I've been trying to wrap my head around the SPECKS vs TORTURE argument, and I still haven't been able to convince myself that TORTURE is the right answer.

One idea that I had would be to apply the whole thing to myself. Suppose Omega comes to me and offers me two choices:

  1. I can have a satisfying and fulfilling life for 3^^^3 days. However, I have to be tortured continuously for fifty years first, but with no lasting harm.

  2. I can have a satisfying and fulfilling life for 3^^^3 days, but I'll wake up with a speck in my eye everyday.

I have to say that I would still pick choice 2 for myself. I know that if I add up the utilities in any standard way, that option 2 is going to be way lower, but I still can't get myself to choose 1. Even if you move the torture time so that it's random or at the end (to get rid of near mode thinking), I still intuitively prefer 2 quite strongly.

Even though I can't formalize why I think option 2 is better, feeling that it is the right choice for myself makes me a bit more confidant that SPECKS would be the right choice as well. Also, this thought experiment makes me think the intuitive choice for SPECKS is less about fairness than I thought.

If anyone has any more insight about this, that would be helpful.

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It's not obvious that the ‘utilities’ for different people should add as sublinearly as those for one person do. So a better comparison would be whether you prefer to receive a dust speck in the eye with probability p or 50 years of torture with probability p/3^^^3. (This is essentially the veil-of-ignorance thing, where p is 3^^^3 divided by the total population.)

Wow, it sounds terribly like Pascal's Mugging now. Had anyone noticed that before?

0RomeoStevens8yI prefer oblivion to significant amounts of negative utility for any sustained period.
4David_Gerard8yThinking about it as if it's a meaningful choice may soften you up for Pascal's scams [http://unenumerated.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/pascals-scams.html].

Open Thread, July 16-31, 2012

by OpenThreadGuy 1 min read16th Jul 2012142 comments


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