To save five at the cost of one life? How different countries solve the trolley problem

Cultural differences play a key role in how people in different countries answer the question: is it possible to sacrifice one person’s life for the sake of a few people? A group of scientists led by Dr. Edmond Awad (Awad Edmond) from the business School at Exeter University conducted a study and found out how people from different continents to decide the so-called trolley problem. The results of their work can affect the ethics of programming and affect the production of unmanned vehicles.

Explain what we are talking about a thought experiment in ethics, in which there is an uncontrolled trolley is hurtling down the tracks. In its path are five people tied and unable to move, and the trolley is headed straight for them.

the Man, who had the fate to solve this problem, can switch the arrow, resulting in the trolley going the other way. But it is a man.

There are two options: do nothing, and then the trolley will kill five people, or toggle the arrow – in this case, die only one.

Experts were asked to solve the problem of trolley 70 thousand people from 42 countries. By the way, this work has become one of the largest of its kind.

overall, 81% of respondents were ready to switch the arrow to stop at one victim. Half were willing to save five at the cost of life of one in a slightly modified version of the experiment: people were asked to reset on the tracks from a footbridge to stop the trolley.

interestingly, the people of Europe, Australia and North and South America were inclined to rescue a group of people more often than participants from Eastern countries such as China and Japan.

As scientists assume, due to the fact that in traditional societies people live in close and small communities where it is difficult to form new relationships. Perhaps for this reason, they are afraid to Express such a dubious idea – to sacrifice someone.

In Western countries, people are easier find new social groups and make friends. That is why they are not afraid to Express ideas with which others may disagree.

According to Awad, the results can affect the development of the ethics of programming and artificial intelligence, in particular, on the creation of an unmanned vehicle. Explain that this data can be useful when programming the autopilot cars. This will take into account people’s attitudes to how an unmanned vehicle, assess the risks on the road and the damage from the collision.

“it is difficult to understand whether there is enough large are these differences between countries to insist on different rules in different countries, but the results show that this merits further study,” concludes the author of the work.

Scientific article on the results of work published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Previously, the authors of the project “Conduct.Science” ( described how Autonomous vehicles of the future will make the decision in the accident.

Text: To.Science