Re: Quantum Suicide without suicide

From: Tim May <>
Date: Fri, 10 Jan 2003 00:02:39 -0800

On Thursday, January 9, 2003, at 08:22 PM, George Levy wrote:
> OK. Let's consider the case of the guy dying of cancer and playing the
> stock market simultaneously.. In real life, the hard part is to get
> meaningful probability data. For the sake of the argument let's assume
> the following scenario:

..scenario elided, not to mislead, but because I will not be using any
details of the calculation...

> As we can see, the rate of return for Alice is 4.8 times that of Bob.
> Alice will make a profit, but not Bob.
> Conclusions:
> All this involves really basic probability theory.
> The first person perspective probability is identical to the
> probability conditional to the person staying alive.
> The probability of the event in question (stock going up) must be tied
> to the person staying alive ( a cure for cancer). In the case of a
> "conventional" QS suicide to world conditions matching the requested
> state: ie. winning one million dollars. In the deathrow case one could
> imagine a scenario in which the event in question (DNA test discovery)
> is tied to a reprieve from the governor coming because of a DNA test
> exhonerating the prisoner. The prisoner could bet on DNA testing as a
> good investment. The airline case is similar. The hard part is
> figuring the probability of very unlikely saving events such as a
> scientific discovery, ET landing on earth or the coming of the
> messiah :-)

How is this different from standard life insurance arguments, where
buying a policy is betting one will die and not buying a policy is
betting one will live? If one has no heirs to worry about, no concern
about the world if and after one dies, then it has been known for a
long time that the "smart" thing to do is not to buy life insurance. If
one dies, the policy payoff is worthless (to the dead person), but if
one lives, the money has been saved.

Similar calculations are very simple for going into a dangerous
situation: take a bet, at nearly any odds, that one will live. If the
odds of survival in going into a combat situation are one in a hundred,
and betting odds reflect this, bet everything one can on survival. If
one dies, the $10,000 lost is immaterial. If one lives, one has a
payout of roughly a million dollars.

The scenario with cancer cures and doctors and quackery and all just
makes this standard calculation more complicated.

And instead of couching this in terms of bets (or stock investments),
one can phrase it in standard terms for high risk jobs: "Your chance of
succeeding is one in a hundred. But if you succeed, one million dollars
awaits you."

(I doubt many would take on such a job. But with varying payouts, we
all take on similar sorts of jobs. For example, flying on business.)

It's a reason some people take on very risky jobs. They figure if they
succeed, they'll be rich. If they fail, they'll be dead and won't care.
(Certainly not many people think this way, but some do.

But "betting on yourself" is not "quantum suicide" in any way I can
see. It's just a straightforward calculation of odds and values of
things like money (of no value if dead, for example) in the main

Lastly, like most "many worlds" views, the same calculations apply
whether one thinks in terms of "actual" other worlds or just as
possible worlds in the standard probability way (having nothing to do
with quantum mechanics per se).

Or so I believe. I would be interested in any arguments that the
quantum view of possible worlds gives any different measures of
probability than non-quantum views give. (If there is no movement
between such worlds, the quantum possible worlds are identical to the
possible worlds of Aristotle, Leibniz, Borges, C.I. Lewis, David Lewis,
Stalnaker, Kripke, and others.)

--Tim May
"How we burned in the prison camps later thinking: What would things
have been like if every security operative, when he went out at night
to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive?"
--Alexander Solzhenitzyn, Gulag Archipelago
Received on Fri Jan 10 2003 - 03:05:06 PST

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