Let’s imagine there was a lotto jackpot. The fourth in a row. The total prize exceeds now your wildest dreams. You can’t ignore it any more. You have made up your mind. You are going to play. You rush to the betting shop. You grab some lotto tickets, you take out your pen, and you are just about to mark some numbers down – when, out of nowhere, a demon appears.
That’s odd, you might think, but it’s not. Remember, we are conducting a thought experiment.
“Wait a second”, the demon says in an assertive but warm voice. “Please forgive the interruption. You came here to play lotto, no? I see your excitement and eagerness to choose some numbers, but may I have your attention for a moment?”
You are startled of course, if not a bit worried. He is a demon, after all. You look at him. A proper demon, with all his demon’s paraphernalia. Unsettlingly, he appears to be visible only to you: other customers are getting on with their business completely undisturbed. That’s highly unusual. But then the demon looks benign and friendly, so you are worried, but not too worried. Admittedly you are a bit curious too.
“You want to win” the demon is saying now, “and that’s why you are going to pick your five numbers carefully. You think you are free to choose any number you want, but – please allow me to disappoint you – you are not. I know exactly the numbers you are going to pick.”
You glance around nervously. No-one seems to pay attention to the exchange. People simply go about their business. The demon is waiting for a reaction.
“How do you know my numbers?” you ask. “How can you know my numbers? I haven’t written them down yet. I haven’t even chosen numbers yet. What are you trying to do?”
“Nothing, really”, the demon says. “You don’t need to worry. I just want to make a case about free will. You thought you are free to choose, and I want to show you, you are not. As I said, your numbers are known to me – even before you know them yourself.”
“What is this all about?” you exclaim. “Is this some kind of a trick?”
“Not at all. You are unconvinced, that’s natural, but it’s the truth. I can prove it to you.” The demon hands you an envelope. “Here. There is a paper in it”, he says. “It’s for you. It has the five numbers you were going to play.”
You take it reluctantly.
“This is what I am interested in”, the demon says. “I am interested in what you are going to do now.”
You remain silent.
“Or rather, I am not.” The demon smiles at you. “I know what you’ll do. I just know it. That’s all. Take care. Bye!”
And with that, the demon flies away.
CommentsWe encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.