#StoryoftheMonth: Which one is the better choice?

I am glad to introduce a new segment on my blog called #StoryoftheMonth. The idea is to bring forward short stories, fables, and anecdotes, that have a moral or insight for the delight of my readers! So, make sure you look out for these stories once every month!   

The following story was contributed by my colleague, friend, and a reader of the blog: Professor Sudarshan Srinivasan. It is a thought-provoking one on “DECISION MAKING.” 

This is one of the many version of the famous “Trolley Problems”. It has been a popular thought experiment in discussions of psychology and ethics. So, which one will you choose?

A group of children are playing near two railway tracks: one still in use while the other, disused. 

Only one child plays on the disused track, while the rest are on the operational track. 

Now, a train is incoming, and you are just beside controls that guide the track interchange.

This is the decision before you:

You could make the train change its course to the disused track and save most of the kids. However, it would mean the lone child, playing by the disused track, would be sacrificed. 

Or would you rather let the train run its usual way?

Let us take a pause here and think about the kind of choices before us.

Most people apply the utilitarian logic: They might choose to divert the course of the train and sacrifice only one child. 

You might think similarly, I guess, since I had the same thought initially. It seems rational to save most of the children at the expense of only one child. Most people can maybe justify this to themselves morally and emotionally.

But, if we take pause and deliberate even further, we are forced to consider the perspective of the one child. 

Have you ever thought that the child choosing to play on the disused track had made the right decision to play at a safe place? However, he is the one being sacrificed because of his ignorant friends who chose to play where the danger was.

The child who chose not to play with the rest on the operational track was sidelined as a “rational” choice. 

For me, my choice would be to not change anything! 

Let me justify my reasoning:

If the train was diverted, that lone child would die because he never thought the train could come over to that track! I would like to imagine that the children who used the operational track know better to have run away if they heard the train’s sirens. 

Moreover, that track was not in use probably because it was not safe If the train was diverted to the track. This could put the lives of all passengers on board at stake! 

This kind of dilemma that we encounter often in our daily lives! What choice does one make then? Which is better? 

In the office, community, politics, and especially in a democratic society, the minority is often sacrificed for the interest of the majority. It seems like it doesn’t matter how foolish or ignorant the majority are, or how farsighted and knowledgeable the minority might be. 

While we are all aware that life is full of tough decisions that need to be made, we may not realize that hasty decisions may not always be the right ones.


“Remember that what’s right isn’t always popular… and what’s popular isn’t always right.”

Did you like the story? Let me know in the comment section.


  1. Sir, there is a third option available to the person who wants to change the tracks. He can run towards the train and stop the train thereby he can avoid the gory accident. Regards Subbu


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