Time discounting (Re: Heuristics and Biases papers)

From: Phil Goetz (philgoetz@yahoo.com)
Date: Wed Jan 18 2006 - 13:26:46 MST

--- Michael Vassar <michaelvassar@hotmail.com> wrote:

> This MIT professor has a few Heuristics and Biases papers available
> online
> for free, for anyone interested.
> http://www.mit.edu/people/shanefre/

He also has papers on how we discount the utilities of future people,
relevant to the discussion I just made.

Following up on my idea in the prior post, I would suggest that the
evolutionarily correct rate of time-discounting for the utilities of
future generations for a species could be calculated from the expected
percentage of the future genome that will be identical to the current
decision-maker's genome. This would include info about extinction
chances, reproduction rate, and genetic exchange. A small society with
no contact with other societies and little risk of extinction should
discount future generations less than a large, genetically diverse
society with much foreign contact and a high risk of extinction.

Ironically, in a case such as Easter Island, an approaching possible
extinction event should thus make the islanders less considerate of
future generations the nearer extinction looms. This suggests that
societies have some tipping point of instability, beyond which the
chance of the society's dissolution is large enough that the society
should not consider future generations - and thus will dissolve.

- Phil

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