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Poisonous Dilemma (Posted on 2004-04-19) Difficulty: 3 of 5
Suppose you get the following proposal from a weird billionaire:

"Toxin X is a substance that will make you violently ill for a few hours. However, it has no long term effects of any kind. As an experiment in psychology, I'm offering you a million dollars if tonight at midnight you fully intend to drink toxin X by tomorrow at noon. You don't actually have to drink the toxin; all you have to do is to intend to drink it. Your intention will be tested by a device similar to a polygraph which my people have developed and which has been shown to be 100% accurate. If at midnight you have the intention, a million will be wired to your bank account. The only other conditions are that you are to make no bets, do anything that will cause you to become irrational, or arrange for any way to avoid the effects of the toxin."

Suppose you decide that being ill for one day is a reasonable price to pay for a million dollars. Your first thought is to therefore agree to the proposal. It then occurs to you that you won't even have to become sick in order to win the money. All you have to do is to intend to drink the toxin. You don't actually have to carry out your intention.

But now if you know ahead of time that you don't actually have to drink the toxin, then you can't really intend to drink it. So you tell yourself you really do have to drink it. But then if at midnight you really did intend to drink the toxin, and you got the million, then come the next day you would no longer have any reason to drink it: you've already been paid and drinking the toxin would make you unnecessarily sick.

Is there any way for you to win the money?

No Solution Yet Submitted by Victor Zapana    
Rating: 3.8519 (27 votes)

Comments: ( Back to comment list | You must be logged in to post comments.)
Toxic Comments | Comment 28 of 82 |
I guess the solution must have to do with some sort of trick that you do to yourself. In other words, you have to set you up without letting YOU know. But then we know that we cannot take anything that may cause us to become irrational. One solution would be to spend the rest of the time before deadline without drinking anything and leave the toxin as the only liquid available. I guess you would want to drink anything in that situation, and once you pass the polygraph, you can go on to drink water or something. I guess I'm still caught up in the same paradox, because just before you passed the test, you knew that you just had to wait a few seconds to get the money and still don't drink the toxic thing. I hope that at least I have provided something to think about.
  Posted by Gustavo on 2004-06-15 11:01:58
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