[extropy-chat] Improvements to Newcomb's Paradox

Stathis Papaioannou stathisp at gmail.com
Fri Apr 6 04:18:12 UTC 2007

On 4/6/07, Lee Corbin <lcorbin at rawbw.com> wrote:

Newcomb's Paradox has only one admissable subject
> behavior: take just the one box.
> An evolutionary proof of this is as follows:  suppose that
> box A either does or does not contain dinner, and box
> B always contains dessert.  One may live on a steady
> diet of box A, but one gradually dies of nutritional
> deficiencies by selecting only box B.
> (Those familiar with Newcomb's Paradox should skip
> the present paragraph. The AI, or Deity, or whatever
> entity has an unassailable track record of always
> seeming to know whether you will always take just
> box A or whether you will succumb to the temptation
> to take both boxes. In some accounts---like wikipedia's
> ---it is "box B" which contains the necessary (or extremely
> desireable) reward, but in other accounts that box is
> called "A".)
> Thus evolution would suggest that taking just one box
> is an ESS. Or, as Jef Albright would say, taking only
> the one box works.
> In my own essay, I provide reasons why we should
> regard "changing the past" as eminently reasonable
> from the point of view of the subject. (See
> http://www.leecorbin.com/UseOfNewcombsParadox.html).
> Note the analogy to the free will discussion that we have
> been having. If you imagine an audience, especially one
> composed of physicists (and--better yet--physicists who
> love you and want only the best for you), then as the
> Alien made his assignment for the boxes two weeks
> ago in their plain public view, the past will not be changed
> by anything you do.  Moreover, since the Alien is always
> correct, from the point of view of the audience you do
> not have free will.
> But from your point of view---which should be regarded
> as on an equal footing with theirs, at least operationally,
> you do!
> For if you try on some days to take both dinner and dessert,
> then you cannot avoide the unmistakeable feeling that you can
> *control* whether or not the main box contains dinner. As
> a functioning organism you must adopt this point of view
> that you *can* decide. Philosophical niceties such as "oh, well,
> it's all determined what you will do" are not usefully
> descriptive of your actions or your situation.
> If you were part of a team who every night had to make
> a *decision* as to whether to take one or both boxes,
> your patter about not having choice, or about the contents
> of the boxes being already determined, would be received
> with jeers and sneers by the others. You would quickly
> abandon the language-modality [1] of determinism, and adopt
> the language-modality of free will.
> Many people here are quick to disparage the concept of
> free will as utter nonsense. But we compatibalists counter
> by emphasizing its utility in daily discourse, and are wont
> to remind our critics of the primary role of language in
> describing not only our world, but necessarily a world
> in which we devices are embedded.
> As in every night when you hold arguments with the fools
> who want to take both boxes, you (and they) really are
> agreeing that choice is possible.
> Go ahead if you want and discard the notion of free will,
> but are you going to also discard the notion of a machine
> (e.g. you) being able to make a decision?  I have not
> heard any of the anti-compatiblists answer this question.

This is an interesting take on Newcomb's Paradox. The one-boxers will
ultimately prevail, and therefore one-boxing will become the accepted way of
life. But doesn't this just show that a belief in free will has been
cultivated by the Alien's experiment while, at the same time, even the
variability in choice you would expect from a wild population is being
expunged? Truth is not a matter of utility.

Stathis Papaioannou
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.extropy.org/pipermail/extropy-chat/attachments/20070406/c59c3757/attachment.html>

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list