Combining Estimated Risks When Using The Doomsday Argument

The estimated total risk of Doom Soon cannot possibly exceed 100 per cent, no matter how greatly it is magnified by doomsdayargument considerations. It is therefore very wrong to apply these considerations to risks taken individually. We need to consider the entire packet.

Suppose, for example, that we started by thinking that the risk associated with high-energy experiments stood at 1 per cent, the only other cloud on the horizon being a 9 per cent risk associated with pollution. The doomsday argument might then perhaps encourage us to re-estimate those risks as each eight times greater than they had initially seemed—but certainly not as thirteen times greater, because this would mean estimating the total risk as 130 per cent.

If, on the other hand, we started by thinking that the sole risks were a 2 per cent risk associated with pollution and (just as before) a 1 per cent risk associated with high-energy experiments, then there would be no logical absurdity in re-estimating each of those risks as thirteen times greater.

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