This comic is a twist an old riddle. In the original riddle, a man has to cross a river in a boat that can only hold him and one other object. The man has a wolf, a goat, and a cabbage that he needs to bring across with him, similar to the first panel. However, the comic quickly devolves into surrealism in the later panels as new characters show up, bringing deviations of the original "cabbage", "goat", and "wolf" that add extra layers of complexity to the riddle.
The last panel is a reference to the Trolley Problem, a moral test that asks the participant whether they would let a person in the way of an uncontrollable trolley die or divert the trolley and kill other people standing on the tracks. The comic gives a twist here too: instead of diverting the trolley, here the characters must choose between stopping the trolley and sacrificing cabbages or letting the trolley roll into the river (as hinted at by the title text). This alternate way of viewing the problem has applications in the self-driving car industry, where a car may be programmed to save its driver at all costs, even at the expense of others' lives.
A link could be made to this wiki entry https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolf,_goat_and_cabbage_problem#Occurrence_and_variations . Also the last panel is seemingly a reference to the trolley problem https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem
Callback to strip 1134. https://xkcd.com/1134/ I don't know how to add a proper link.
Pete 184.108.40.206 22:23, 19 August 2020 (UTC)
Oh boy someone out there is gonna get nerd-sniped real hard Fieldbox (talk) 23:48, 19 August 2020 (UTC)
Some thoughts I had:
- There's a hierarchy: Wolfeater -> Wolves -> Goats & Cabbage moths -> Cabbages
- Does Wolfeater also eat cabbage? Yes. It's a goat
- There are additional weapons for Rock paper scissors
- Black Hat's moths and termites could obviously be transported so far (Black Hat might lie, source needed), but in the spirit of the question: moths can't be left alone with cabbages, and termites will destroy the boat if a crossing with them is attempted
- Cabbages can cushion the trolley, and still function as cabbages afterwards. Use White Hat's, because he has 100/101 cabbages, Ponytail's 1 cabbage adds less than 1% to the cushion, and if it's a special kind (probably not in the spirit of the question), it would get jumbled with the rest of them in the cushioning
- 6 humans to keep an eye on things, instead of the normal 1
- Trolley doesn't get to cross. It can hold multiple wolves, let's say at least 3, and if the trolley could cross, then Cueball wouldn't hesitate to recommend Ponytail go across with her 3 items Coverbe (talk) 05:03, 20 August 2020 (UTC)
Relevant: "Rubicon" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-ROdRgRRsY 220.127.116.11 07:28, 20 August 2020 (UTC)
Question: is the wolf-eating goat the same goat as the goat that Beret Guy won from Monty Hall? 18.104.22.168 15:53, 20 August 2020 (UTC)
On "Reasonable assumptions": "Stopping the trolley destroys all the cabbages. Otherwise the event does not affect the logic puzzle" - This could be a red herring. And: We can still see the cabbages as 2 groups: 1+100. Destroying White Hat's 100 still lets Ponytail's 1 survive intact
"The pack of wolves in the trolley, if rescued, will eat a human or wolf eating goat left alone" - This phrasing is strange. If part of it means "wolves will eat the wolf-eating-goat": I disagree. See rock-paper-scissors Coverbe (talk) 16:25, 20 August 2020 (UTC)
- If you have (any) single wolf and (any) single goat alone on one side as you depart, upon your return you will probably discover either a wolf-eating-goat or a wolf eating goat. Which it is, will obviously depend upon the finer details, but it's a failure both ways... 22.214.171.124 18:29, 20 August 2020 (UTC)
- That I agree with. I still wonder about "The pack of wolves […] will eat a human […]". I think it's a more reasonable assumption that any human can control any number of wolves Coverbe (talk) 19:03, 20 August 2020 (UTC)
- That's a patently absurd suggestion in any other context, and arbitrary at best here. GreatWyrmGold (talk) 16:23, 24 August 2020 (UTC)
What if only Cueball of all the humans can row the boat? He could be the ferryman126.96.36.199 18:19, 20 August 2020 (UTC)
But no-one's allowed to use the boat if they haven't figured out their eye color yet. (Assume the people, goats, wolves, moths, and termites are all perfect logicians. Assume the water is unreflective, the trolley has no windows, and Cueball makes his spreadsheet without looking at a screen. Assume everyone is a very bad communicator outside of announcing their logical predicaments. Assume that Black Hat will strictly enforce these guidelines.) 188.8.131.52 19:31, 20 August 2020 (UTC)
"The pack of wolves in the trolley, if abandoned by the humans and rescued by the wolf who can operate a boat, will eat a human or wolf-eating goat left alone." - This seems really needlessly complex and doesn't really have a bearing on the problem in general.
- Yeah, not sure that's better.Sturmovik (talk) 02:45, 21 August 2020 (UTC)
Given Beret Guy's surrealist nature, maybe the solution is to send him across in the boat alone, then he can return with one item: the opposite bank. 184.108.40.206 17:08, 21 August 2020 (UTC)
- Certainly worth bringing up to him, I'd say. Also, thanks for the chuckle -- 220.127.116.11 19:27, 25 August 2020 (UTC)