Omega and Derren Brown

Something different, to leaven out these cryonics posts.

Newcomb’s Paradox has been described as the most controversial dilemma in the history of decision theory. As told, it starts with Omega, a superintelligence from another galaxy. But yesterday it occurred to me to wonder: might a sufficiently skilled mentalist be able to do the same trick?

The mentalist selects a member of the audience in some way that reassures everyone that they’re not picking stooges. They come onto the stage and chat for a bit, then the mentalist brings out an opaque box and puts it on a perspex table. Next to it, they place a transparent box, in which a £10 note is clearly visible. And they say to the volunteer: “You can either have both boxes, or just take the opaque box, but you have to decide now, before you open either. ”

The snag is, I’ve guessed what you’re going to do. If I think you’ll take just the opaque box, you’ll find £100 in it when you open it. But if I think you’ll take both boxes, then you’ll find the opaque box empty. Now choose: will you take one box, or both boxes?”

At which point the audience member announces their intent, and is invited to open the opaque box. And to their mild astonishment, the audience see that the mentalist’s prediction has once again come true. Not being a mentalist, I don’t know whether this trick could really be done, but I’d love to find out.

Most people find the correct thing to do under these circumstances obvious. The trouble is, about half the people think it’s obvious you should two-box, because by the time you’re deciding, the opaque box is already either full or empty, so what you do can’t make any difference except to net you an extra tenner. And about half the people think it’s obvious you should one-box, because night after night the one-boxers walk away with £100 while the two-boxers walk away with £10.

Anyone know any good mentalists? Anyone good mates with Derren Brown?