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A realistic logic study of Pascal's Mugger

This paper is essentially a realistic logic study of Pascal's Mugger. The writer's goal is to shift our perspective on life and how we see things. It tests our ability to optimize utility and make decisions based on probabilities we might have.

The Plot of the Story

The plot revolves around Pascal, who is walking down a dark alley when another man, the mugger, approaches and demands Pascal's wallet. To tell his tale, the author employs a sense of humor. When Pascal asks why he should give the mugger his wallet, he says it's because he has a gun, and it'll protect him. When Pascal asks why he should give the mugger his wallet, he says it is because he has a gun and it is then that he realizes that he doesn’t actually have the gun with him there, he forgot to carry it. He then establishes a conversation with Pascal. The end point of the mugger here is to get Pascal to give him his wallet. As any normal man would respond, Pascal sees no reason to give the mugger his wallet since he can’t harm him as he has no gun and under no other circumstance would he give him his wallet. As the story goes on, the mugger promises to return the wallet to Pascal in his home the next day with double return but he still refuses since he doesn’t trust the man and doubts whether he will return his wallet given that he is a mugger in the first place.

Trust Issues and Probability

It is normal that Pascal like any other person in his position would find it hard to trust the fact that the mugger would return his wallet home the next night. When the mugger sees that Pascal is not convinced about the deal he has just proposed, he goes ahead to mention higher rewards. Pascal tells the mugger that the probability of him returning the wallet first then with the interest included is very unlikely. The writer then tells us that the mugger is from the seventh dimension- a spiritual place and assures Pascal that he would return his wallet and also give him a promise which he can’t go back to (Rescher, 1985). Despite all these, Pascal's probability of trusting the mugger was still very low, at some point says that it is 1 in a quadrillion. "It is possible that you have the magic powers that you claim to have, but let me tell you, I give that a very, very low probability... Ok, don't take this personally but my credence that you have these magic powers where of you speak is about 1 in a quadrillion" (Bostrom, 2017). He values happiness. The story ends when Pascal has built trust in the Mugger owing to the very small probability he gave it, yet when they began he did not have any trust in him. He gives the mugger his wallet and the mugger promises to perform his magic the next day as they had agreed.

Bizarreness of Prudential Reasoning

What is bizarre about prudential reasoning? In any normal occasion, a situation that does not necessarily affect one may not require critical thinking and one in is a position to make a simple decision that is fast, however, when faced with a tough situation one will be forced to weigh the options that he has in order to come up with the best solution to his problem. When the mugger asks Pascal to give him his wallet, it is hilarious that he would actually ask him to give him his wallet yet he needs it himself. The decision here is simple; he can't give him his wallet since he has no gun. When the mugger however proposes deals that would create a huge return on his amount, after coming up with mathematical calculations of the probabilities defining how much Pascal would have by the next day if he made the decision of giving him the wallet, Pascal weighs the options of the amount he would make in return and the probability of the mugger returning his wallet and after a tough decision making process, he takes the risk of handing the wallet over to the mugger. To show something that is highly bizarre about prudential reasoning, the writer uses this scenario to demonstrate how people in normal accounts would think when maximizing utilities available to them. In his opening lines, "Hey, give me your wallet...otherwise I will shoot you...oops! I knew I had forgotten something". In a normal account of reasoning, no mugger would go out without a gun or any other weapon they can use against the people they intend to steal from or harm. It is without say that it is so humorous that the person who is being mugged is the one reminding the mugger that he does not even have a gun yet wants to take his wallet. When relating Pascal's mugging to philosophy, it is a thoughtful experiment that has been used to demonstrate utilization problems (Kaplan, 1996). The person making the decisions regarding the utility, the rational agent, should make sure the actions he chooses has outcomes that have higher utility when sampling their probability. Probabilities in most cases tend to be very uncertain and less stable, the utilities on the other hand are fixed but some have unlikely outcomes though they may be great utilities since the probabilities applied to them grow very fast then diminish before the utility has achieved its potential. The rational agent therefore should put more emphasis on cases that are not so probable and have promising and high rewards.

Reasoning and Response to Pascal's Mugger

The theory of Pascal Mugging suggests giving a super intelligent artificial intelligence a complicated decision structure that could in the end be of negative impact. Come to think of this, it is very difficult for one to earn the trust of a stranger and in this case the stranger being a mugger and the decision to take one's utility and put it in an unpredictable fate, is a really rare scenario. On the contrary, the decision to avoid the risk involved and walk away would be more practical. Some case scenarios, however, may call for risks to be taken provided that when the risk involved and when weighed against the probabilities of it yielding positive outcomes, is present. The probabilities of its workability's may be in the scale of 1 to 1000 but if the situation is worth the risk, then it can be termed as valid although within a limited scope of possible existence. Pascal's mugger is used to draw the relationship between a utility and the lowest probability within one's reach. The utility in this case is Pascal's wallet and the low probability is the fact that the mugger would actually return his wallet with interest the next day. High strikes events and existential risks also exist. The risk involved is giving the mugger his wallet then he fails to return it, or charitable interventions with low probability of success but the rewards are extremely high where the mugger promises very high returns to Pascal. In normal occasions, both scenarios are very unlikely to happen. Neither can Pascal give his wallet to the mugger and it is not probable that the mugger would return the wallet to Pascal with interest. When making rational judgement, one should be able to choose actions whose outcomes when weighed against their probabilities will yield better outcomes. Using basic reasoning, the rewards cannot be that large and when judging this situation qualitatively, the quality of evidence being given here and the estimates of the probabilities are used to calculate expectation specs that are a matter of assumption (Hales, 2013). One can also penalize the probabilities of the hypothesis that argue that we are in a surprisingly unique position. To affect large numbers of people who cannot really affect us symmetrically or rejecting the probability of a payout first.

Conclusion

Decision making can be one challenge and if not properly made one may end up making the biggest mistake. Pascal here is faced with the decision of giving the mugger his wallet with the promise that he would return it with greater interests. His position is such that he first finds it hard to trust the mugger. The probability of the mugger returning his wallet the next day even without interest is almost close to zero therefore the probability that he would return his wallet with the high interests he promises is almost close to infinity. Like any rational decision maker, Pascal weighs the options he has. His utility being the wallet, if he retains it, he is likely to go back home with his 10 livers, however if he takes the risk of giving the same wallet to the mugger, he stands a chance of getting up to 100 livers plus a promise of 1000 happy days the next day. Tempting as this offer is when weighed against the risks involved and the probabilities at hand, he goes ahead to take the risk and gives the mugger his wallet who promises to keep his word of the next day. It is clear that prudential reasoning needs to be applied here when determining the effect risks involved in vesting one's utilities in a factor that is totally unpredictable though the probabilities of the returns on the utilities are minute, the outcomes of the utilities are very high and promising. The puzzle here that needs prudential reasoning is the fact that one is faced with very tricky decision making yet in the end, one should be able to have come up with the decision. In response to Pascal's mugger, one needs to note that utilities cannot be that large in most cases, evidence of the expectations should also be present instead of relying on mere assumptions and the ability to affect people who cannot necessarily affect us directly or indirectly exists.

References

Hales, S. D. (2013). This is philosophy: An introduction. Chichester. West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell Rescher, N. (1985). Pascal's wager: A study of practical reasoning in philosophical theology. Notre Dame, Ind: University of Notre Dame Press. Kaplan, M. (1996). Decision theory as philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pascal's mugging - Nick Bostrom. (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2017, from http://www.nickbostrom.com/papers/pascal.pdf