Two-year-old finds solution to ethics “trolley problem:” Kill everybody

E.J. Masicampo posed the question to his two-year-old:

I’m teaching a moral psychology class this semester, and we spent part of the first day discussing the trolley problem, which is a frequently used ethical dilemma in discussions of morality. When I returned home that night and was playing trains with my son, I thought it would be interesting to see his response to the trolley problem. I recorded his response so that I could share and discuss it with my class, given especially that we also will be discussing moral development from birth onward. My wife and I are constantly talking with our son about how properly to treat others — so this has been teachable moment both for my class and for our son!

The Trolley Problem:

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 most ethical choice?

Via Mark Frauenfelder, Boing Boing. Thanks!

Northlandz is a model train layout with 100 trains and 8 miles of track built by one man

Northlandz is in Flemington, N.J. According to the press release for the mini-documentary “Some Kind of Quest:”

75 minutes from Manhattan sits Northlandz, a sanctuary of mountain ranges, rivers, bustling town centers, bridges and countless inhabitants—all inside a nondescript four-story building. Built by Bruce Zaccagnino’s own hands, the 52,000-square-foot microcosm is more than North America’s largest model train installation; Northlandz is a living monument to one artist’s vision of an equable, irreverent America.

A former video game designer, Bruce shoveled every cent into the establishment of Northlandz, constructing by hand not just the soaring, walk-through model train dioramas but even the building and grounds, with a ridable outdoor steam train and a Beaux-Arts theater that houses a 2,000-pipe organ played by Zaccagnino himself.

But can it last? While Bruce has even grander plans for Northlandz, his dream has grown beyond what anyone initially imagined. Yet the audiences he hoped Northlandz would attract just aren’t coming. He’s transformed from a creator into a caretaker, wrestling with upkeep instead of making art. Northlandz is not just another roadside attraction. It’s a man’s life, work, and home.

Why American intercity trains are (with some exceptions) so awful

Matthew Yglesias looks at the dismal state of American intercity trains, on Vox.

A conservative friend says high-speed rail is the worst kind of crony capitalism and liberal boondoggle. The reason: Americans don’t want it. Build high-speed intercity rail, and it won’t get enough passengers to justify the investment. High speed rail isn’t even popular in other countries (he says), where the trains generally run far from capacity.

I can’t say he’s wrong.

On the other hand: The San Diego to LA train runs well, and is generally pretty full when I’ve taken it.

Related: US liberals want to build out light rail in cities, but they undervalue a better option: Buses. In the 60s, Americans of all classes rode the bus, but now they’re consigned to poor people. Who are icky.