How much is your life worth, or would you accept this bet

You’re shopping in your local neighbourhood when you notice a shop that you hadn’t noticed before. Its walls are black and featureless and there’s no indication of what, if anything, it sells.

You enter and get greeted by a man in a dark robe, a table with 20 glasses of colourless odourless liquid in front of him.

He offers you a deal

“One of these glasses contains a poison with no antidote that will kill you painlessly in 24 hours, the other 19 contain pure water. Drink one of them down and, if you choose water, I will transfer US$1 billion into your account. This will be considered completely legitimate by all relevant authorities”

Assume that he is telling the truth and you believe him. Also there is no way to cheat. Take the deal or walk away.

Do you take the deal?

If so, would you for $500 million? 100 million? 1 million? 100,000?

If not, would you if there were 50 cups? 100 cups? 1000 cups?
I would certainly take it. 1 billion is worth a 5% chance at death. My life would in my opinion be so drastically improved that it would be a risk worth taking for me. I would also take the 100 million, probably the 1 million, but not the 100,000. My life isn’t worth nothing after all. :slight_smile:

I’d take the bet for anything over $100 million, definitely. Not sure I’d take it for $1 million, as that’s not quite enough to retire in the style to which I’d like to become accustomed. $5 million would probably do the trick, assuming no tax issues…

I’d do it for about $25M. No question.

While my parents are living, no amount of money would impel me to take the bet. I’ve lost a child, and there’s nothing worse; I would not take a 5% chance of inflicting that pain upon them.

If my parents were no longer alive, I might do it for a billion.

Not for any amount of money. I used to think that having shitloads of money was important to my happiness and then one day, when I was having a really great time - good food, good company and a good band, I realised that no matter how much more money I had in the bank I wouldn’t be any happier.

If I took the risk of dying I could miss out on all the upcoming movies I’m waiting for, Dwight Yoakham, the NRL Grand Final, the Ashes Tour, some good sex…and that is only this year.

What if it was like Deal or No Deal?

You have the option of returning every day and drinking another glass of water. For each day you return, $1 billion will be transfered into your account. So you have the chance, after 19 days, of walking away with $19 billion. But would you risk winning $19 billion, or stop after winning $5 billion?

$1 billion would be sufficient, thank you very much. Greed is never pretty, and I’d like the chance to do something with the money, for a period of longer than 24 hours.

ha. No.

I would do it for probably 10 mil. Those odds are pretty good.

Let’s see, my life insurance will pay out about $450,000 if I die, so I’d be willing to take the 20 to 1 odds in your scenario and say I’d do it for $90M.

This kind of test is an excellent way to illustrate utility theory. The idea being that there is no constant ratio of value per unit risk of death. For example, you probably wouldn’t take that bet for a 50/50 chance of dying even if offered 100 billion. Yet you would almost certainly take a 1/100 chance of dying for 1 billion, and a 1/1000 chance for 100 million, all of which are identical in terms of risk/reward.

And of course, anyone who doesn’t buckle their seatbelt is accepting a small chance of dying for nothing more than a little temporary effort.

I disagree with the idea that everyone has a price. I would not do this for any money.

No, I wouldn’t do it. I love life too much to want to take even such a small risk. While I know I’ll never earn $1 billion any other way, I’m pretty sure that I will always have enough money to be comfortable and happy, so that extra money isn’t worth the risk of losing out on all the other stuff life has to offer.

Sure, I’d do it for 2 million.

My dad used to call the reverse-scenario “boiling the frog”.

The way my dad would have heard it would be “Would you take this bet for one hundred dollars?.. for one thousand? ten thousand?..” and so on until you reach the price that is critical-mass for that individual.

He likened it to boiling a frog by placing it in a pan of cool water and raising the temperature so slowly that he didn’t realize he was ultimately being boiled.

If I die could I still “win” and leave the billion to someone else? That would absolutely guarantee I would do it, probably for even wotse odds – maybe 10-1. At times in my life I might have taken a deal like this if the odds were 1-1.

Being a husband and father I would discuss this with my family.

Me: “There’s a 5 percent chance I’ll be dead and you’ll get nothing, and a 95% chance we’ll get $1 billion.”


Are they routing for the 5 percent or the billion?

I’m a gambling man. I’d take 1/20 odds for 5 million. If the offer is a billion though I’d hope to add some glasses of water in exchange for accepting less money.

Many moons ago I heard a similar thing and have always remembered it.

Older Man is peaking to a Pretty Young Woman.
OM: “Would you sleep with a total stranger for a Million dollars?”
PYW: “Well, a million bucks is a lot of money and I could do a lot of good things with that kinda money. So yes. Yes I would.”
OM: “Would you sleep with a total stranger for ten dollars?”
PYW: “NO! What kind of woman do you think I am?”
OM: “We know what kind of woman you are, we are just dickering on a price.”

As for me, I would consider it only if there would be an award sufficent to take good care of my family for the rest of their lives in the event I were to lose.

How about revising the deal to get to the REAL answer of “what is your life worth?”

What if the deal is “You drink poison and die, and I will give X dollars to the person or organization of your choice, in your name, or anonymously if you prefer not to have the money assiciated with your death”.

Is there an X that you would take this deal for?

For me, probably yes, though it doesn’t seem a billion would be enough. Maybe 10 billion.

You know, that all sounds noble and high minded and all that, but it’s simply untrue. We take risks with our lives all the time. We don’t eat the healthiest food we could, and take a very significant risk of things like heart disease and stroke just so we can eat tastier food.

If you choose to drive to the book store, you have made a decision to take a non-nil chance of being killed in a traffic accident for nothing more than a book.

Questions like this one force us to examine our real willingness to accept risk for our benefit, rather than just ignore the issue and pretend we don’t have a price.

We’ll go skydiving just for the thrill of it, and accept the maybe 1-100,000 chance that we’ll be killed doing it. People who do extreme sports like caving and base jumping accept much higher risks.