# [SEQ RERUN] Lotteries: A Waste of Hope

Today’s post, Lotteries: A Waste of Hope was originally published on April 13, 2007. A summary (from the LW wiki):

Some defend lottery-ticket buying as a rational purchase of fantasy — paying a dollar for a day’s worth of pleasant anticipation. But then your valuable brain is occupied with a fantasy whose real probability is nearly zero, investing emotional energy. Without the lottery, people might fantasize about things to actually do, which then might lead to making the fantasy a reality. To work around a bias, you must first notice it, analyze it, and decide that it is bad. Many people, such as the lottery advocates above, often fail to complete the third step.

Discuss the post here (rather than in the comments of the original post).

This post is part of a series rerunning Eliezer Yudkowsky’s old posts so those interested can (re-)read and discuss them. The previous post was Priors as Mathematical Objects, and you can use the sequence_reruns tag or rss feed to follow the rest of the series.

Sequence reruns are a community-driven effort. You can participate by re-reading the sequence post, discussing it, posting the next day’s sequence reruns post, summarizing forthcoming articles on the wiki, or creating exercises. Go here for more details, or to discuss the Sequence Reruns.

• Some defend masturbation as a rational pursuit of pleasure — a bit of handwork for a minute worth of pleasant anticipation. But then your valuable hand is occupied with a fantasy, investing emotional energy. Without masturbation, people might fantasize about things to actually do, which then might lead to making the fantasy a reality.

Unsurprisingly, many people don’t realize that a numerical calculation of expected utility ought to override or replace their desires, and instead treat the calculation not as natural law, but as mere calculation—something that has nothing to do with human values, since it’s made up of mere squiggles on paper, instead of what we really want.

• Waste of hope, not of time. You usually reach the desired outcome, unlike with lotteries.

If you play a slot machine and immediately know if you’ve won, you can go and invest hope in something else. It’s just fun and I occasionally do it. If you spend a week (every week) waiting for lottery numbers, you’ve lost a week of hope. Being unable to use your hand for a week would be quite problematic as well.

That said, I’m totally going to take Kevin’s suggestion.

• Waste of hope, not of time. You usually reach the desired outcome, unlike with lotteries.

The point is that the desired outcome of masturbation is not to have sexual intercourse with an actual human being, or to actually make babies. The desired outcome of masturbation is not to have an orgasm either, it is merely part of a more complex desire and the result of the process. You masturbate to satisfy your fantasies in a certain way. Maybe because you can’t get a partner for some reason, your girlfriend isn’t in the mood or doesn’t share certain fantasies.

The point of playing the lottery is not to become a millionaire. The point of playing the lottery is similar to the point of downloading porn. Telling someone not to download porn because they could use that bandwidth to actually sign up on a dating-site misses the whole point. Those are two different things. It’s like telling someone not to ride a roller coaster and to instead put themselves into some actual danger.

And even if your reason for playing the lottery is to become a millionaire, it means to become a millionaire in a certain way. You can assign arbitrary amounts of utility to becoming a millionaire by means of playing the lottery.

• Lately I fantasize about telling my wife I have to work late, sneaking off to a motel, and sleeping.

• 3 Sep 2015 10:03 UTC
−2 points
Parent

I’m curious if people who make snide comments like this about their partners are actually being sincere. Is it actually unpleasant to have a secure sexual option, even if it’s with all that baggage. The closest analogy I have is that I want to masturbate less cause the calculation is tending in favour or less pleasure if O do it. I love masturbating and porn but I get a sore gouch from all the fapping and porn is a superstimuli so I’m cutting down.

• Yes, they’re being sincere, and it wasn’t a snide comment, although it may feel that way to you because you’re feeling particularly sex-deprived. Being ungrateful for sex? How rude! That’s the best thing somebody can do for you!

Being blunt, and those who don’t want to read about my sex life should stop reading now:

I can have sex… pretty much whenever I want, as my girlfriend is always up for it. My girlfriend, however, wants more sex than I do, which means—I almost never -want- to have sex, because I just -had- sex (relative to how often I’d choose to have sex), and we’re going to have sex again before I’d want to. Relationships involve accommodations, which means she’s getting less sex than she’d choose, and I’m getting more. I’m currently working on adjusting my sex drive, with some moderate success, but that particular element seems to be more physiology than psychology, and has proven more resistant than most aspects of myself to adjustment.

Now, all that said: You’re apparently desperate for some (any?) sexual intimacy. Go get your penis pierced a few times. A frenum ladder and a few dydoe piercings should do it. It takes a month or so to heal, and you can’t have sex during that time, but that’s not an issue for you anyways right now. Two major advantages: Once healed, it feels amazing, both for you and your partner. Second, with the assistance of a wingman mentioning the fact (a wingwoman works better for this), most women will ask to see, and will be -very- curious about how it feels. It doesn’t take much effort to convert that currency into sex.

• Penis piercings on google images in the library was a bad idea, haha

Thanks for the suggestions.

The dydoe is generally considered to be one of the most painful of piercings,

Reading the Wikipedia articles for those piercing now. I’m interested to hear some other LW views on whether I should get either or both of those piercings. It looks painful in the long run, like when my penis rolls around my underwear.Though I’m pretty indifferent to temporary short term pain during the actual piercings.

Do you find that to be an effective way to motivate yourself?

• No.

• Without masturbation, people might fantasize about things to actually do, which then might lead to making the fantasy a reality.

Is that supposed to be a bad thing? (I mean, in the context of sex—the productive output of sex being of more questionable value than say investing in the stock market.)

• 17 Sep 2015 14:18 UTC
−1 points
Parent

I get lazy evaluating the gains of the counterfactual of non-masturbating which is later on in time since I process the extreme positive value of masturbating immediately before ″hand″.

Perhaps if I estimated the value of consequences on decision branches in reverse chronological order I could change this behaviour. For example, rather than imaginging what will happen if I start masturbating and thinking about the pleasure, I try to think what will be the consequences from masturbating for when I’m 80 years old, then work backwards from there. Perhaps there is a name for this approach to decision theory?

• 18 Sep 2015 8:57 UTC
−2 points
Parent

Unsurprisingly, many people don’t realize that a numerical calculation of expected utility ought to override or replace their desires

Well to some that’s just mental masturbation

• When life gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade. Make life take back the lemons back! Get mad! I don’t want your damn lemons! What the hell are these?! Demand to see life’s manager! Make life rue the day it thought it could give Cave Johnson lemons! Do you know who I am? I’m the man who’s gonna burn your house down! WITH THE LEMONS! I’m gonna get my engineers to invent a combustible lemon that BURNS YOUR HOUSE DOWN!

I don’t know the link between Eliezer and Cave Johnson, but if there’s still time, we need to tell Cave to spend more time on making GladOS friendly, and less time on guns that let us scratch our own backs.

• Buying lottery ticket as a purchase of fantasy is irrational—fantasy is for free. You can dream about being a millionaire without spending money on tiny scrap of paper :P