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Anon10 comments on Something to Protect - Less Wrong

52 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 30 January 2008 05:52PM

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Comment author: Anon10 30 January 2008 11:42:47PM 2 points [-]

Perhaps I am one of the "sentimentally irrational," but I would pick the 400 certain lives saved if it were a one-time choice, and the 500 @ 90% if it were an iterated choice I had to make over, and over again. In the long run, probabilities would take hold, and many more people would be saved. But for a single instance of an event never to be repeated? I'd save the 400 for certain.

Your 80% and 90% figures don't really add up either. You don't describe how many people in total will die, regardless of you decision. If the max death number possible from this catastrophe is 500, then your point is valid. But what if it were 100 million, or even better, all of humanity? Now, the difference in chance of saving your loved one via either strategy is vanishingly small, and you are left with a 90% chance or a 100% chance of saving _humanity_ as a whole. It's exactly the same as the situation you describe above, but it seems the moral math reverses itself. You need to more fully specify your hypothetical situations if you wish to make a convincing point.