I saw this conundrum at Alexander Pruss's blog and I thought LWers might enjoy discussing it:
Consider the following sequence of events:
- You roll a fair die and it rolls out of sight.
- An angel appears to you and informs you that you are one of a countable infinity of almost identical twins who independently rolled a fair die that rolled out of sight, and that similar angels are appearing to them all and telling them all the same thing. The twins all reason by the same principles and their past lives have been practically indistinguishable.
- The angel adds that infinitely many of the twins rolled six and infinitely many didn't.
- The angel then tells you that the angels have worked out a list of pairs of identifiers of you and your twins (you're not exactly alike), such that each twin who rolled six is paired with a twin who didn't roll six.
- The angel then informs you that each pair of paired twins will be transported into a room for themselves. And, poof!, it is so. You are sitting across from someone who looks very much like you, and you each know that you rolled six if and only if the other did not.
Let H be the event that you did not roll six. How does the probability of H evolve?
After step 1, presumably your probability of H is 5/6. But after step 5, it would be very odd if it was still 5/6. For if it is still 5/6 after step 5, then you and your twin know that exactly one of you rolled six, and each of you assigns 5/6 to the probability that it was the other person who rolled six. But you have the same evidence, and being almost identical twins, you have the same principles of judgment. So how could you disagree like this, each thinking the other was probably the one who rolled six?
Thus, it seems that after step 5, you should either assign 1/2 or assign no probability to the hypothesis that you didn't get six. And analogously for your twin.
But at which point does the change from 5/6 to 1/2-or-no-probability happen? Surely merely physically being in the same room with the person one was paired with shouldn't have made a difference once the list was prepared. So a change didn't happen in step 5.
And given 3, that such a list was prepared doesn't seem at all relevant. Infinitely many abstract pairings are possible given 3. So it doesn't seem that a change happened in step 4. (I am not sure about this supplementary argument: If it did happen after step 4, then you could imagine having preferences as to whether the angels should make such a list. For instance, suppose that you get a goodie if you rolled six. Then you should want the angels to make the list as it'll increase the probability of your having got six. But it's absurd that you increase your chances of getting the goodie through the list being made. A similar argument can be made about the preceding step: surely you have no reason to ask the angels to transport you! These supplementary arguments come from a similar argument Hud Hudson offered me in another infinite probability case.)
Maybe a change happened in step 3? But while you did gain genuine information in step 3, it was information that you already had almost certain knowledge of. By the law of large numbers, with probability 1, infinitely many of the rolls will be sixes and infinitely many won't. Simply learning something that has probability 1 shouldn't change the probability from 5/6 to 1/2-or-no-probability. Indeed, if it should make any difference, it should be an infinitesimal difference. If the change happens at step 3, Bayesian update is violated and diachronic Dutch books loom.
So it seems that the change had to happen all at once in step 2. But this has serious repercussions: it undercuts probabilistic reasoning if we live in multiverse with infinitely many near-duplicates. In particular, it shows that any scientific theory that posits such a multiverse is self-defeating, since scientific theories have a probabilistic basis.
I think the main alternative to this conclusion is to think that your probability is still 5/6 after step 5. That could have interesting repercussions for the disagreement literature.