Scott Adams on the Monty Hall Problem and Double Slit Experiment

Scott Adams (creator of geek must-read Dilbert, whose blog is great reading for intelligent cynics) posts today on the Monty Hall Problem and the Double Slit Experiment, arriving at the conclusion that reality is subjective.  His conclusion is not, however, a logical deduction from the evidence that he presents.  Einstein’s maxim that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic is proven once again.

First, look at the Monty Hall Problem (read up here if you’re not familiar with it).   Mr. Adams states that “If reality were objective, statistics wouldn’t be influenced by knowledge.”  Statistics, however, are not based in reality–they are based in probability.  As outcomes are eliminated by the host’s knowledge in this problem, the probabilities, and therefore the statistics, change to match.

To restate the problem, you have three unknown outcomes, one of which is desirable.  You randomly select one of the three outcomes without knowing what it is.  Obviously, you have a 1 in 3 chance of selecting this properly–which means that there is a 2 in 3 chance that the desired outcome is one of the other two options.  Now the host, through his knowledge, eliminates a wrong outcome.  By switching your choice, you are placing the proper wager: that you selected the wrong outcome to begin with.  If you do not have knowledge that an incorrect outcome has been eliminated (i.e., the outcomes are still randomly distributed), the probabilities remain the same.

The conclusion that I reach is this: more knowledge improves your odds!

On the Double Slit Experiment, Mr. Adams says: “The result of the experiment changes if the observer has additional information about what slit a photon passes through.”  That is an incorrect statement that should be properly termed this: “The act of gaining additional information about what slit a photon passes through changes the outcome of the experiment.”  The interaction of the photon with the detector changes what happens, not that you or I know what happens!

2 thoughts on “Scott Adams on the Monty Hall Problem and Double Slit Experiment

  1. Great critique! It reminds me of the common mistake about flipping a fair coin: even if you get 10 heads in a row, the chance of getting a tail on the next toss is still 50/50.

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