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J_Thomas comments on Torture vs. Dust Specks - Less Wrong

41 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 30 October 2007 02:50AM

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Comment author: J_Thomas 30 October 2007 08:21:01AM 8 points [-]

If even one in a hundred billion of the people is driving and has an accident because of the dust speck and gets killed, that's a tremendous number of deaths. If one in a hundred quadrillion of them survives the accident but is mangled and spends the next 50 years in pain, that's also a tremendous amount of torture.

If one in a hundred decillion of them is working in a nuclear power plant and the dust speck makes him have a nuclear accident....

We just aren't designed to think in terms of 3^^^3. It's too big. We don't habitually think much about one-in-a-million chances, much less one in a hundred decillion. But a hundred decillion is a very small number compared to 3^^^3.

Comment author: marenz 20 September 2010 10:01:22PM 1 point [-]

I would say that it is pretty easy to think in terms of 3^^^3. Just assume that everything that could happen due to a dust speck in your eye, will happen.

Comment author: ata 20 September 2010 10:11:44PM 5 points [-]

That is an interesting argument (I've considered it before) though I think it misses the point of the thought experiment. As I understand it, it's not about any of the possible consequences of the dust specks, but about specks as (very minor) intrinsically bad things themselves. It's about whether you're willing to measure the unpleasantness of getting a dust speck in your eye on the same scale as the unpleasantness of being tortured, as (vastly) different in degree rather than fundamentally different in kind.

Comment author: homunq 13 April 2012 01:29:55PM *  0 points [-]

How do you know that more accidents are caused than avoided by dust specks?

(Of course I realize I'm saying "you" to a 5-year-old comment but you get the picture.)