02x05 - The Trolley Problem

This is an exciting day.

We are going to tackle The Trolley Problem.

Is this a game?

I go first.

I call blue.

There's no... this is...

No, this is a thought experiment first introduced by British philosopher Philippa Foot in .

You are driving a trolley when the brakes fail, and on the track ahead of you are five workmen that you will run over.

Now, you can steer to another track, but on that track is one person you would kill instead of the five.

What do you do?

Do we know anything about the people?

Like, is one of them an ex-boyfriend or that snooty girl from Rite Aid who was always silently judging my purchases?

It's like, yeah, chicky, a Baby Ruth and birth control.

I see the irony.

Keep a-swipin'.

You don't know any of the workers.

Okay, well, then that's easy.

I switch tracks.

Kill one person instead of five.

But this is hard because the only trolley I've ever been on is James Franco's ironic trolley.

It travels backwards from his penguin grotto to his garage of adult tricycles.

- Um, kill one, save five.

- Good!

But there's a lot of other versions of this, like what if you knew one of the people?

Does that change the equation?

Or what if you're not the driver, you're just a bystander?

Or let's throw the trolley out altogether.

Let's say you're a doctor, and you can save five patients.

But you have to kill one healthy person and use his organs to do it.

But that's not the same thing.

Why not?

It's still choosing to kill one person to save five, isn't it?

Michael, you've been kind of quiet.

What do you think about all this?

Well, obviously the dilemma is clear.

How do you kill all six people?

So I would dangle a sharp blade out the window to slice the neck of the guy on the other track as we smush our five main guys.

Oh, I did the thing again, didn't I?

- Yep.

Ten more, buddy.

- People good.

People good.

Why is that so hard to remember?


What is it?

- Good.

- Good.


Later, guys.

Oh, hey, twerps, we have an hour before we have to pretend to be tortured by Vicky.

You want to hang out?

We could work on our forced grins.

Check mine out.

[forced laugh]

This place is miserable, etcetera.

- That sounds fun.

- Right?

But I was gonna dive into next week's reading, I'm afraid.


Jason, do you, um, care to join?

Sure, dog.

You're doing extra-credit work?

What can I say?

This class is more fun than I thought.

[mellow music]

Eleanor seemed a little suspicious earlier, snooping around.

You didn't tell her about us, did you?


Why are you so scared that someone will know we're pounding it out?

Precisely because you refer to lovemaking as "pounding it out." Who cares about what other people might think about us being together?

Maybe you should talk about this with a friend.

But then that person would know we were together.


Then you can talk about why it is that you don't want anyone to know we're together.

But then that person would know, and I don't want anyone to know.

I know.

I'm saying you should talk to someone about how weird it is that you don't want to talk to someone about how we're together.

How's it going, teach?

Hmm, kitchen looks nice and crazy.

I've been racking my brain, trying to find a way to get through to Michael.

What do you think about writing a rap musical about Kierkegaard?

I think that's a terrible idea.


- [sighs]

- Michael's not going to learn how to be a good person overnight.

He's not even a person.

He's just a bunch of evil shoved up the butt of an evil mannequin, you know.

Teaching him to be good... it's like...

teaching me how to be not hot.

How would you even do it?

You'd have me hunch or something and then stand there and say "gurp, gurp, gurp"?

I don't even know.

I can't even picture it because I've been hot my whole life.

I'm sorry.

Who is this conversation for again?

It's for you.

I believe in you, nerd boy.

If you can teach me and Jason ethics, you can teach anybody.


But definitely a no on the rap musical?

I mean, if we really...


My name is Kierkegaard, and my writing is impeccable.

Check out my teleological suspension of the ethical.

- No.

- No!



No, it felt like a no when I was doing it.

[quirky music]

- Janet?

- Hi, there.

If I were to tell you something personal about myself, you couldn't tell anyone about it, right?


So, in a way, you're sort of like a therapist.

Absolutely not.

A therapist is a trained medical professional with the ability to absorb and process complex ideas about human emotion.

I am simply a vessel containing all of the knowledge in the universe.

Close enough.

Jason and I are sleeping together.


Obviously, no one can ever know.

I mean, I wouldn't shag Jason if he were the last man on Earth.


well, he sort of is, and I am...

shagging him, I mean.

And I think I'm losing my mind, so please help me.

Well, my job is to make your experience here in the afterlife more enjoyable, so I will try to help you.

I am going to need some time to read every book ever written about human psychotherapy.

And now I've done that, so let's begin.

- Have a seat.

- [soft ding]

Hi, I'm your therapist, Janet.

I just want to have a little chat about your progress.

In the last homework assignment, I asked you to examine the ethics of "Les Misérables," in which a man steals a loaf of bread to feed his starving family.

Would you please read your first paragraph here?

"Everyone in this story sucks and belongs in the Bad Place.

"The thief is bad.

The officer chasing him is bad.

"All the whiny prostitutes are bad.

"Plus, they're all French, so they're going to the Bad Place automatically." Do you see how you're already off topic?

Chidi, I've been around a long time...

like, all of it.

But I know for a fact that if you steal a loaf of bread, it's a negative points...

if it's a baguette because that makes you more French.



But philosophy is about questioning things that you take for granted, and I-I just don't think that you're doing that.

I mean, "I personally know that Victor Hugo "is in the Bad Place being tortured.

"He's a real wuss, too.

"If one of the lava monsters even gets near the guy, "he's like,

'Sacre bleu,

I peed in my pants.'"

I don't know what you want from me.

T-that's exactly what he said.

Jason's a nice person, but my suitors were always of a certain echelon.

I used what I called the "Duke Rule," because Duke is both minimum acceptable university and rank of nobility.

You've never dated anyone like Jason before.

I mean, I've dallied below my station.

I once had a brief fling with a non-famous Hemsworth brother, but even Larry Hemsworth had more status than Jason.

Jason didn't even have a job...

in a sad way, not in the good, rich way.

Hey, guys.

What are you doing?

Sitting in a room?

That's pretty cool.

I took your suggestion, and I'm talking to Janet about our relationship.

Actually, it might help me if I could hear Jason's side as well.

Oh, no, no, no.

That'll only slow things down.

Look, I'll tell you his side.

He thinks that I have to control everything and that he has no voice in this relationship.

Right, Jason?


Now, where were we?

I just...

heard that.

Okay, fine.

I'll leave.

I just don't feel like you're engaging with the material...

like with The Trolley Problem.

That was just tricky.

That's all.

Why don't you just tell me the right answer?

Well, that's what's so great about The Trolley Problem is that there is no right answer.


This is why everyone hates moral philosophy professors.

I'm on your side here, dude, but he is not wrong.

Okay, Michael...

trust me.

When it comes to human ethics, I just know more than you.

I've been studying it my whole life.

It's just that it's so theoretical, you know?

I mean, you know, maybe there's a more...

concrete approach.

Here, let's try this.

[snaps fingers]

[trolley droning]

Oh, God!

Michael, what did you do?

[trolley bell ringing]

I made The Trolley Problem real so we could see how the ethics would actually play out.

There are five workers on this track and one over there.

Here are the levers to switch the tracks.

Make a choice.

T-the thing is, I mean, ethically speaking...

No time, dude!

Make a decision!

Well, it's tricky!

I mean, on the one hand, if you ascribe to a purely utilitarian worldview...

[crashes, wheels screeching]



what did we learn?


Talk it out, buddy.

What are we thinking?

He thinks he just killed a bunch of people with a trolley.

It's just a simulation.

I would never make you kill real people.

Oh, well, that's reassuring, because some of the parts of the fake people flew into my mouth!

Michael, can we just go back to the classroom?

We never left.

Here, I'll show you.

[snaps fingers]

[sighs shakily]

[sighs with relief]

[snaps fingers]


See, buddy?

None of this was real.

Well, they're fake people, but their pain is real.

Does that make sense?

There have to be stakes, or it's just another thought experiment.

This is awful.

You specifically asked me if there was a way I could connect with the material more.

I'm trying, you guys.


You're right.

I want to help you understand this.

Thank you, Chidi.

So let's try again, hmm?

[snaps fingers]

Oh, uh, I-I thought maybe we would have a discussion.

No, the whole point is to play out the scenario in real time.

Quick, Chidi!

What's your decision?



I can do this.

I am choosing to switch tracks, so that way, I only kill one person.

Oh, forgot to tell you.

This is the scenario where you actually know one of the people.

It's your friend Henry there.


How are you, mate?

Henry, move!

- Oh, nice trolley.

- Move out of the way!

- Henry, move!

- I can't, Chidi.

My boots are stuck in the tracks.

- Henry, move!

- Anyway, long time no...


Oh, my God!

[wheels screeching]

Again, just a simulation...

an almost impossibly lifelike simulation.

Would someone's foot really fly off their body like that?

That was kind of cool.

Ethically speaking.

Tahani's confusing.

She's really smart.

And she's all soft and smooth like a bunch of water balloons.

But I tell her she's pretty a hundred times a day, and she's never said I'm pretty once.

And how does that make you feel?

I just feel like Tahani's embarrassed that I'm not some sort of scientist who forecloses on banks.

I need another session with Janet.

It's my turn.

I have a lot of problems, too, you know.

Perhaps we could kill two birds with one Janet, as it were.

How would you feel about giving Jason and me couples therapy?

I'd feel great.

[quirky music]

Janet, what's happening?


My guess is I'm operating in a way I'm not designed for, and it's creating a small glitch.

But if I'm helping you guys, I say...

"What has one thumb and wants to keep going?" This not-lady.



[mellow music]

Okay, so that was Trolley Problem version number seven.

Chidi opted to run over five William Shakespeares instead of one Santa Claus.

Okay, as much as I'm enjoying watching random people's heads fly off, I think we've taken this trolley thing as far as it can go.

- You might be right, Eleanor.

- Thank you.

Let's try the doctor one.

[snaps fingers]

Dude, what the fork?

These five people all need organ transplants, or they will die.

Eleanor's perfectly healthy.

Chidi, do you want to slice her open and use her organs to save the five sick people?

Chidi, Chidi, think about this.

I'm your hottest friend...

No, Tahani.

I'm your nicest fr...

No, Jason.

I'm your friend.

I-I won't do it.

As a doctor, I've taken the Hippocratic Oath to do no harm, and although five people will die, I cannot harm one innocent person to save them and forsake my oath.

It's unethical.


- Tell their families.

- What?

Doctor Chidi?

My daddy needed a heart transplant.

Did you save his life?

He was working, then a really bad man ran him over with a trolley.


Come on!


I'm finding this incredibly helpful.

I think I'm really starting to get it.

Oh, I know.

We'll do the one where you're in a boat next to a volcano, and you can either save people, or one awesome dog or whatever.

- No, no, no, no, no.

- Hey.

Are you torturing us again?


You don't care about learning ethics lessons.

You're just torturing Chidi again, aren't you?

- Busted.

- What?

[laughing wildly]

I'm sorry.

Old habits die hard.

Not as hard as those people you crushed with the trolley, though.


I'm sorry, is this funny to you?


I thought that was clear from my laughter.

Oh, come on.

My bad.

Look, I'm still on your team, okay?

I just needed to let off a little steam.


[snaps fingers]


Back home.

All good.



Not all good.

You keep saying that we need you, or we'll end up getting tortured forever.

But then when we do help you out, we still end up getting tortured.

I'd rather just be tortured than choose it.

You are no longer welcome in my class.

Get the fork out!

[dramatic music]

- But I said "my bad." - Out!

You okay?

You've been staring at the second page of this book for an hour.

When I'm really upset, concentrating on a table of contents helps me calm down.

It's like a menu, but the food is words.

Oh, okay.

I can't believe I actually thought he wanted to learn from us.

What he really wanted was to torture me, using the thing that I love most in the world.

Woven belts?

Oh, teaching.


I'm sorry about this, Chidi.

I made him take the classes, and I feel a little responsible.

Oh, no, it's not your fault.

Yeah, you're right.

It isn't.

And no take-backs.

No, a tiger can't change his stripes.

This is what he always wanted...

me trying desperately to teach him something that he never intended to learn so I'd end up miserable with my glasses all smudged up from sweaty-forehead stress grease.



Also, I really don't think that's true.

Oh, no?

What possible other reason could he have to behave that way?

Actually, I can think of one.

Yesterday Tahani gave us her reasons not to take this relationship public.

Tahani, what do you value about Jason?

Well, he's thoughtful...

picks flowers and brings them to me.

Often they're ones I've just planted, but...

That's how I know they fresh.

He's the least self-aware person I've ever met.

He has massive amounts of unearned confidence and is utterly unaware of his own absurdity.

Therefore, quite good at s*x.

Here's the thing.

I'm nice to you, and you're mean to me.

There's something wrong about that, but I can't put my finger on what it is.

Oh, Jason.

I genuinely like you, but it's hard to change all at once.

Can you give me a little more time?


I agree to keep this on the DL for now, if you agree to grab my butt in public once a week.

You can say I sat in gum and that you're trying to scrape it off.

You do sit in a lot of gum.

Aw, I'm happy for you guys.


[frog croaking]


Look, I don't know what to tell you.

If Chidi can't take a joke, that's on him...

just like all that blood was.


I can't high-five that!

No matter how badly I want to.

Look, this isn't about Chidi not being able to take a joke.

This is about you.

You're doing what I used to do.

You're pulling an Eleanor.

Posting my cousin's credit card number on Reddit because she said I looked tired?

- [snorts]

- [chuckles]


I forgot I did that.


[clears throat]


Pulling an Eleanor in this case is lashing out when you feel like a failure.

You couldn't hack the classes.

They made you feel dumb and small, so you took it out on the teacher.

You think I feel dumb and small?

I'm an eternal being who can see in nine dimensions.

I can see from your aura that you're about to fart quietly and then lie about it.

And please don't, because I can also see what you ate today.

Dude, you can bluster and insult all you want...

also classic Shellstrop moves, by the way...

but deep down you know I'm right.


Eventually Chidi will get over it.



Leaving it up to the other person to be the grown-up...

yet another classic Shellstrop move.


You and I are really very similar.

What does that say about me?


Look, bro, it's % on you to make this up to him.

[soft music]

I screwed up.

I'm owning it.

I mean, I'm a superior being...

I ought to act like one, right?

So I really thought about each one of you, and I got you something that will make you happy.

I call them "opposite tortures." Do you mean presents?

Yes, that's better.

Thank you.

Tahani, here's yours.

[soft ding]

Holy mama.

Is this a diamond?


Honestly, I don't get the appeal.

Diamonds are literally carbon molecules lined up in the most boring way.

They're worthless space garbage.

What you're holding right now...

that's basically meteorite poop.


And I have the biggest piece!


I had Janet make you a never-ending shrimp dispensery.

- [gasps]

- [soft ding]


- [machine whirring]

- Oh!


This is the dream.

- It is?

- Yeah.

Jason, here you go.



Guys, it's Pikachu!

- This is awesome...

- [balloon pops]

Aw, man.

And finally, Chidi.

You were a tough nut to crack, but I think I figured it out.

[soft ding]

This is a replica of a lost notebook from the desk of Immanuel Kant.

It contains never-before-seen thoughts and musings and several, uh...

crude erotic doodles.

Interesting guy, actually.

The point is, no one on Earth has ever seen this...

except for you.


This isn't an apology.

It's a bribe, and I'm not interested.

[mouth full]

Yeah, we can't be bought.

What do you want from me, man?

You want me to give you a golden nameplate for your office?

Or you want a diamond bigger than Tahani's?


Then this would be worthless.

I don't want anything.


Oh, okay.

Ah, I get it.

I get it.

You want me to admit that I was wrong.

You want me to say, "Oh, Chidi, I'm so sorry "because I didn't understand human ethics and you do.

"It made me feel insecure, and I lashed out.

"And, oh, please help me because I feel so...

so lost and vulnerable." Yes.

Oh, Chidi, I am so sorry.

I, um...

I didn't understand human ethics, and you do.

And it made me feel insecure, and I lashed out.

And I really need your help because I feel...

so lost and vulnerable.

Have a seat.



Nobody try mystery flavor.

It's white chocolate, and it is nasty.

Listen, we just wanted to thank you for all of your help.

Our relationship has grown so much stronger over the past few weeks, and we owe it all to you.


I am very happy for the both of you.

[loud rumbling]

- Okay.


- [soft ding]

[chandelier rattling]

[rumbling stops]

[soft ding]

Hi, there.

What's happening?

What's wrong?

I am wrong.

I can't stop glitching.

I don't know why.

And it's getting worse.

I fear this neighborhood is in danger of total collapse.

So that's the main thing.

How are you?