[ExI] Nuclear probabilities (Was:] Repudiating the national debt)
anders at aleph.se
Mon May 16 21:14:07 UTC 2016
On 2016-05-16 17:59, spike wrote:
> Anders, this is an interesting number because of a popular educational
> video I saw in the late 1970s. The fictional US president was being
> briefed on the work of his military mathematicians who had determined
> that the probability of a nuclear war that calendar year was about 1%,
> with the risk of war in each subsequent year declining by a factor of
> about 0.9
> So in a mere seven years, by the end of that president’s term, the
> risk of nuclear war would be about half a percent in that year.
> The new president was delighted with that news (this was the 1970s
> when the cold war was threatening to hot at any time.) As the
> mathematicians were packing up to leave, he asked: oh by the way
> professor, using your model, what are the chances of nuclear war
> eventually? Answer: 100%.
Hehe... good story.
Of course, the math is a bit different. The probability of *no* eventual
nuclear war is P = prod_t=0^\infty (1-0.01*0.9^t), and this infinite
product converges (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infinite_product
for some ways of showing it). Better, it can converge to something
larger than 0. Consider the case of 1% risk that halves every year. That
will eventually sum up to 2% risk.
This is the kind of math Stuart and me used to look at backup copy
Future of Humanity Institute
Oxford Martin School
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