Friday, February 25, 2011

Which choice ?

In one of the books I've been reading they were talking about choices and I think I came up with a mental experiment that has some interesting complexity in it.

Imagine, you meet a wealthy man who wants to donate some of his wealth to help the poor children of Humbrian Republic. He has $1000000 he wants to donate. There are 10000 children that this money could feed for a year. Without these money, the chances that they die of hunger are tripled. The same chances as without the money are awaiting them after the year - even if the money were to be donated.

However, this man is of a rather evil kind, and he gives you only four choices:

1. You and him part ways, without any decisions made - and he does not donate anything whatsoever.

2. You have to keep the $10000, and the remaining money goes to the poor children of Humbrian Republic - so only 9/10th of the children get the food. As a condition for spending this money you have to keep mentioning that the money you're spending might have been better donated to feed 1000 children - each time you spend something from it.

3. You get to keep $500000 - so only half of the children get the food for a year. You do not get any strings attached to this split - though only 1/2 of them get the food.

4. You get to keep $900000 - so, 1/10th of the money gets donated and you get to keep 9/10th. As a condition you have to talk on the phone to 10 children randomly from the entire set - whether they got or not the money. All of the children will know that you have kept 9/10th of the money.

Which of the four would be your choice. No need to answer, as I guess this would be a pretty confidential matter. (And please do not blame me - as I said it is a deliberate purely theoretical construct ;-)

EDIT: when I mention you get to "keep" the money it means you can not, by contractual agreement, give it away - you have to spend it on your own needs.

2 comments:

Holly Jahangiri said...

I found a loophole in #2. You spend your money feeding the hungry children who would otherwise have gone without that portion.

"Since this money would be better spent to feed the hungry children, that's how I've chosen to spend it."

Perhaps it could be used to teach them some sort of sustainable farming method that would feed some or all of them in the following year.

Holly Jahangiri said...

I suspect, though, that most people would choose #3. It's a bit like the Prisoner's Dilemma, isn't it?