Re: the unexpected hanging

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Sun May 13 2001 - 19:26:00 MDT

"Eliezer S. Yudkowsky" wrote:
> Lee Corbin wrote:
> >
> > Explaining exactly where and how the prisoner goes wrong
> > isn't easy.
> "Isn't easy" is, of course, relative to the explainer.

Incidentally - this occurred to me afterwards - this is not me saying,
"I'm a better explainer than you, nyah nyah." This is me saying "I get
strongly annoyed when people say that things like this are hard to
explain." It symbolizes a psychological disconnect. Our instinctive
reactions, our automatic intuitions, carry all the necessary information.
Trust your intuitions enough to verbalize them.

> The prisoner can be fairly sure - say 99% sure - that the judge won't show
> up on Friday, because even an idiot could see that wouldn't be a
> surprise. But the prisoner can only be 80% sure that the judge won't show
> up on Thursday, because it takes brains to realize that crossing off
> Friday makes Thursday certain. If the judge hasn't shown up on Wednesday,
> after all, the judge may just be the sort of really foolish person who
> doesn't realize that showing up on Friday spoils the surprise, and may
> hence fail to show up on Thursday. As for Wednesday; well, on Wednesday,
> even if you're sure the judge won't show up on Friday, you're pretty
> uncertain as to whether he'll show up on that day or Thursday. And on
> Tuesday it's pretty much a complete surprise.

-- -- -- -- --
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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