Assume that the brain's choice, whatever it turns out to be, will serve
as an example
to other brains in vats, and thus the effects of its decision will
be amplified. Also
assume that if the brain chooses the right side of the fork, an unjust
war free of war
crimes will ensue, whereas if the brain chooses the left fork, a just
war fraught with
war comes will result. Furthermore, there is an intermittently active
deceiving the brain in such a way that the brain is never sure if it
is being deceived.
- BRAIN TEASER
From "Brain in a Vat," in issue number 13 of bOING
bOING, a quarterly
- published in Los Angeles. The scenario was originally posted anonymously
- on the Internet.
Consider the following case: A brain in a vat
is at the wheel of a runaway trolley
- approaching a fork in the track. The brain is hooked up to the trolley
- a way that the brain can determine which course the trolley will take.
- are only two options: the right side of the fork or the left side.
There is no way
- to derail or stop the trolley and the brain is aware of this. On the
right side of
- the track there is a single railroad worker, Jones, who will definitely
- if the brain steers the trolley to the right. If Jones lives he will
go on to kill five
- men for the sake of thirty orphans (one of the five men he will kill
- to destroy a bridge that the orphans' bus will be crossing later that
- of the orphans who will be killed would have grown up to become a tyrant
- who made good, utilitarian men do bad things, another would have become
- John Sununu, and a third would have invented the pop-top can.
- If the brain in the vat chooses the left side of the track, the trolley
- hit and kill another railman, Leftie, and will hit and destroy ten
- on the track that would have been transplanted into ten patients at
- hospital who will die without donor hearts. These are the only hearts
- and the brain is aware of this. If the railman on the left side of
the track lives,
- he, too, will kill five men--in fact, the same five that the railman
on the right
- would kill. However, Leftie will kill the five as an unintended consequence
- saving ten men: he will inadvertently kill the five men as he rushes
the ten hearts
- to the local hospital for transplantation. A further result of Leftie's
act is that the
- busload of orphans will be spared. Among the five men killed by Leftie
- man responsible for putting the brain at the controls of the trolley.
If the ten
- hearts and Leftie are killed by the trolley, the ten prospective heart-transplant
- patients will die and their kidneys will be used to save the lives
- kidney-transplant patients, one of whom will grow up to cure cancer
- of whom will grow up to be Hitler. There are other kidneys and dialysis
- machines available, but the brain does not know this.