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Poll: ask anything to an all-knowing demon edition

by yamar69 1 min read22nd Apr 202016 comments


If you could ask just one question to an omniscient oracle knowing that

  1. the oracle cannot lie.
  2. the oracle can only answer yes or no. What would you ask? What would be your strategy for maximizing the bits of information you will receive from the demon's response?
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"Dear Oracle, consider the following two scenarios. In scenario A an infallible oracle tells me I am making no major mistakes right now (literally in these words). In scenario B, an infallible oracle tells me I am making a major mistake right now (but doesn't tell me what it is). Having received this information, I adjust my decisions accordingly. Is the outcome of scenario A better, in terms of my subjective preferences?"

We can also do hard mode where "better in terms of my subjective preferences" is considered ill-defined. In this case I finish the question by "...for the purpose of the thought experiment, imagine I have access to another infallible oracle that can answer any number of questions. After talking to this oracle, will I reach the conclusion scenario A would be better?"

Consider the futures of humanity which I would, upon reflection, endorse as among the best of utopias, and consider the simplest Turing Machines which encode them. If you apply (some function which turns their states after n steps into a real number and concatenate them), would the output of such calculation belong to (this randomly chosen half of the real numbers)?

I'm sure this can be worded more carefully, but right now this may force the oracle to simulate all the futures of humanity which I would consider to be among the best of utopias.

Wait until a situation comes up where you are torn between two alternatives with potential high loss/gain. Then ask: "Among situations A and B should I choose A?"

"Is it optimal, according to my values, to devote my time and energy to working on [thing I am devoting my time and energy to working on]?" is probably going to be the right question to ask for quite a lot of people.