How Not to Mug Yourself

In my younger and crazier days I used to fall prey periodically to a special variation of Pascal’s mugging (a term I had never heard at the time, of course). I would be seized with the thought that a random simple action — most often crossing the room and tapping the top of a clock — might summon a genie who would grant me infinite power. I knew that it was unlikely this would happen, but it was also a very small expenditure of energy to cross a room and tap a clock, and surely it was worth wagering so small a sum in order potentially to receive infinite power.

The problem is that once you begin thinking this way, you cannot stop. You cross the room, touch the clock, and receive no power, so you return to your seat; but then you start to think: Maybe no genie appeared that time, but this next time (stars aligned, etc.) the genie will appear, and so I should try again. After all, crossing the room again is such a tiny sacrifice, and infinite power would allow me to get revenge on all of you, and a pony. My failure last time, and all previous times, was a sunk cost, and could not factor into the equation; all I was calculating was what I should do right now, and right now it made sense to go for that clock again.

I trust you can see how this kind of thinking could start to consume your life. I probably would have spiraled into madness if I had not realized one thing: As slim as the odds were that a genie would arrive if I tapped the clock, they were exactly equal to the odds that a genie would arrive if I did not tap the clock. For all I knew, tapping the clock would drive away a benevolent genie already on its way to serve me.

Looked at in this light, tapping the clock became unnecessary, or at least no more necessary than not tapping the clock. I remained in my seat and remained, more or less, sane.

I mention this to assist anyone in a similar situation.



  1. Notington Tinfoilhatter · · Reply

    Trying to humanize yourself now? Plans to give DJT a run for his money?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There can only be one King of America!


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