Newcomb's problem

Abstract

Newcomb’s problem is a decision puzzle whose difficulty and interest stem from the fact that the possible outcomes are probabilistically dependent on, yet causally independent of, the agent’s options. The problem is named for its inventor, the physicist William Newcomb, but first appeared in print in a 1969 paper by Robert Nozick [12]. Closely related to, though less well-known than, the Prisoners’ Dilemma, it has been the subject of intense debate in the philosophical literature. After three decades, the issues remain unresolved. Newcomb’s problem is of genuine importance because it poses a challenge to the theoretical adequacy of orthodox Bayesian decision theory. It has led both to the development of causal decision theory and to efforts aimed at defending the adequacy of the orthodox theory.

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