Quantum versus logical bombs

by Stuart_Armstrong 6y17th Nov 20131 min read45 comments


Child, I'm sorry to tell you that the world is about to end. Most likely. You see, this madwoman has designed a doomsday machine that will end all life as we know it - painlessly and immediately. It is attached to a supercomputer that will calculate the 10100th digit of pi - if that digit is zero, we're safe. If not, we're doomed and dead.

However, there is one thing you are allowed to do - switchout the logical trigger and replaced it by a quantum trigger, that instead generates a quantum event that will prevent the bomb from triggering with 1/10th measure squared (in the other cases, the bomb goes off). You ok paying €5 to replace the triggers like this?

If you treat quantum measure squared exactly as probability, then you shouldn't see any reason to replace the trigger. But if you believed in many worlds quantum mechanics (or think that MWI is possibly correct with non-zero probability), you might be tempted to accept the deal - after all, everyone will survive in one branch. But strict total utilitarians may still reject the deal. Unless they refuse to treat quantum measure as akin to probability in the first place (meaning they would accept all quantum suicide arguments), they tend to see a universe with a tenth of measure-squared as exactly equally valued to a 10% chance of a universe with full measure. And they'd even do the reverse, replace a quantum trigger with a logical one, if you paid them €5 to do so.

Still, most people, in practice, would choose to change the logical bomb for a quantum bomb, if only because they were slightly uncertain about their total utilitarian values. It would seem self evident that risking the total destruction of humanity is much worse than reducing its measure by a factor of 10 - a process that would be undetectable to everyone.

Of course, once you agree with that, we can start squeezing. What if the quantum trigger only has 1/20 measured-squared "chance" of saving us? 1/000? 1/10000? If you don't want to fully accept the quantum immortality arguments, you need to stop - but at what point?