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Just Lose Hope Already

Eliezer: Agreed, though I'd probably classify cryonics as a kind of experimental treatment. And I think that in the case of any illness bound to destroy the brain (e.g., Alzheimer's), cryonics is, well, almost a no-brainer (no pun intended).

Just Lose Hope Already

Er, that should have been:

I can actually think of one case in which the argument "It has a small probability of success, but we should pursue it, because the probability if we don't try is zero" is potentially a reasonable one.

Just Lose Hope Already

Eliezer: I can actually think of one case in which the argument "It has a small probability of success, but we should pursue it, because the probability if we don't try is zero".

Say someone is dying of a usually-fatal disease, and there's an experimental treatment available that has only a small probability of working. If the goal is to not have the person die, it makes more sense to try the experimental treatment than not try it, because if you don't try it, the person is going to die anyway.

Just Lose Hope Already

This behavior seems similar to that engaged in by gamblers who keep betting, despite heavy losses at the beginning of the night, figuring that if they stay in long enough they might be able to get their money back (and possibly more besides). In some respects, this behavior seems to be primarily motivated by the desire to have what you've already done "count for something". That is, the person is compelled to keep trying at whatever it is they're doing so as not to have to face the fact that they've wasted time and resources -- because if they "win" or succeed eventually, they can justify all prior attempts and failures as steps in the process toward eventual success.

I don't know what makes a person more or less likely to be vulnerable to engaging in that sort of behavior. But I think anyone wishing to avoid that sort of behavior would indeed do well to train themselves to learn to let go of a particular path or strategy. I'm guessing there's an element of "magical thinking" involved here, related to a fallacious sense that you accomplish things through repeating the same strategy over and over again (because eventually, "it's bound to work", when in fact, it isn't.)