The Friar's Lantern Reader Poll #1: Do You Have Free Will?

Reader Poll #3

In a recent unpublished study (Newcomb, et al., 2011), subjects underwent an MRI brain scan while presented with the following scenario: one week after the initial scan, the researchers would offer the subject a potentially lucrative choice. The researchers would place two sealed opaque boxes before the subject, the first one (Box A) containing $1,000, and the second (Box B) containing either nothing or $1,000,000. The subject would have the option of taking the contents of either both Box A and B or the contents of only Box B.

Newcomb's problem, as featured in The Friar's Lantern by Greg Hickey

The researchers used the MRI scan of the subject’s brain in an algorithm to predict the what the subject would choose one week later. If the algorithm predicted the subject would take both boxes, the researchers would put nothing in Box B (leaving only the $1000 in Box A). On the other hand, if the algorithm predicted the subject would take only Box B, the researchers would put $1,000,000 in Box B. Finally, if the algorithm predicted the subject would randomize his/her choice (i.e. by flipping a coin), the researchers would again put nothing in Box B.

The researchers ran the algorithm the same day as the MRI scan and either put $1,000,000 or nothing in Box B on that day (one week before the subject’s decision). Initial data showed that the algorithm correctly predicted subjects’ choices 93.1% of the time and that its accuracy improved as modifications were made following earlier studies.

If you were a subject in this experiment…