[ExI] the formerly rich and their larvae...

Damien Broderick thespike at satx.rr.com
Wed Feb 13 17:34:21 UTC 2008

At 01:40 PM 2/13/2008 +0000, BillK quoted Michael Shermer :

>Would you rather earn $50,000 a year while other people make $25,000,
>or would you rather earn $100,000 a year while other people get
>$250,000? Assume for the moment that prices of goods and services will
>stay the same.
>Surprisingly -- stunningly, in fact -- research shows that the
>majority of people select the first option; they would rather make
>twice as much as others even if that meant earning half as much as
>they could otherwise have. How irrational is that?

But this misunderstands how we evaluate the world. (I haven't read 
Shermer's essay, so maybe he elaborates on this.) What's irrational, 
as given above, is to assume that it's possible under such 
constraints that "prices of goods and services will stay the same."

Change the challenge slightly. At the moment, as a westerner using 
the internet, you'll live to 80 (say), while an Australian Aborigine 
living rough can only expect to live to 40. A new genetic/medical 
advance will let you live to 120, in good health until near the end. 
But because of their unusual alleles, it will also permit the 
Aborigine and his kin to live to 250. The treatment is only effective 
if *almost everyone* is exposed to it. (Some conscientious objectors 
can abstain.)

Would most people insist that the treatment must be refused or banned?

Or what about an inoculation that prevents some people from catching 
colds for 10 years while others will be spared for life. You only 
rarely catch a cold; would you spitefully ban such treatment if you 
turn out to be in the single-decade group?

Damien Broderick

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