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10 Famous Thought Experiments That You Need To Try



The Train Problem

This one was devised to observe the nature of moral decisions. Imagine a madman has taken five victims hostage and placed them on a track where an out-of-control train is hurtling towards them. You have a leaver in your hand that can direct the trolley into another track, but the track has another person tied to it. Would you kill five people to save the life of one person? This experiment was created to show the nature of moral decisions and highlight the fact that there are no easy answers. You will, at the end of the day, be directly responsible for at least one death.

The Chinese Room

This thought experiment was proposed by John Searle in 1980’s to test the validity of Artificial intelligence. Imagine that one man is locked away in a room with a computer program that translates Chinese and he has no way to interact with the outside world except with a mail slot on the door to the room. He is given a piece of paper and pens to write things down. If pieces of paper containing Chinese symbols are slipped into the room, the man can translate them using the program and communicate with the outside world. John Searle asked how it was possible for the man to convince another person that he knows Chinese without actually knowing Chinese using this experiment.