Newcomb’s Paradox


The problem

Two closed boxes, A and B, are on a table in front of you. A contains $1,000. B contains either nothing or $1 million. You don’t know which. You have two options:

  1. Take both boxes.
  2. Take box B only.

You keep the contents of the box/boxes you take, and your aim is to get the most money.

But here’s the thing. The test was set by a Super-Intelligent Being, who has already made a prediction about what you will do. If Her prediction was that you would take both boxes, She left B empty. If Her prediction was that you would take B only, She put a ₤1 million cheque in it.

Before making your decision, you do your due diligence, and discover that the Super-Intelligent Being has never made a bad prediction. She predicted Leicester would win the Premier League, the victories of Brexit and Trump, and that Ed Balls would be eliminated yesterday from Strictly Come Dancing. She has correctly predicted things you and others have done, including in situations just like this one, never once getting it wrong. It’s a remarkable track-record. So, what do you choose? Both boxes or just box B?

Consciousness: The Easy, Hard, and Real Problem?

This article discusses an attempt to understand consciousness through brain research.  The idea is that attempting to explain biological mechanisms involved in consciousness will make the mystery of consciousness less mysterious.  This remind me of Marvin Minskly’s approach later approach to artificial intelligence:

The City Rises by Umberto Boccioni, 1910

David Lewis and Modal Realism

This website  discusses the modal realism of David Lewis.  Lewis proposed that all possible worlds exist because their existence was the only way that he could make sense of counterfactual statements such as:

If Hitler had died as a child in a car accident, then the Holocaust would not have happened.

In other words, Lewis is claiming that the world where Hitler died as a child in a car accident and the Holocaust did not happen is an actual world, just not this world.  On this view, there are a lot of possible worlds (infinitely many?), and they all exist.  The existence of these worlds makes our true counterfactual statements true.