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by Alex Appel 182 days ago | Abram Demski likes this | link | parent

I think that in that case, the agent shouldn’t smoke, and CDT is right, although there is side-channel information that can be used to come to the conclusion that the agent should smoke. Here’s a reframing of the provided payoff matrix that makes this argument clearer. (also, your problem as stated should have 0 utility for a nonsmoker imagining the situation where they smoke and get killed)

Let’s say that there is a kingdom which contains two types of people, good people and evil people, and a person doesn’t necessarily know which type they are. There is a magical sword enchanted with a heavenly aura, and if a good person wields the sword, it will guide them do heroic things, for +10 utility (according to a good person) and 0 utility (according to a bad person). However, if an evil person wields the sword, it will afflict them for the rest of their life with extreme itchiness, for -100 utility (according to everyone).

good person’s utility estimates:

  • takes sword

    • I’m good: 10

    • I’m evil: -90

  • don’t take sword: 0

evil person’s utility estimates:

  • takes sword

    • I’m good: 0

    • I’m evil: -100

  • don’t take sword: 0

As you can clearly see, this is the exact same payoff matrix as the previous example. However, now it’s clear that if a (secretly good) CDT agent believes that most of society is evil, then it’s a bad idea to pick up the sword, because the agent is probably evil (according to the info they have) and will be tormented with itchiness for the rest of their life, and if it believes that most of society is good, then it’s a good idea to pick up the sword. Further, this situation is intuitively clear enough to argue that CDT just straight-up gets the right answer in this case.

A human (with some degree of introspective power) in this case, could correctly reason “oh hey I just got a little warm fuzzy feeling upon thinking of the hypothetical where I wield the sword and it doesn’t curse me. This is evidence that I’m good, because an evil person would not have that response, so I can safely wield the sword and will do so”.

However, what the human is doing in this case is using side-channel information that isn’t present in the problem description. They’re directly experiencing sense data as a result of the utility calculation outputting 10 in that hypothetical, and updating on that. In a society where everyone was really terrible at introspection so the only access they had to their decision algorithm was seeing their actual decision, (and assuming no previous decision problems that good and evil people decide differently on so the good person could learn that they were good by their actions), it seems to me like there’s a very intuitively strong case for not picking up the sword/not smoking.



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