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Newcomb's Paradox

dylancatlow
Posts: 12,245
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7/28/2015 10:00:03 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
If you're unfamiliar with this problem, you can read about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org...

This remains one of the great unsolved problems in philosophy. Many people have gone in many different directions with it, but no one has come up with a solution which satisfies everyone. No matter the proposed resolution, there's always some alternative point of view whose concerns go unanswered.

Before one can even begin to answer this question, I feel that there's a preliminary question which must be discussed. Namely, is it legitimate to consider the so-called "Oracle" anything but a very lucky guesser? After all, since it is a thought experiment, the improbability of a scenario in which the Oracle is merely lucky is quite irrelevant, because it's only a fantasy to begin with. If it's true that the "Oracle" is just a lucky guesser, then the answer would seem trivially obvious: take both boxes.

But if the Oracle is not just lucky - if the Oracle's prediction is actually based on what we'll "choose" to do - we would have to adjust our decision accordingly. Let's assume we have good reason to think the Oracle is the real deal, and has some way to reliably base his prediction on what we end up choosing to do. Then the notion that it is always better to take both boxes (given that it is the "better" choice no matter what the Oracle has predicted we'll do) merely takes for granted what we've already established is false. That is, the assumption that because the prediction is already made, anything we choose to do from here on out is irrelevant to the prediction. So if we reason that "no matter what the Oracle has predicted, I am better off taking the one thousand dollars" and proceed to do so, the Oracle must have predicted we'd do this, which we don't want. So the "dominance principle" is itself dominated by the predictive powers of the Oracle. It's not that our choice retroactively "changes" the prediction made by the oracle in real time, but that is changes how we must regard the prediction (which, from our perspective, is still "up in the air") and thus how we make our decision. So depending on how we choose to interpret the Oracle's history of successful predictions (lucky or indicative of actual powers) it seems the respective answers are "both boxes" and "only the black box".

There's another tacit assumption inherent in the problem: that we possess free will. If we don't possess free will, then the question "which option should we pick" is based on the erroneous assumption that there's a decision to be made in the first place.

I would be interested in hearing other people's perspectives on this problem.
kp98
Posts: 729
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7/29/2015 12:07:44 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Possibly it only shows the idea of an infallible 'Predictor' is inherently incompatible with reality and the 'paradox' can be seen as a 'reductio ad absurdum' of that notion.

If we accept the existence of an infallible predictor then we might get an interesting mental exercise, but I don't think it has much - if any relevance - to the universe we live in.
dylancatlow
Posts: 12,245
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7/30/2015 4:34:47 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 7/29/2015 12:07:44 PM, kp98 wrote:
Possibly it only shows the idea of an infallible 'Predictor' is inherently incompatible with reality and the 'paradox' can be seen as a 'reductio ad absurdum' of that notion.


Perhaps, but I doubt very much that one could prove that. If one appeals to the uncertainty principle or something, then we could just adjust the problem so that it occurs in a completely deterministic universe. Unless you can show that such a universe is contradictory or logically impossible, we still have a paradox.

If we accept the existence of an infallible predictor then we might get an interesting mental exercise, but I don't think it has much - if any relevance - to the universe we live in.

Actually, any paradox, even one which is paradoxical under conditions which don't apply to our universe, is a problem for all logical systems. This is because the same logical reasoning we use to evaluate hypothetical scenarios is the same logical reasoning we use to evaluate the universe. If logic doesn't work in some instance, then its entire validity is called into question.