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The Loser Choice

The Loser Choice

    Suppose a genie offered you the following deal.

    In return for $20, the genie will grant you a 73% chance of improving your life in a meaningful but non-specified way. You don’t know if the potential improvement will come in the form of your career, health, personal relationships, or happiness in general. The genie promises that the benefits to you – should there be any at all – will probably far exceed the value of your $20.

    To sweeten the deal, the genie says it will take 2-3 hours to transfer the benefits to you. But to make that process as pleasant as possible, the genie says you have an 88% chance of liking or even loving the transfer process itself. You can do the transfer whenever you want, on your preferred schedule. If you are one of the 12% who doesn’t enjoy the process, it will be no worse than, for example, watching a movie you don’t enjoy. And you can stop the transfer at any point without penalty. But you don’t get your $20 back.

    You still look unconvinced, so the genie further sweetens the deal. He says that after the benefits have been transferred to you, you will have the power, for no extra cost, to extend the same unspecified basket of benefits (with a 73% chance of success) to a person of your choice.

    Let’s say for the sake of the hypothetical situation that you somehow know with certainty there is no trick involved.

    Here’s the summary of the deal:

    1. You pay the genie $20
    2. There is a 73% chance your life improves in a meaningful way.
    3. The transfer of benefits takes 2-3 hours.
    4. There is an 88% chance you will enjoy the transfer itself.
    5. You can quit the transfer any time you want.
    6. If you don’t enjoy the transfer, the worst case is that you are bored for 3 hours.
    7. There is no trick or hidden downside, and somehow you know that for sure.

    Would you take the deal? Remember, there is no hidden downside. It is simply $20 in exchange for a high likelihood of getting meaningful benefits to your life that are worth far more than what you paid.

    My hypothesis is that some people – perhaps many – will decline the genie’s offer even knowing there is no trick involved.


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