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Newcomb’s Assured Destruction

This evening I noticed a similarity between Newcomb’s Paradox and MAD. It feels like the same problem, just with a sign change.

Newcomb’s Paradox

The player has two boxes, A and B. The player can either take only box B, or take both A and B.

  • Box A is clear, and always contains a visible $1,000
  • Box B is opaque, and it contains:
    • Nothing, if it was predicted the player would take both boxes
    • A million dollars, if it was predicted that the player will take only box B

The player does not know what was predicted.

Game theory says that, no matter what was predicted, you’re better off taking both boxes.

If you trust the prediction will accurately reflect your decision no matter what you decide, it’s better to only take one box.

In order to win the maximum reward, you must appear to be a one-boxer while actually being a two-boxer.

Mutually assured destruction

Two players each have annihilation weapons.

If either player uses their weapons, the other player may respond in kind before they are annihilated. Annihilating your opponent in retaliation does not prevent your own destruction.

  • If your opponent predicts you will not retaliate, they will launch an attack, and win
  • If your opponent predicts you will retaliate, they will not launch an attack, and you survive

Game theory says you must retaliate. If your opponent attacks anyway, nuke fall, everybody dies.

In order to minimise fatalities, you must be no-retaliate, while appearing to be pro-retaliate.

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