*For background, see here.*

In a comment on the original Pascal's mugging post, Nick Tarleton writes:

[Y]ou could replace "kill 3^^^^3 people" with "create 3^^^^3 units of disutility according to your utility function". (I respectfully suggest that we all start using this form of the problem.)

Michael Vassar has suggested that we should consider any number of identical lives to have the same utility as one life. That could be a solution, as it's impossible to create 3^^^^3 distinct humans. But, this also is irrelevant to the create-3^^^^3-disutility-units form.

Coming across this again recently, it occurred to me that there might be a way to generalize Vassar's suggestion in such a way as to deal with Tarleton's more abstract formulation of the problem. I'm curious about the extent to which folks have thought about this. (Looking further through the comments on the original post, I found essentially the same idea in a comment by g, but it wasn't discussed further.)

The idea is that the Kolmogorov complexity of "3^^^^3 units of disutility" should be *much higher* than the Kolmogorov complexity of the number 3^^^^3. That is, the utility function should grow only according to the complexity of the scenario being evaluated, and not (say) linearly in the number of people involved. Furthermore, the domain of the utility function should consist of *low-level descriptions* of the state of the world, which won't refer directly to words uttered by muggers, in such a way that a mere discussion of "3^^^^3 units of disutility" by a mugger will not typically be (anywhere near) enough evidence to promote an *actual* "3^^^^3-disutilon" hypothesis to attention.

This seems to imply that the intuition responsible for the problem is a kind of fake simplicity, ignoring the complexity of value (negative value in this case). A confusion of levels also appears implicated (talking about utility does not itself significantly affect utility; you don't suddenly make 3^^^^3-disutilon scenarios probable by talking about "3^^^^3 disutilons").

What do folks think of this? Any obvious problems?

And that this puts a strong upper bound on the chances.

If you multiplied it by the next thousand generations of humans on earth you wouldn't get 1E-6 of a human life equivalent.

So if you can stop using huge numbers like 1E-9, please do proceed, because you do understand the numbers of calculating costs in human life equivalents better than me!

My problem with what you've been writing is not your calculations, but the numbers you're using. Even if the cost were 6E12 lives, it's still not worth actually worrying about. You're demonstrating a comprehensive lac... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

As far as I can tell, everything Yvain has said on this topic is correct. In particular, there is a further possible assumption under which it is

notthe case that cosmic ray collisionswith Earth and the Sunprove LHC black holes would be safe, as you can find spelled out in section 2.2 of this paper by Giddings and Mangano. As Yvain pointed out in ... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post