We have long been fascinated by a philosophical problem referred to as “Pascal’s Wager” (see payoff table below). By way of example, we blogged about this problem previously here. Today, as a public service to our fellow devotees of this problem, we have assembled the following set of insightful and original blog posts on Pascal’s famous wager:
1. “The problem at the heart of Pascal’s wager” by our friend and colleague Paul Gowder, via Overcoming Bias. Gowder draws a distinction between belief and action. Here is an excerpt: “This is a problem that’s very difficult, and I don’t purport to offer a solution. But we should think of it as a serious line of objection to the Pascal’s wager type of argument: if consequences are simply inadmissible in belief-formation processes, Pascal’s argument fails on the spot.”
2. “Where does Pascal’s wager fail?” by a person (or bot?) using the pseudonym “Utilitarian“, also via Overcoming Bias. The author of this post, whoever they are, concludes that Pascal’s wager is too computationally difficult to solve: “With vast amounts of data to process and an enormous space of possible religious hypotheses to search, Pascal’s wager (which is just an optimization problem) is computationally infeasible, especially for human minds.”
3. “Pascal’s mugging: tiny probabilities of vast utilities” by Eliezer Yudkowsky (@ESYudkowsky), via Less Wrong. Yudkowsky reformulates the wager as a threat problem: “Now suppose someone comes to [you] and says, ‘Give me five dollars, or I’ll use my magic powers from outside the Matrix to run a Turing machine that simulates and kills 3^^^^3 people.'” So, should you pay the five dollars?