Friday, 17 May 2013

I generally like thought experiments. Nozick's Experience Machine is great, Rawl's Veil of Ignorance is useful at times, but why does Nozick give attention to Newcomb's Paradox?

You are at a game show:

  • There are two boxes, A and B.
  • You have two choices -- take box B, or take both boxes.
  • Box A contains R 1 000
  • Box B contains either R 1 000 000 or nothing. 
The host has made a prediction about your choice before the start of the game: If he predicted that you would choose both boxes, he put nothing in box B; if he predicted that you would choose just box B, he put the R 1 000 000 in box B. Apparently he is "almost certainly" right. 

The interesting part is that people disagree about the correct strategy. Should we choose just B, because we are "almost certain" to get our mil', or should we choose both boxes, knowing that our current actions can't influence past events? 

I don't see the problem as a paradox at all. People who argue for choosing only box B would probably agree with The Doctor: "People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey-wimey, stuff." Those who argue for choosing both boxes probably wouldn't. And it's as simple as that. Ironically, the only Paradox (to use the word in its vulgar, common, sense) is that so much thought has been put into this "thought" experiment.


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