“Trolley Problem” on MTurk used to study self-driving cars

If you are a worker on MTurk, chances are that you have responded to the ‘trolley problem’. According to Wikipedia:

“The trolley problem is a thought experiment in ethics. The general form of the problem is this: There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person on the side track. You have two options: (1) Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people on the main track. (2) Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person. Which is the correct choice?”  Cite: here.

Now the trolley problem is being used to look at decisions self-driving cars should make. Most people say that the car should decide to kill the fewest people. But:

“While most were in favor of an outcome saving the most lives, survey results also indicated that participants would be less likely to purchase a car that followed this principle, with people instead preferring a car that would be more protective of themselves and their families. They also expressed reluctance to accept governmental regulation of self-driving vehicles.”

I wonder if MTurkers approach the trolley problem a bit differently given we have had a lot of time to think about it.

Citation: Bonnefon, Jean-François, Azim Shariff, and Iyad Rahwan. “Autonomous Vehicles Need Experimental Ethics: Are We Ready for Utilitarian Cars?.” arXiv preprint arXiv:1510.03346 (2015).

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