Re: Newcomb's paradox

From: George Levy <>
Date: Tue, 23 Jul 2002 21:53:57 -0700

Hal Finney wrote:

>I took the liberty of copying a few paragraphs from James Joyce's
>book describing the causalist argument in Newcomb's Paradox. This is
>the best statement of the argument for taking both boxes that I have
>seen. I also included a short response of my own, which describes an
>alternate way of viewing the paradox based on multiverse models.
>It is at
>Hal Finney
In my opinion both evidentialist argument and causalist argument are

First let me say that there is no paradox from the experimenter point of
view. He is so smart and knows your own mind so well that he can make
accurate deterministic prediction of your decision to the test. One
could compare the experimenter to a very smart programmer and the
subject to an AI system that the programmer has programmed. It is clear
that if the programmer knows every line of code, has performed several
a-priori simulations and had the opportunity of many debugging sessions
with the system, he knows exactly how the AI system will behave in the
experimental situation. He can therefore be confident in inputting in
the system the fact that he knows how the system will react in the
Newcomb experiment.

Therefore, the only apparent paradox is from the point of view of the
subject of the experiment (or from the point of view of the program).The
paradox illustrates several things:
1) Causality is an illusion that depends on the state of mind of the
observer: The Newcomb experimenter does not perceive any violation in
the causal order. His world, including the subject of the experiment, is
purely deterministic. Yet the Newcomb subject is faced in the apparent
violation of the temporal causal order. The behavior of the experimenter
is inconsistent from the subject's perspective, according to the set of
axioms and rules governing the subject's mind.
2) Free Will also depends on the frame of mind of the observer. In the
Programmer/Program analogy, it is clear that the program has no free
will. Its operation is purely deterministic.
3) Even consciousness is questionable. Is the AI progam conscious?
According to whom? To the AI program itself? Yes! To the programmer? No!

What would I do If I was the subject of the experiment. The answer is
that I wouldn't really care one way or another about picking one or two
box because I would know then that the world is inhabited by a super
being and that he is the one who really calls the shot. I could actually
refuse to play, just to prove that I have free will and this is an
outcome the experimenter would not have predicted. Having free will
would definitely be more important to me than a million dollars. If I
was the program, I would make sure that the programmer still has a lot
of debugging to do with me! :-)

Received on Tue Jul 23 2002 - 21:56:59 PDT

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