Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

Manfred comments on Strongmanning Pascal's Mugging - Less Wrong Discussion

1 Post author: Pentashagon 20 February 2013 12:36PM

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (21)

You are viewing a single comment's thread. Show more comments above.

Comment author: [deleted] 20 February 2013 09:23:54PM *  0 points [-]

Question: Is Pascal's Mugging Isomorphic to the Two General's Problem, or am I confused?

I tried to start making a comparison between them, since each additional Messenger should grant you Utility, with Busy Beaver levels of Utility being Busy Beaver levels of Messengers, but the conclusion I came to is even if you trust the other person 100%, can never actually be safe on the on the attack/mugging unless the other person says "I will attack/pay with Certainty, regardless of any replies you send." and then does.

At that point, the worst thing that can happen to you is that the other general gets slaughtered because you didn't hear or chose not to trust the other general. The best possible result for you is still for them to be the one that takes the risk of choosing to move first with certainty so either way you get as good a result as you can.

The Pascal's Mugging equivalent of this would seem to be for the mugger to appear and say "I am going to take a chance such that the first thing I do is that I give you a small, small chance of Fabulously large utility, and I'm going to do that regardless of whether you pay me or not. But after I DO that... I really need you to send me 5 dollars."

But that doesn't seem like a mugging anymore!

I guess that means a possible reply is essentially "If this offer is so good, then pay me first, and then we'll talk."

If they resist or say no, then yes, you can just reply "But there's got to be SOME payment I can offer to you so that you move first, right?" But that's basically the offer they made to you initially!

If they are isomorphic, it makes sense that we would have trouble solving it, since there IS no solution to the two generals problem, according to the wiki:


If they aren't isomorphic, that's weird and I am confused, because they have a lot of similarities when I look at them.

Comment author: Manfred 21 February 2013 01:37:40AM 1 point [-]

In one, utility approaches an upper bound, in the other, it grows without bound.

Comment author: [deleted] 21 February 2013 02:03:47PM 0 points [-]

Thank you for thinking of that! While they do have similarities, as you point out, they clearly do also have at least one significant difference.