Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Poor Man's Newcomb Problem, aka The Game of Life

LifeI have a running philosophical and existential debate with my good friend Jeff Lipshaw.  If I did not love Jeff, I would not blog with him. Anyway, Jeff has a tendency -- in my opinion -- to get bogged down in high theory. See, for example, his post on the Newcomb Problem.  Here is a poor man's version of the Newcomb Problem.  It has been described to me as "The Game of Life": 

Imagine that the game of life is played in an arena with a small rectangular field in the center.  Only 25% go onto the field.  75% stay in their seats waiting for more information.  Of the 25% who go onto the field, 4 out of 5 come back to their seats when they realize that they may not win the game.  They don't want to be embarrassed, so they quit.  In the end, only 5% are really living – doing their best with no guarantees but knowing what it is like to be fully alive.

So applying this insight to Jeff's Newcomb problem, the moral of the story is very simple:  Pick Box B, and only Box B.  Everything else is just mental obfuscation.

[posted by Bill Henderson]

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Bill, of course, is describing the antithesis of what I refer to in my linked article, "Dissecting the Two-Handed Lawyer." Sometimes you have to stop thinking about the issue, and just do it. Bill is a guy who has no problem with that. It's not that he doesn't think deeply, but that he knows sometimes there's a need to act.

BTW, the theory may be "high" (what does that mean?), but it's still practical. What it isn't is easy! But nobody said decisions were easy.

Posted by: Jeff Lipshaw | Feb 25, 2013 12:21:51 AM

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