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Journal Article

The Doomsday Argument and the Number of Possible Observers

Ken D. Olum
The Philosophical Quarterly (1950-)
Vol. 52, No. 207 (Apr., 2002), pp. 164-184
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3542841
Page Count: 21
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The Doomsday Argument and the Number of Possible Observers
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Abstract

If the human race comes to an end relatively shortly, then we have been born at a fairly typical time in the history of humanity; if trillions of people eventually exist, then we have been born in the first surprisingly tiny fraction of all people. According to the 'doomsday argument' of Carter, Leslie, Gott and Nielsen, this means that the chance of a disaster which would obliterate humanity is much larger than usually thought. But treating possible observers in the same way as those who actually exist avoids this conclusion: our existence is more likely in a race which is long-lived, and this cancels out the doomsday argument, so that the chance of a disaster is only what one would ordinarily estimate.

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