problem came to mind after reading your story. I suspect that fiction writers are more likely to pull the lever the “wrong” way for the sake of the story, prioritizing esthetics over ethics. Of course I took some poetic license in proposing that both drivers would have been killed in a head-on. I thought about continuing the dead woman’s alternative future had the other lever been pulled and she survived, but didn’t quit get there. Anyhow, that’s the motivation for the riff.

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1. Not Saab but Volvo. We’ve got an old Saab, but their assembly lines stopped running a few years ago — no self-driving models for them.

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3. I pull the lever left. The woman and child are in shock as they witness the horrific events, and some of the wreckage nearly hits them. As she recovers, the Guatemalan woman notices a package of something nearby. It’s the hashish. She recognizes what this could mean for her, if she picks it up and walks away….

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4. salvatore difalco says:

Ah ha. Now it makes more sense. This is fascinating. Lots to think about.

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