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  • The Fallacy Of The Repugnant Paradox

    July 10, 2017

    Recently, I became aware of a philosophical topic “The Repugnant Paradox” via an excellent YouTube Video A more technical description of the paradox can be found at In short, the Paradox states that “For any possible population of at least ten billion people, all with a very high quality of life, there must be some much larger imaginable population whose existence, if other things are equal, would be better even though its members have lives that are barely worth living.”

    The fallacy of the Paradox is in defining the objective function. It is said that one should be aware of one’s priors to make right decisions. In the same vein, it is important to define the objective function carefully and completely.

    where “N” is the count of individuals in the universe.

    Also, it is natural to assume that a person is either happy or sorrow at a particular moment and the cumulative happiness or sorrow respectively of an individual is the count of happy or sorrow moments in her life till this moment respectively, as measured by net sum of the two.

    When one systematically defines the welfare of the world from bottom up in this way, the Repugnant Paradox vanishes pretty soon. The moment the number of individuals who have more moments of sorrow than of happiness; exceeds the number of individuals who are net happy, the welfare of the universe turns negative.

    I can give a mathematical proof the concept but it is not relevant here. You, the smart reader, can work it out yourself, from the objective function.

    However, let me end by saying that as technology becomes more advanced, the individuals start having greater access to tools to increase their net happiness at individual level, the universe can support bigger populations. Given that I am basically a cornucopian, I think the world can eventually support infinite happy population.


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