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In an interesting question here, @Masclins asks how two twins who can each experience and perceive everything the other is sensing or thinking might be able to exploit their ability. I want to ask a question where the psychic ability is much more limited in some respects but is precognitive.

Imagine that a single person has by a great deal of application developed the skill of sometimes being able to send himself a small amount of information back from a short time in the future.

By a "small amount of information", I mean on average less than a single bit. So if in the future he chooses a playing card at random - perhaps using a quantum random number generator - and then looks at it, he can with a slightly greater than evens chance predict correctly right now whether the card will be red or black. Similarly if without telling our subject an assistant decides that red corresponds to an appreciation of the British pound against the Swiss franc and black to a depreciation, and at a future time he checks how the currency market has moved and then gives the subject a card to look at accordingly, the subject can predict its colour with a similar chance of success.

If he could always predict the card colour correctly he would be sending a whole bit of information, but by "sometimes" I mean he can only do it correctly 53% of the time1, and moreover he can only manage to repeat the precognition, even at that level of success, at least a week after the last time he did it.

And by a "short time in the future" I mean no more than 30 seconds.

To restrict the conditions even more, let us assume our subject does not have access to a vast quantity of money. So for example he cannot invest a million pounds each week selling or buying Swiss francs for British pounds according to the card colour he perceives precognitively. Nor can he offer his services to a person who can stake large amounts.

How might he use his precognitive ability to amass wealth?

Edit: please note that this question is not the same or even nearly the same as this other one. The ability I am supposing is probabilistic. There is no possibility of chaining perceptions together as is suggested in the most popular answer to that question, because the ability only works (probabilistically) 30 seconds into the person's own future and only at intervals of at least a week. The second most popular answer is also not applicable, since again the ability works probabilistically with a success rate of only 53% and the person does not have access to big money. Basically his edge is very small, this is clear in the question, and it is signalled in the word "slight" in the title.

1 Technically the average number of bits of information he sends per prediction is 0.00260, so he would have to do it 385 times to send a single bit. For details of how to calculate that figure, click here. The point is that the ability is not only probabilistic but very weak. But it is no less real for that.

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Suppose you're playing roulette and betting on red or black. Your ability is equivalent to saying that for every 32 spins, you get a "freebie". (Or equivalently, for a large number of spins, you will grow your total stake by 6%). But the house gets a "freebie" for every 36 spins, because no one wins on zero (and in American roulette, which also has a double zero, the house gets a freebie for every 18 spins) – so your actual gain is either 3% or 0.4%. And given that you can only play once a week, "a large number of spins" is going to take at least a year. You would likely get a better return, for no effort, by investing your money conventionally.

The same principle will apply to any other game. Because your ability is barely better than flipping a coin, it takes a lot of bets to manifest its advantage. And any repeatable bet is not going to pay better than evens on a 50/50 outcome (if such a bet existed, you wouldn't need precognition to get rich). Plus, there's always going to be a house advantage.

Even without the recharge time, this ability would not be a life-changer. Reward generally corresponds to risk, and if something is too risky for a normal person, it will almost always be too risky for you, too.

(On evolutionary time scales, though, it would be a significant advantage)

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    $\begingroup$ I've upvoted this. It's all correct, but perhaps there is a way we haven't thought of. Excellent point about evolution. It would also be adaptive to be able to recognise, and to try to seek out and cooperate with, others who have the ability. This is assuming they exist. Imagine if 1000 people all did it simultaneously, and then in 30 minutes' time they all looked at the same event. But I'm still not wholly convinced there isn't much a single person on their own could do with the ability. $\endgroup$ – ruffle Mar 24 at 16:51
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By-passing the 53%

It seems the message needs to be sent - a conscious action - and whether the content is correctly received is governed by this 53% statistic. If, instead, you look for a binary 'yes/no was a message there to be received?' and only send a message if past you should act then we have three options.

  • Message recieved and action rightly taken.
  • Message not received and not act even though you wanted to.
  • No message sent so no action taken, as intended.

So if you're deciding whether to place money on something you'll never lose.

The obvious go to answer:

Gambling

There are plenty of options in casinos but roulette is probably the game with the best odds (32x return on single numbers). In a casino, however, you might want to throw a few games else you'll draw suspicion. Online is better as it is impossible to cheat by traditional means so it is unlikely you'll be caught out. You can also play on several different sites at the same time this way.

Stocks

Algorithms giving traders split second advantages sell for millions - if a split second is worth that then if you learn about stocks you'll be able to cash in on a 30 second advantage.

Invest and repeat

Your foresight may give you some advantage here but also an element of business savy will help - you can set up your own businesses with the money you've made and ensure a steady income.

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  • $\begingroup$ Many thanks for this, but we can't bypass the weakness of the "message" and how often it can be sent. There aren't those 3 options. After 30 seconds he always looks at a card. We can call it precognitive clairvoyance rather than precognitive telepathy if we wish. 53% of the time the colour of the card is the same as what he perceived earlier. And he can't have multiple tries at sending a single message because he can only send at weekly intervals and backwards in time through no more than 30 minutes. So it would take him ages to make compound income, and he hasn't got much money to start with. $\endgroup$ – ruffle Mar 24 at 16:45
  • $\begingroup$ Also he couldn't (unless there's some way I haven't thought of) use this to pick a number at roulette because there are 38 numbers including 0 and 00 and that requires more than 5 bits of information and he isn't even getting 1. He could certainly choose red or black at roulette but remember he would (disregarding 0 and 00) be right 53% of the time each week. Basically his "edge" is tiny. $\endgroup$ – ruffle Mar 24 at 16:48
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    $\begingroup$ @ruffle If I understand the limits you've decided on then he can sit at a table, checking to see if he received a message (not multiple attempts at sending one) but only send a message when, for example, 0 comes up on roulette. This way, once a week, he can ask a yes/no question, and if he receives any message interpret it as yes, if he receives nothing its a no. It will take a while but he won't lose any money this way - slow but steady is more of a sure method. $\endgroup$ – Lio Elbammalf Mar 24 at 17:58
  • $\begingroup$ No, I am setting up the conditions to exclude this. In your scenario he would have a 100% probability of delivering the information, because information as to whether he is sending a message or not would itself be a message. We can think of it this way: when he asks "will the card I turn over in 30 minutes' time be red or black?" he can get the right answer 53% of the time. That's all he can do. Assume he always looks at the card, nobody runs off with the pack, etc. $\endgroup$ – ruffle Mar 26 at 11:46
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We have a matured precognitive ability already called imagination. It functions to produce possible futures based off the current universe and prior experience. 99.9999% of these imagined futures are wrong.

Occasionally an individual manages to imagine a future that is less wrong, possibly even correct. This gives that individual time in which to prepare, which confers a survival advantage if that preparation can be leveraged to overcome the problem that is there in the present when the future arrives - regardless of the imagination's accuracy.

The important point here is that something as imprecise as imagination offers survival benefits. The precognitive ability you suggest is an improvement to imagination, significantly improving its accuracy. This will not improve the individuals ability to guess a needle in the haystack, that problem requires way to much accuracy.

However if you rephrase the problem as one of locating food we can see the benefits. Lets assume the individual will find food regardless of their precog abilities. The question is: in a competition to find the best food, would an occasional 30second lead allow them to obtain the most nutritional food before their competition does? The answer would be yes, very useful. More nutritional food, more often than the competition, allows more time to be directed into other activities, or finding even better food.

This is a small advantage in terms of energy. But Humans walk on two legs because it is slightly more efficient when walking through plains then walking on four legs like our ancestors. The energy efficiency is very small over a lifetime, upright walking saves the energy you get by eating about a packet or two of chocolate biscuits. So having a precog ability that improves energy efficiency/acquisition by similar numbers is entirely reasonable.

Added up overtime such individuals would be more likely to have forged better relationships, more likely to have accumulated resources, and by equal measure the competition will have not had the time to forge relationships, and not have as many resources. This doesn't mean that any given individual will certainly do better, just that those with the precog ability will be more likely to have done better. Stupid mistakes will send them back to zero just like anyone else.

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