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AntiCapitalist MeetUp: Pascal went to the races, then gets mugged because he kept his carbon credits

The neoliberals’ “free market” is not going to sequester enough carbon to save the environment. Even Warren Buffett isn’t willing to take a bet on surviving an impending climate crisis catastrophe, because “the rents are too high”. Existential threats have a critical reality, about which ruthless criticism is entailed. Even if Pascal went to the horse race track, there are always muggers.

Historically, Pascal’s wager was groundbreaking because it charted new territory in probability theory,[4] marked the first formal use of decision theoryexistentialismpragmatism, and voluntarism.[5]


Since at least 1992, some scholars have analogized Pascal’s wager to decisions about catastrophic climate change.[48] Two differences from Pascal’s wager are posited regarding climate change:

  • first, climate change is more likely than Pascal’s God to exist, as there is scientific evidence for one but not the other.[49] 

  • Secondly, the calculated penalty for unchecked climate catastrophe would be large, but is not generally considered to be infinite.[50] (The agnostic’s response to climate deniers: Price carbon!)

Magnate Warren Buffett has written that climate change “bears a similarity to Pascal’s Wager on the Existence of God. Pascal, it may be recalled, argued that if there were only a tiny probability that God truly existed, it made sense to behave as if He did because the rewards could be infinite whereas the lack of belief risked eternal misery. Likewise, if there is only a 1% chance the planet is heading toward a truly major disaster and delay means passing a point of no return, inaction now is foolhardy.”[51][52]


God exists God does not exist
Wager for God Gain all Status quo
Wager against God Misery Status quo


In a more formal statistical way, we can say that our null hypothesis is that there is no God or that there is no serious danger from global warming.

We can classify the situation as one of four alternatives. The first two are the situations where our conclusions about the null hypothesis are spot-on. So, that is the null hypothesis is actually true and we think that it is true or the null hypothesis is false and we think that it’s false too. So, we call it correctly in either situation.

(darn ideology) Explain that Pascal’s Wager doesn’t prove God exists, it proves that it is better to believe, regardless of whether there is a god or not. Pascal’s wager merely proves it is better to believe in God “just in case”, but it explains nothing about God’s existence. www.wikihow.com/…

The other two situations are when we call it wrongly whatever the truth is. So, that is when the null hypothesis is true and we think it is false or the null hypothesis is false and we think that it is true. In our global warming example this would be when we stock up on suntan lotion and think that global warming exists but it doesn’t, or global warming exists but we back the wrong team and there’s no problem.

These are called false positives and false negatives, respectively. In terms of Pascal’s Wager, the false positive (thinking there’s a problem when there isn’t) is not so bad, but the false negative (thinking there’s no problem when there is) could be catastrophic.


Bad faith (Latin: mala fides) is a sustained form of deception which consists of entertaining or pretending to entertain one set of feelings while acting as if influenced by another. It is associated with hypocrisy, breach of contract, affectation, and lip service. It is not to be confused with heresy (supposedly false religious faith). 

Is wagering for God not so much about the deity but for Nature, and is potentially deontological. The latter state is less about universality but about the probability of metabolic rifts. Do we defer to future selves because we have some degree of respect. There is capitalist bad faith as usual and Trump is one of its mascots.

Does addressing the climate crisis rely on a market for incentives rather than a market for voluntarism. Or have we gone to the track to place a bet, lost money, then got mugged because we’re not volunteering enough. Counting on capitalist volition will not save the environment because the market for carbon credit demand is 15 times too weak. Apparently wagering for God is not like wagering for Nature.

The market for voluntary carbon credits needs to grow by a factor of 15 or more in the next decade if government targets for limiting global temperature increases are to have any chance of being realized.

That’s the finding of a consultation report published Tuesday by the Taskforce on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets, which was initiated in September by former Bank of England governor and United Nations special envoy for climate action Mark Carney, to study how to harness market forces for limiting greenhouse gas pollution….“This is a market that’s $300 million right now — it’s a joke,” Carney said in a Bloomberg Television interview on Monday before the report’s release. “It should be measured in the tens of billions if not the hundreds of billions.”

The voluntary part of the carbon market is a $44 billion a year part of a patchwork of global systems where carbon emissions that come from burning fossil fuels are given a price. The hope is that by forcing companies to evaluate the cost of their emissions, they will cut back on gases damaging the atmosphere.

While the European Union requires that thousands of industrial sites and power plants buy allowances to cover their carbon dioxide emissions, voluntary systems allow companies to pay to “offset” what they produce. Carney’s group said demand for those credits will surge as companies become more aware of tightening environmental restrictions — and as societal pressures force them to clean up their business.

Carbon markets came out of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol calling on industrial nations to cut back emissions. They got a boost from the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2015, where almost 200 nations agreed to limit fossil-fuel pollution. The target of that accord is to limit global warming to as little as 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times, a goal that would require cutting in half global emissions by 2030 and reaching zero by 2050.

“As the decarbonization of the global economy accelerates in the coming years, demand for voluntary offsetting will likely increase,” according to the report. “That demand is more likely to be met if a large-scale, voluntary carbon market takes shape, which is able to help companies achieve net-zero and net-negative goals. The scale up will need to be significant.”

The group said organizations that voluntarily purchase carbon credits can compensate for emissions that haven’t yet been eliminated by buying offsets in the voluntary market. Those securities finance projects that cut emissions in other places or spur renewable forms of energy.


  • ‘Carbon Offsets’ Don’t Do All That They Promise: QuickTake
    • A carbon offset is a promissory note to remove a certain amount of greenhouse gases from the air to compensate for emissions occurring elsewhere. The goal is to protect the atmosphere while allowing economic activity to continue. The general term “offset” was popularized long before climate change took center stage: The Clean Air Act of 1970, passed by Congress in 1970, stated that high-volume emissions would only be permissible if the polluter reduced emissions in other locations. While offsets have historically centered around the planting or protection of trees, which absorb carbon dioxide while growing, the use of the term has since been applied to a variety of sustainable efforts globally.

      Most of the discussion on the subject revolves around so-called voluntary offsets, purchased by companies, organizations or individuals trying to meet self-imposed goals. Offsets are rare in the far larger compliance markets, in which polluters buy offsets to meet national or international regulatory requirements. Most such trading involves “carbon credits” granted by a regulatory body for cutting emissions over and beyond set targets. Offset transactions typically involve developers who come up with offset proposals, registries that validate whether the carbon savings are real and brokers who match offsets with buyers.

      The size of the compliance market in 2019 was $44 billion, according to the World Bank. The most famous examples of compliance offset initiatives are cap-and-trade programs that limit a company’s carbon emissions unless they buy emission allowances from another entity that has not met its limit. The voluntary market is far smaller: about $300 million in 2018, according to Ecosystem Marketplace. BNEF analysts estimate that there are 2,750 voluntary implemented carbon offset projects verified with the four major registries. These projects have an emissions reduction capacity of 359 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, larger than France’s emissions. The actual market for offsets reflects a much lower number of actualized carbon reduction. In 2017, total carbon offset issuances removed only 47.1 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

      What kinds of projects are involved? The most familiar kinds of offsets, called “sequestered emissions,” are projects that either protect or expand forests, restore deforested areas or involve tree planting on other types of land.

      Are offsets effective? It depends. A growing number of environmental scientists are raising doubts. The first problem is whether promised reductions are actually happening.

      What are the alternatives? Scientists argue that companies’ first priority should be to cut actual emissions wherever possible, and only rely on offsets for the emissions that cannot be cut.

  • Pricing Carbon Is Still More Theory Than Reality: QuickTake
    • Carbon prices are set by governments or markets. They cover a select portion of a country’s total emissions, with most charges focused on utilities that produce electricity. Some take the form of a tax or fee that’s levied on each ton of carbon dioxide released. With a market, a limit is set on the total volume of emissions allowed; then permits are either allocated to, or purchased by, polluters. The credits can then be bought and sold, a system known as cap-and-trade.


Shaping the market with media framing like greenwashing is another form of bad faith. Rent-seeking describes the operation of media effects industries like advertising, lobbying and public relations, the bread and butter of Trumpian capitalism, slowing the pace of environmental change.

I want to focus on another industry that buttresses the status quo: the advertising, lobbying, and public-relations firms that help provide the rationalizations and the justifications that slow the pace of change. Although these agencies are less significant monetarily than the banks, they are more so intellectually; if money is the oxygen on which the fire of global warming burns, then P.R. campaigns and snappy catchphrases are the kindling.

Climate change is sometimes compared to the Holocaust or to slavery, because all three have killed and degraded human lives on an almost unimaginable scale. But the comparisons are, at their root, wrong, at least on moral terms—among many other things, for most of the more than three centuries that people have been burning fossil fuels, they had no idea that they were damaging the future. Coal and oil and gas were seen as—and, at one time, probably were—more liberating than oppressing for the societies that burned them, despite the pollution they produced. It was just around three decades ago that the heat-trapping molecular structure of carbon dioxide, and hence the “greenhouse effect,” became a pressing public issue, and, by that time, fossil fuel was one of the world’s largest industrial enterprises. The burning of fossil fuel wasn’t evil in its origins, in other words—no one need feel guilty for having been a part of it, which is good, because all of us in the rich world are, even if we have solar panels on the roof and a Tesla in the garage.

And other people in this class of creatives are starting to recognize that the situation places new demands on them. In June of last year, Extinction Rebellion activists, mostly from France and Sweden, were arrested outside the Cannes Lions annual advertising gathering. “We are coming back here next year with ten thousand people,” an organizer said. The coronavirus pandemic cancelled that plan, but, a few months later, more than twenty small agencies signed a pledge to disclose work with the fossil-fuel industry as a first step toward divesting from those clients. Solitaire Townsend, the founder of the Futerra agency, which organized the pledge, said, in an interview, that three hundred firms have now promised to produce “climate disclosure reports,” detailing how much of their business comes from oil and gas firms. “Most of the big agencies are pushing back, hard,” Townsend told me, this month. “But every copywriter, ideator, designer, and strategist will have to pick a side. Creativity isn’t neutral.”

By this point, however, we know precisely how dangerous the continued combustion of hydrocarbons is. And we have seen that there are affordable alternatives to them. Indeed, solar and wind power can now be produced more cheaply than fossil-fuel energy. And we’ve seen great investigative reporting lay out the fact that the big oil companies have known of the causes of climate change since at least the nineteen-eighties, and worked actively to deny them or cover them up. Clearly, that was immoral. So what do we say in 2020 about the people who are still helping the oil majors and the gas utilities in their efforts to slow a transition to clean energy?

I’m not talking here about coal miners or natural-gas pipeliners or people who work at filling stations, much less people who drive cars or heat their homes—they participate in a world that they didn’t create. But lobbyists and P.R. firms develop promotional campaigns for the industry, and people are starting to hold them accountable for it. In August, Storebrand, a ninety-one-billion-dollar asset manager based in Norway, divested from companies including ExxonMobil and Chevron precisely because of their lobbying activities. “Climate change is one of the greatest risks facing humanity, and lobbying activities which undermine action to solve this crisis are simply unacceptable. The Exxons and Chevrons of the world are holding us back,” Jan Erik Saugestad, Storebrand’s chief executive, said.

What’s interesting about many of the current P.R. campaigns is that they don’t involve classic climate denial. Outside of the Trump Administration and the right wing of the Republican Party, that’s now a dead letter. You could no more persuade a Madison Avenue agency to argue that carbon dioxide is harmless than you could persuade it to argue that Black lives don’t matter. Instead, these campaigns often look for ways to leverage people’s environmental concern in service of precisely the companies that are causing the trouble.


The fictitious capital created by value-form industries like advertising, lobbying, and public relations also represent rents and ultimately rentiership because of their positions in the knowledge economy. This is due to the potential, legal range of rents sought and produced as value.

Contemporary, technoscientific capitalism is characterized by the (re)configuration of a range of “things” (e.g., infrastructure, data, knowledge, bodies) as assets or capitalized property. Accumulation strategies have changed as a result of this assetization process. Rather than entrepreneurial strategies based on commodity production, technoscientific capitalism is increasingly underpinned by rentiership or the appropriation of value through ownership and control rights (e.g., intellectual property [IP]), monopoly conditions, and regulatory or market devices and practices (e.g., investment dispute courts, exclusivity agreements). While rentiership is often presented as a negative phenomenon (e.g., distorting markets, unearned income) in both neoclassical and Marxist political economy literatures—and much in between—in this paper, I conceptualize rentiership as a technoeconomic practice and process framed by insights from science and technology studies (STS). So, rather than a problematic “side effect” of capitalism, the concept of rentiership enables us to understand how different forms of value extraction constitute, and are constituted by, different forms of technoscience. This allows STS to contribute a distinctive analytical approach to ongoing debates in political economy about economic rents and rent-seeking.


Value-form Marxism, even as it has been demonized as a scourge of liberal education, because it is “cultural” is more important as a kind of rent or rentiership.

The value-form or form of value (GermanWertform)[1] is a concept in Karl Marx‘s critique of political economy,[2] Marxism,[3] the Frankfurt School[4] and post-Marxism.[5] It refers to the social form of a tradeable thing as a symbol of value, which contrasts with its physical features, as an object which can satisfy some human need or serves a useful purpose.[6] The physical appearance of a commodity is directly observable, but the meaning of its social form (as an object of value) is not.[7]

Narrating the paradoxical oddities and metaphysical niceties of ordinary things when they become instruments of trade, Marx seeks to provide a brief morphology of the category of economic value as such—what its substance really is, the forms which this substance takes, and how its magnitude is determined or expressed. He analyzes the forms of value in the first instance[8] by considering the meaning of the value-relationship that exists between two quantities of commodities.



Rentier capitalism does have a literature and needs further examination in areas like environmental change and its discourse, if only because the current pandemic has raised the issue of rent-seeking again.

Some years ago, Andrew Kliman participated in a published symposium on the “value-form paradigm”—a Marx-inspired and market-focused strand of political economy. Andrew and others criticized the value-form paradigm, and the noted value-form theorist Patrick Murray responded to them.

In this episode (and a future one), Andrew replies to Murray’s paper—for the first time anywhere. He and Brendan discuss differences between Marx and value-form theory regarding how commodities’ values are determined and whether capitalism is essentially a monetary system. They also engage in a broader dialogue on the general features of the value-form paradigm and its political implications; some of that discussion focuses on how Marx’s critique of Proudhonism is relevant to the value-form paradigm.

The segment includes references to Marx’s Capital—chapter 1chapter 2, and chapter 7 of volume 1, and chapter 1 of volume 2—and to Paul A. Samuelson’s famous paper, “Understanding the Marxian Notion of Exploitation.”


The pandemic’s current jockeying for value resembles this rent-seeking as vaccine production and therapeutic treatment became exploited in the formation of supply chains. Operation “warp-speed” was more like wrap speed as cartelization takes hold.

This concept (of differential (rents) goes back to the intellectual origins of economic rent theory in the work of classical political economists like David Ricardo ([1817] 2001). He defined it as follows: “Rent is that portion of produce of the earth, which is paid to the landlord for the use of the original and indestructible powers of the soil,” that is, the biophysical qualities and productivity of land (e.g., soil quality, rainfall, sunshine; p. 39). Ricardo argued that different economic rents—or “differential rent”—accrue to different pieces of land depending on the aggregate prices of corn produced by said land. Conceptually, differential rent is primarily concerned with the processes of production, rather than the exchange of commodities and their prices, in that raising productivity—and thereby reducing prices—does not reduce rent (Rigi 2014). As such, Ricardo did not conceptualize rent as a determinant of price; rather, it reflected the transfer of profit from capitalist to property owner (Ward and Aalbers 2016).


Protestors demonstrate during a 'No Evictions, No Police' national day of action protest against law enforcement who forcibly remove people from homes on September 1, 2020 in New York City. - Activists and relief groups in the United States are scrambling to head off a monumental wave of evictions nationwide, as the coronavirus crisis leaves tens of millions at risk of homelessness. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

…Building on Marx’s ([1894] 2010) arguments in Capital: Volume III, Harvey ([1982] 1999) argues that there are two forms of monopoly rent: (1) monopoly rent (MR1) created by the quality of the asset (e.g., land quality) and (2) monopoly (MR2) created by the rent itself (e.g., denial of access). Analytically speaking, Haila (1990, 278 )argues that monopoly rent depends on property rights and is, therefore, distinct from differential rent since the latter “was conceived as being caused by technically and a historically determined production differentials and as existing independently of private property on land.” Consequently, monopoly rent was often associated with precapitalist economic systems(e.g., feudal ownership) and seen as dysfunctional because it was a barrier to accumulationHowever, Harvey and others have linked monopoly rent to finance capital, conceptualizing monopoly rent as claims on future revenues and, therefore, as endogenous to capitalism (Haila 1988, 1990). That being said, the materiality of land (and other biophysical assets) matters here since land has a recurring use, being difficult to either destroy or use up (although not impossible), meaning that it can provide (almost) indefinite future claims whereas other assets cannot (e.g., machinery).


…A number of scholars have theorized IPRs in terms of monopoly rights and monopoly rents (e.g., Zeller2008; Birch and Tyfield 2013; Cooper and Waldby 2014). It is possible to consider IPRs as monopoly rent derived (1) from the qualities of an asset itself—its “quality” or “specificity”—and (2) from the denial of access to that asset (Harvey [1982] 1999; Haila 1990). However, analytically speaking, IPRs better reflect the latter definition, as property rights are a bundle of rights including rights of exclusion. Legally speaking, IPRs confer monopoly rights on their owners, including the (often temporary) right to returns on their investment—this is framed as an “entrepreneurial” or “Schumpeterian” rent in mainstream economics and business literatures, representing a reward for innovation (Teece 1986, 1998, 2003; Pisano1991). According to May (2010, 4), IPRs reflect certain “legal benefits” including “the ability to charge rent for use,” as well as “the right to receive compensation for loss” and “the right to demand payment for transfer to another party through the market.”

According to Zeller (2008, 98), monopoly rent is the “result of a systematic shortage of supply created by the property monopoly of the supplier of a key product [including knowledge], which encounters no direct competition from substitution goods.” He goes on to argue that knowledge monopolies are distinct because: In contrast to the differential rent, which arises due to differently favorably located or fertile pieces of land, no information differential rent can emerge, because every enclosed information is unique and is normally used in each case for the production of specific products.


In thinking through the implications of this for STS, it is notable that intangible assets (e.g., IPRs) do not depreciate or deteriorate like most tangible assets (e.g., machines, buildings), meaning that IPRs can represent an ongoing “source of revenue” because “rights over reproduction are constantly renewed resources [i.e. assets], offering the opportunity of perpetual income (in the form of rents) with negligible renewal or transactional costs” (Hall 2010, 67). However, this raises two issues.

  • First, future revenue claims are not implicit in the characteristics of the intangible asset itself, in that future rents are not known when an intangible asset is enclosed by IPRs. This implies that rents are constructed as part of the process of assetization, not simply inherent to an asset—that is, rents are made.
  • Second, therefore, the capture of monopoly rents is a proactive process, rather than a passive process usually associated with notions of “rentier” ownership; it involves the active management, policing, enforcement, and reinforcement of property rights and their value by their holders and others (Birch 2017d).


Analytically, rent-seeking draws on the work of neoclassical economists like Tullock (1967, 1993)and Krueger (1974). They developed a very specific meaning of “rent” which distinguishes it from differential and monopoly rent discussed previously. For example, according to Krueger (1974, 291): In many market-oriented economies, government restrictions upon economic activity are pervasive facts of life. These restrictions give rise to rents of a variety of forms, and people often compete for the rents. Sometimes, such competition is perfectly legal. This neoclassical concept of rent-seeking is used predominantly to mean the interference of governments in the naturalized workings of a market economy, especially at the behest of some vested interest (e.g., a business seeking to shore up a monopoly position). As a concept, rent-seeking is reflected in STS debates on “regulatory capture,” especially in relation to the pharmaceutical sector. Examples include work by John Abraham and Courtney Davis on pharmaceutical regulations (e.g., Abraham 2008; Davis and Abraham 2013). These two scholars argue that the capture of regulatory agencies happens when they “regulate primarily in the interests of the industry, rather than the public interest,” and it happens through active lobbying and structural changes (e.g., “revolving door” between regulators and industry; Davis and Abraham 2013, 9).

Martin Shkreli is reportedly still running his pharmaceutical company from prison, according to a story from the Wall Street Journal.. 

Even though they do not deploy the concept of rent-seeking specifically, their arguments reflect the concept outlined by the likes of Tullock and Krueger; namely, private organizations focus on lobbying government for policy and legislative changes, rather than on their internal research and development strategies. A more specific STS analysis of rent-seeking is contained in the work of Frohlich (2016, 4) who argues that “Regulation, including standards setting, becomes a potential site for ‘rent-seeking,’ where the state is ‘captured’ by private interests who seek third-party certification to protect their market. ”As this would imply, lobbying and other policy and political interventions are constitutive of particular codes, standards, regulations, and certification(Busch 2011), which end up not only imposing costs on certain parties and not others but also configuring technoscience through the necessary pursuit of compliance.


A major empirical gap in existing political-economic analyses of rent and rent-seeking is the absence of empirical detail, and even discussion, about how rents are made—they are simply assumed to exist as the result of “distortions” in other political-economic processes or logics. As noted above, knowledge has to be reified before it can be valued, since its value largely depends on future revenues that can be configured as rents through the transformation of a thing into an asset (Birch 2017d; Muniesa et al.2017). Things are transformed into assets; they do not automatically take on the asset form. For example, IP (e.g., patent) is made into an asset through the application of various (technoeconomic) knowledges, practices, and soon (e.g., accounting, corporate governance), alongside juridical decisions.


It is, then, worthwhile to theorize diversity and variety as inherent to rentiership, entailing an examination of how rentiership is enacted through different modes of ownership and control of diverse assets. I only discuss three modes of ownership and control here but recognize that there are more forms: (a) government fiat, (b) monopoly, and/or (c) the configuration of markets and technoscience.

The first mode of ownership and controls involves government fiat. In this article, I use a Polanyian lens to conceptualize economies and markets as “instituted” rather than natural or naturalistic (Polanyi 1957). From this perspective, modes of ownership based on government or quasigovernment fiat include the establishment of things like entitlements, regulations, standards, and codes (Busch 2011; Frohlich 2016). Value extraction can happen in at least three ways as a result:

  • first, the presence and absence of regulations and so on can lead to the shifting of markets from one jurisdiction to another (e.g., stem cell tourism—Sleeboom Faulkner and Patra 2011; Rosemann 2014);
  • second, new regulations and so on can create new markets altogether (e.g., ethanol fuel standards—Birch and Calvert 2015); and
  • third, new regulations and so on can both curtail existing markets and open up new markets (e.g., greenhouse gas emissions—Felli 2014).

I focus on the last of these since it most clearly illustrates government fiat. A helpful example of government fiat is the introduction of carbon markets, which Felli (2014) theorizes as a form of “climate rent.” Felli argues that government (or quasi-government) fiat does not create “commodities” per se, but rather legally constituted “public entitlements to emit greenhouse gases” enacted through property rights (p. 254). He goes on to call it an “administrative grant” representing a “barrier to production” which is the very thing “that makes them valuable” (p. 266). As such, this form of government fiat reflects the Marxist notions of absolute rent in which ownership rights are first instituted and then protected and enforced by the state, thereby providing an important underlying logic to rentiership—namely, societal rules on the ownership and control of useful assets(Ward and Aalbers 2016). Other examples of this mode of ownership and value extraction abound, including of land, of water, of culture, of oil, and so on (Andreucci et al. 2017). Traditionally framed as problematic (e.g.,Tullock 1993), government fiat need not only entail negative societal impacts; however, since it is deeply implicated in the creation of new markets and the promotion of sociotechnical transitions, some of which we may want to support such as low-carbon technologies (e.g., biofuels,  electric cars; Tyfield 2017; Birch 2018a).


Climate denial and conspiracy theories have costs including counter-intuitive choices.

In philosophyPascal’s mugging is a thought-experiment demonstrating a problem in expected utility maximization. A rational agent should choose actions whose outcomes, when weighed by their probability, have higher utility. But some very unlikely outcomes may have very great utilities, and these utilities can grow faster than the probability diminishes. Hence the agent should focus more on vastly improbable cases with implausibly high rewards; this leads first to counter-intuitive choices, and then to incoherence as the utility of every choice becomes unbounded.

The name refers to Pascal’s Wager, but unlike the wager, it does not require infinite rewards.[1] This sidesteps many objections to the Pascal’s Wager dilemma that are based on the nature of infinity.[2]


Pascal’s mugging may also be relevant when considering low-probability, high-stakes events such as existential risk or charitable interventions with a low probability of success but extremely high rewards. Common sense seems to suggest that spending effort on too unlikely scenarios is irrational.

One advocated remedy might be to only use bounded utility functions: rewards cannot be arbitrarily large.[5][8] Another approach is to use Bayesian reasoning to (qualitatively) judge the quality of evidence and probability estimates rather than naively calculate expectations.[9] Other approaches are to penalize the prior probability of hypotheses that argue that we are in a surprisingly unique position to affect large numbers of other people who cannot symmetrically affect us, reject the providing the probability of a payout first,[10] or abandon quantitative decision procedures in the presence of extremely large risks.[6]




Even after a mugging, social banditry by activists has its benefits, even to its victims. but media may be framing further destruction.

Colin McGinn, a philosopher at Rutgers and a leader of the “Mysterian” movement, has a pretty simple answer for Pascal’s Wager: One can’t force oneself to believe something they’re not predisposed to already. Pascal’s wager isn’t just false, it’s an argument for (pardon the pun) bad faith.


The “mysterianism” I advocate is really nothing more than the acknowledgment that human intelligence is a local, contingent, temporal, practical and expendable feature of life on earth – an incremental adaptation based on earlier forms of intelligence that no one would regard as faintly omniscient. The current state of the philosophy of mind, from my point of view, is just a reflection of one evolutionary time-slice of a particular bipedal species on a particular humid planet at this fleeting moment in cosmic history – as is everything else about the human animal. There is more ignorance in it than knowledge.


Lyrics NSFW:

  • December 27, 2020
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