# yttrium comments on Pascal's Mugging: Tiny Probabilities of Vast Utilities - Less Wrong

30 19 October 2007 11:37PM

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Comment author: 08 January 2012 08:26:46PM *  0 points [-]

The problem seems to vanish if you don't ask "What is the expectation value of utility for this decision, if I do X", but rather "If I changed my mental algorithms so that they do X in situations like this all the time, what utility would I plausibly accumulate over the course of my entire life?" ("How much utility do I get at the 50th percentile of the utility probability distribution?") This would have the following results:

• For the limit case of decisions where all possible outcomes happen infinitely often during your lifetime, you would decide exactly as if you wanted to maximize expectation value in an individual case.

• You would not decide to give money to Pascals' mugger, if you don't expect that there are many fundamentally different scenarios which a mugger could tell you about: If you give a 5 % chance to the scenario described by Pascals mugger and believe that this is the only scenario which, if true, would make you give 5 \$ to some person, you would not give the money away.

• In contrast, if you believe that there are 50 different mugging scenarios which people will tell you during your life to pascal-mug you, and you assign an independent 5 % chance to all of them, you would give money to a mugger (and expect this to pay off occasionally).