Hi Larks. Thanks for raising this way of re-framing the point. I think I still disagree, but it’s helpful to see this way of looking at it which I really hadn’t thought of. I still disagree because I am assuming I only get one chance at doing the action and personally I don’t value a 1 in a million chance of being saved higher than zero. I think if I know I’m not going to be faced with the same choice many times, it is better to save 10 people, than to let everyone die and then go around telling people I chose the higher expected value!

I still disagree because I am assuming I only get one chance at doing the action and personally I don’t value a 1 in a million chance of being saved higher than zero.

Would you be interested in selling me a lottery ticket? We can use an online random number generator. I will win with a one-in-a-million chance, in which case you will give me all your worldly possessions, including all your future income, and you swear to do my wishes in all things. I will pay you $0.01 for this lottery ticket.

If you really believed that one-in-a-million was the same as zero, this should be an attractive deal for you. But my guess is that actually you would not want to take it!

So here is something which sometimes breaks people: You’re saying that you prefer A = 10% chance of saving 10 people over B = 1 in a million chance of saving a billion lives. Do you still prefer a 10% chance of A over a 10% chance of B?

Hi Larks. Thanks for raising this way of re-framing the point. I think I still disagree, but it’s helpful to see this way of looking at it which I really hadn’t thought of. I still disagree because I am assuming I only get one chance at doing the action and personally I don’t value a 1 in a million chance of being saved higher than zero. I think if I know I’m not going to be faced with the same choice many times, it is better to save 10 people, than to let everyone die and then go around telling people I chose the higher expected value!

Would you be interested in selling me a lottery ticket? We can use an online random number generator. I will win with a one-in-a-million chance, in which case you will give me all your worldly possessions, including all your future income, and you swear to do my wishes in all things. I will pay you $0.01 for this lottery ticket.

If you really believed that one-in-a-million was the same as zero, this should be an attractive deal for you. But my guess is that actually you would not want to take it!

So here is something which sometimes breaks people: You’re saying that you prefer A = 10% chance of saving 10 people over B = 1 in a million chance of saving a billion lives. Do you still prefer a 10% chance of A over a 10% chance of B?

If you are, note how you can be Dutch-booked.