Escaping the Cycle

Mind 131 (521):99-127 (2022)
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I present a decision problem in which causal decision theory appears to violate the independence of irrelevant alternatives (IIA) and normal-form extensive-form equivalence (NEE). I show that these violations lead to exploitable behavior and long-run poverty. These consequences appear damning, but I urge caution. This decision should lead causalists to a better understanding of what it takes for a decision between some collection of options to count as a subdecision of a decision between a larger collection of options. And with this better understanding of subdecisions in hand, causalists will not violate the IIA or the NEE. This decision will also teach causalists that, in sequential decisions, a rational agent may be led to make a series of choices which are causally dominated by some other sequence of choices they could have made instead. I will encourage causalists to recognise this as an intrapersonal tragedy of the commons.

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J. Dmitri Gallow
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (PhD)


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