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Nice post! Utilitarianism definitely has its points. The trick of course is assigning values to such things as hiccups and shark attacks...

Assuming this is a one-off again;

If I care about an individual in the group of 500, say myself or my wife or whatever, I'd want you to pick 2 in either case. Option 1 gives the individual a 20% chance to die (1/5 they'll die), option 2 gives the individual a 10% chance to die (if everyone dies).

This is a bit more complicated than the simple math suggests though - a lot of factors come into play. Let me tweak it slightly; you're in a space colony of 500 and you have to decide on what to do about a problem. You have two choices on how to handle it, same odds. Choice 1: 100 colonists die. Choice 2: 90% odds everyone is saved but 10% the colony is wiped out.

From the perspective of someone interested in maintaining the longevity of the colony, shouldn't I take choice 1 in either case? Yes, it is the choice with 50 less expected value of lives saved but the 10% odds of total destruction path that is possible down choice 2 is an *unacceptable* fail-state. The colony can recover from 20% population hit but not if it is entirely destroyed.

Or to put it even more simply: would you sacrifice 20% of the human population to remove a definite 10% chance of total extinction of the species?

I should have read this post before replying on the last I suppose! Things are a little more clear.

Hmm... well I had more written but for brevity's sake: I suppose my preference system looks more like 1A>1B, 2A=2B. I don't really have a strong preference for an extra 1% vs an extra $3k either way.

The pump really only functions when it is repeated plays; however in that case I'd take 1B instead of 1A.

Assuming this is a one off and not a repeated iteration;

I'd take 1A because I'd be *really* upset if I lost out on $27k due to being greedy and not taking the sure $24k. That 1/34 is a small risk but to me it isn't worth taking - the $24k is too important for me to lose out on.

I'd take 2B instead of 2A because the difference in odds is basically negligible so why not go for the extra $3k? I have ~2/3rds chance to walk away with nothing either way.

I don't really see the paradox there. The point is to win, yes? If I play game 1 and pick B and hit that 1/34 chance of loss and walk away with nothing I'll be feeling pretty stupid.

Let's say you prefer 1A over 1B, and 2B over 2A, and you would pay a single penny to indulge each preference.  The switch starts in state A.  Before 12:00PM, you pay me a penny to throw the switch to B.  The die comes up 12.  After 12:00PM and before 12:05PM, you pay me a penny to throw the switch to A.

But why would I pay to switch it back to A when I've already won given the conditions of B? And as Doug_S. mentions, you can take my pennies if I'm getting paid out tens of thousands of dollars.

I do see the point in it being difficult to program this type of decision making, though.

> Anyone knows the exact reference, do leave a comment.

Well, 11 years later but as I don't see anyone else answering... that sounds pretty much like Star Trek TNG, Season 7 Episode 12. The "lever" being the phased cloaking device letting the ships pass through asteroids.

Yeah. This is basically a great summation to the philosophical zombie question; what does it even matter? It's as you mentioned with the dissolving the question posts: what do the pro-zombie people think a world in which they are correct looks like? What do we learn from this thought experiment which is just basically another flavor of solipsism?

I'd say "inevitably generates the worst sort of Mysterious Answer to a Mysterious Question" is pretty spot on. The Zombie thing doesn't really tell us anything new or let us predict anything. Just a bunch of sophistry really.

My intro to programming instructor did a pretty good exercise: he had us pair up, and we'd each write pseudo-code for the other person instructing them on how to make a peanut butter & jelly sandwich, step by step from a certain starting position (walk forward 5 steps, move hand out X inches, grasp jar, twist lid, etc). The person acting out the "code" had to do it exactly as written without making logical leaps (as refereed by the rest of the class) in order to simulate a computer.

Needless to say not a lot of sandwiches got completed. The point was well made though, I think.

Well I suppose I'm not going to be idly reading random tabloid headlines while waiting in the checkout line anymore for starters.

So is it possible to train one's brain such that it reflexively employs the Decartes method, as it were?

A lot of comments saying various forms of "well but for some situations it *is* best to be random." Fine, maybe so; but the decision to 'act randomly' is arrived after a careful analysis of the situation. It is the most rational thing to do *in that instance.* That doesn't mean that decision theory is thus refuted at all. Reaching the the conclusion that you're playing a minmax stochastic game in which the best way forward is to play at random is not at all the same as "might as well just be random all the time in the face of something that seems irrational."

Acting randomly *all the time* because hey the world is random is in fact useless. Yes, sometimes you'll hit the right answer (30% of the cards were red after all) but if you're not engaging in 'random' behavior as part of a larger strategy or goal then you're just throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks (granted sometimes brute-forcing an answer is also the best way forward).

Arguing about 'well in *this one instance* it is best to be random' is entirely beside the point. The point is how do you reach that conclusion and by what thought processes?

'If faced with irrationality, throwing your own reason away won't help you' is exactly correct. Conversely, when faced with rationality then acting irrationally won't help you either. Unlike the popular media trope, in real life you're not really going to baffle and thus defeat the computer opponent by just playing at random. You're not really going to beat a chess master in the park by just playing randomly in order to confuse them.

Yeah I think it was a terrible addition. Best way to do it was to simply write in the 5 paragraph pattern that is expected. Even still it was subject to wildly differing results - scores were demonstrably effected by simple things like reviewers being irritated or tired that day.

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