I had heard rumors that Newcomb’s Paradox was fiendishly difficult, so when I read it I was surprised at how easy it seemed. Here’s the setup: You’re presented with two boxes, one open and one closed. In the open one, you can see a $1000 bill. But what’s in the closed one? Well, either nothing, or $1 million. And here are your choices: you may either take both boxes, or just the closed box.
But before you think “Gee, she wasn't kidding, that really is easy,” let me finish: these boxes were prepared by a computer program which, employing advanced predictive algorithms, is able to analyze all the nuances of your character and past behavior and predict your choice with near-perfect accuracy. And if the computer predicted that you would choose to take just the closed box, then it has put $1 million in it; if the computer predicted you would take both boxes, then it has put nothing in the closed box.
So, okay, a bit more complicated now, but still an obvious choice, right? I described the problem to my best friend and said I thought the question of whether to take one box or both boxes was pretty obvious. He agreed, “Yeah, this is a really easy problem!”