Pascal's Wager and Y2K : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Of late, "Sue" has became enamoured of Pascal's Wager (called "Pascal's Logic" on a Y2K supplies web page). On an earlier thread, I invited discussion on the application of Pascal's Wager to Y2K, but had no takers. Because of Sue's interest, let me offer the following linkw:

[I would "cut-and-paste" the article, but it is quite long. Very well written.]

[This is a critique of the Pascal's Wager, however, the logic can be applied to Y2K.]

[This is a short critique of Pascal's Wager.]

[A breezy critique, easy to read.]

For the record, one can believe in God while rejecting the logic of Pascal's Wager.


-- Mr. Decker (, July 09, 1999


One way Pascal's Wager fails is by pre-supposing the characteristics a god would have. There could just as easily be a god that hated prayer and/or considered "faith" to be a sign of a weak mind. There isn't enough credible information as to the existence of a god or what it's characteristics might be to make a good "wager" on it.

Y2K also lacks credible information, though not nearly to the same extent. I believe there is enough credible information pointing to serious problems next year, and I have done my best to guess what forms they will take and prepare for them. Whatever actions or lack thereof is a wager, to that extent the analogy holds somewhat.

-- Gus (, July 09, 1999.

What abject bullshit.

There's plenty of information about God. Read a Bible.

There's plenty of information about Y2K. Read the response our government is preparing for it.

Idiot trolls.

-- HadEnufaDem (notakinit@ny.more), July 09, 1999.

NOTE TO LOVING CHRISTIANS WHO WANT TO KILL US: Look, we're for peaceful co-existence. We're not really that far apart. You worship the Vindictive Crybaby SchoolMarm Jesus -- many Subs worship the Live-It-Up, Hell-Raisin', FIGHTIN' JESUS. You worship a dead guy on a stick, we worship a chopped-off head that gets hit with a stick. Isn't there some common ground? (The Founder of Christianity wans't as asqueamish as his modern fan club. He was compassionate towards the weirdos, sinners, and victims of his day, and he was also PISSED at the NORMALS of his day. And, like "Bob," he didn't want to KILL them, but merely to LEAD them, as a shepherd leads his flock. Keeping them happy until the slaughter. The Harvest...ahhh, yes... THE HARVEST!!!)

-- "BOB" ("BOB", July 09, 1999.

I don't know why you need all kinds of links when it's just simple logic. You're either GI or DGI. You either prepare or you don't prepare. That leaves just 4 results. You GI or DGI and you don't prepare, leaving you in deep dodo if you're wrong. You either GI or DGI and prepare , leaving you in good shape whether you're right or wrong.

Feeling lucky, Mr. Decker?

-- sue (, July 09, 1999.

For the record, one can be a DGI and still prepare.

-- sue (, July 09, 1999.


With all due respect, I think the critiques of Pascal's Wager are sailing right over your head. Y2K cannot be reduced to "go, no-go" logic. "Prepared" is not a singular state of being. Rather, there is a continuum of preparation. The problems associated with Y2K also exist on a continuum. Preparation does not assure safety, it simply changes one's odds of avoiding discomfort depending on what happens with Y2K. There are costs associated with preparation. For me, I weigh the costs of preparation against what I think are the most likely Y2K outcomes... not just the worst case scenarios.

In my case, the most likely outcome of Y2K is a national recession. A much smaller, but distinct possibility is the recession sinking into depression. For those potential outcomes, I am prepared. With all due respect, for those scenarios I don't need anything from the Y2K supplies web site where you found Pascal's "Logic."


-- Mr. Decker (, July 09, 1999.

I hope you've got lots of lube the way you're so fond of masturbation.regards.

-- Mr.Zoobie (, July 09, 1999.

Decker: Its not the odds, its the stakes. Why do you continue to ignore that point? The preparation that one does is NOT lost if Y2K turns out to be a non-event. Yes, it may mean that you eat a lot more beans in 2000-2001 than you otherwise would have, but then again you will have plenty of toilet paper. C'mon Decker, your use of Pascal's Wager as a strawman in your anti-prep propaganda is really stretching it, Dude. I would have expected better from our cleverest troll.

sue: Do you like to mudwrestle?

-- King of Spain (, July 09, 1999.

Ho hum. It's always the odds AND the stakes. If it's just the stakes, forget about Y2K... the ASTERIOD is coming! Deep Impact! Armageddon!

Young Sue brought Blaise into the discussion, not me. I just decided to point out the well documented flaws. And please, I am not against preparation... I'm against mud wrestling. (laughter)


-- Mr. Decker (, July 09, 1999.

King of Spain -What is this thing with you about mudwrestling?

-- sue (, July 09, 1999.

THE TRUTH IS OUT! Mr. Decker is a closet GI!

-- sue (, July 09, 1999.

Sue - regardless of the state of one's "get it ness", the other (often unstated) part of the problem is this:

Regardless of the degree of one's understanding of the problem, and regardless of how thoroughly any given person prepares for the uncertainities coming next year, what will actually happen next year? What level of preparations are actually going to be needed?

See - somebody could loudly declare they "got it" - but not prepare. Or prepare for the wrong problems. Or prepare for some troubles, but be overwhelmed by a long, very slow recovery that nobody except Milne prepared for.

On the other hand, a person who absolutely and loudly says they are a "polly" - and spends two years loudy proclaiming "that nothing will happen at all" might come through in flying colors without taking any action at all - for example, they might be the pilot of Air Force One, or the chef at the Camp David.

-- Robert A Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (, July 09, 1999.


I can't argue with you, it's no fun, all your posts make too much sense. Where did Mr, Decker go? Oh well, I can't really argue with him anymore either since he admits to making some preparations.

What I take exception with is the Polly's that come on and try to talk newbies out of making any preparations at all.

Maybe, I'm more preparation conscious having been on the perimeter of one tornado and one hurricane and seeing the devastation and chaos that ensued. Fear does not dominate my life but I no longer ignore tornado warnings and automatically assume the chances are that it won't hit me. Prudent preparation for a tornado is to move to a place of safety.

What is prudent preparation for Y2k? You're right, nobody knows. I would rather err on the side of over preparation than under preparation. Everybody has to make their own judgement on that. For me it is making sure I have a water supply, heat, and food in a safe area. I don't have a generator, a basement full of MRI's, or land mines around my property. If you do, that's your choice and IMHO any preparation is better than none.

Perhaps, I oversimplified Pascal's Logic but by the same token not all GI's are as radical as many Polly's would have you believe.

-- sue (, July 09, 1999.


I think you're on the right track. Many of our lives are stretched too tight, both financially and psychologically. We live precariously, from paycheck to paycheck. We have too much personal debt, not enough savings. We haven't put anything away for a rainy day, and we see storms coming. The 'important' things we focus on are too short-term, so we focus too much on tactics and not enough on strategies. As a result, we tend to put ourselves into positions where nearly any inconvenience too easily becomes a crisis.

I think what Mr. Decker refers to as 'smart living' just means building into your life some manuevering room, some slack, more options and more flexibility. Being prepared to ride out the collapse of civilization is not feasible for most of us. But being prepared to ride out normal vicissitudes is only sensible. Sadly, most of us weren't in this position when we first learned of y2k. I admit it's been a real struggle for me, which it would not have been, had I lived all along with a bit more foresight. I don't know how y2k will affect me personally, but I just feel more comfortable knowing that an illness or loss of employment will no longer be the catastrophe it would have been not long ago.

-- Flint (, July 09, 1999.

Decker: OK, you give me even a SMALL amount of credible evidence that a NON-Y2K type disaster is coming AT A PREDICTABLE POINT IN TIME, and you better believe that I will prepare for it -- if in fact it can be. Even if the probability is less than, say, 5%, if the disaster is credible and the time is definite, and preparation can be done, I SURE WILL DO IT.

sue: I love seeing scantily clad chicks catfighting in the mud.

-- King of Spain (, July 09, 1999.

Just humor him sue.....he'll move on quickly to his next 'mud interest'. Naturally, you'd better boogie too or you'll be left all alone with Frick and Frack.

-- Will continue (, July 11, 1999.

For the record, I'm a GI. I've been prepping like a banchi ever since "clicking" this January, in a situation where I don't really have full access to our savings because of a DWGI husband.

I do not think that invoking Pascal's Wager is a very effective way to convince most DWGI folks of their folly. A Pascal's Wager type argument does actually apply better to some Y2K decisions than it does to its original theistic application. However, it carries too much excess baggage from its historic evangelistic uses to be of any practical use in influencing opinion.

I think the most effective similar argument is something Sue said in her own words. If you prepare, you're in good shape no matter what happens. Sue's argument applies to many types of Y2K preparations, particularly to low cost efforts, or for things which will be equally useful in any case.

Where the argument breaks down is once these types of preparations have been accomplished. I'm to this point right now. Do I insist on withdrawing my share of our retirement savings, and experiencing the cliche "substantial penalty for early withdrawal" in order to purchase solar panels? Sure the panels will be useful in any case, but not enough to suffer that "substantial penalty."

Or, should I put it on a credit card? I could easily rack up $100,000 of credit card debt before the end of the business day today by calling and ordering a truckload of freeze dried meat, some real fancy guns, a fireplace insert from heaven, potassium iodide for my whole neighborhood...

I think the problem comes when Pascal's Wager is used in a marketing situation. It comes off quite a bit like "Buy this over-priced gizmo from me or go to hell."

-- Y2K, ` la Carte by Dancr near Monterey, California (addy.available@my.webpage.neener.autospammers--regrets.greenspun), July 13, 1999.

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