Destiny Defined

Destiny Armory Defined archive entry

Pull the lever. It's the right thing to do.

The Trolley Problem

Basic Information

Link to Item

Released: Destiny (The Dark Below)

Rarity: Legendary

Category: Weapon

Weapon SubCategory: Energy / Secondary

Weapon Archetype: Fusion Rifle


Additional / Expanded Information


Pop culture examples / uses

Opening scene of Prey (video game)

Films / TV Shows

  • Eye in the Sky
  • Most (short)
  • The Fault in Our Stars
  • Orange is the New Black

Definition Summary


References a hypothetical moral dilemma in which a trolley is speeding down a track towards a group of people trapped upon the track. Within the dilemma, participants are given the following options:

  1. Do nothing and allow the trolley to run into the group of people, killing them.
  2. Pull a lever, shunting the trolley onto another track, where only a single person is trapped. This will save the group, but will result in the death of the single individual.

This item wants to know if you can make the tough decision to sacrifice one to save many? Which is the most ethical choice?

Prior to the modern form of the problem introduced by Philippa Foot in 1967, the single person to be sacrificed on the track was the switchman’s child, and this dilemma was part of a moral questionnaire given to undergraduates at the University of Wisconsin in 1905. The German legal scholar Hans Welzel discussed a similar problem in 1951.

The trolley problem and its variants have been used in research on moral psychology.

Trolley problems have been used in many stories and books, it often involves the discussion of ethics behind developing autonomous vehicles and systems. This has been the subject of many surveys in which approximately 90% of respondents have chosen to kill the one and save the five.

If the scenario is altered where the one sacrificed for the five was related or emotionally involved people are much less likely to sacrifice their life. A 2009 survey published in 2013 by David Bourget and David Chalmers shows that 68% of professional philosophers would pull the switch, 8% would not switch, and the remaining 24% had another view or where unable to answer.

A platform named “Moral Machine” was created by MIT Media Lab to allow the public to express their opinions on what decisions autonomous vehicles should make in scenarios that use the trolley problem paradigm. 

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