Monday, April 12, 2021

Decisions in heaven

Suppose I will live forever in heaven, and I have two infinite decks of cards. Each card specifies the good things that will happen to me over the next day. Every card in the left deck provides a hundred units of goods. Every card in the right deck provides a thousand units of goods.

Each day I get to draw the top card from a deck I choose and then I get the specified goods.

Consider three of the strategies I could opt for:

  1. Always draw from the left deck.

  2. Always draw from the right deck.

  3. Alternate between decks.

Clearly, strategy 1 is not a good idea, so let’s put that aside.

There is an obvious argument for preferring 2 to 3. If I opt for strategy 2, then every other day I will be much better off than on strategy 3, and on the other days I will be at least as well off as on strategy 3.

But there is also an argument for preferring 3 to 2: on option 3, over the course of eternity, I get all the goods from both decks.

Moreover, even if one does not buy the argument that option 3 is better than option 2, it seems no worse: for while on option 3, the greater goods of the right deck get delayed more, a good is no less valuable for being pushed further off into the future.


Walter Van den Acker said...

Of course you should always draw from the right deck. Drawing from the wrong deck would be a bit silly.

IanS said...

“… over the course of eternity, I will get all the goods …” put strictly, means that for each good, there will be a time at which you will get it. But there will be no time at which you will have got them all. In fact, there will be no time at which you will have got more than an infinitesimal part of them. So trying to get them all is not a reasonable aim.

“In the eyes of God” (who can presumably see eternity at a glance), if you choose 3, you will get all the goods in the left deck. With 2, you won’t. But your eyes are not godlike. You cannot experience eternity. You can only experience things day by day. On that basis, 2 beats 3.

SMatthewStolte said...

The hope for a good is itself a kind of good, so if I opt for alternating, then I benefit even in the present.