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I just saw this SMBC comic. The second picture looked really promising, but as far as I see it, this attorney screwed up. With his second wish it doesn't matter whether you say wish or splork, so effectively the genie was forbidding to splork for more splorks as well. Is there a way to ask the genie for infinite wishes in a very clear logical way, that leaves the genie no loophole? (and let's pretend the genie really let's you have only three wishes, because in the comic one cannot say how many wishes the genie actually (wanted to) allow for. It is just somewhat implied that it was three so let's stick with that idea.)

Edit: I acknowledge and appreciate the easy answer of Gugg but if someone could give an answer with the now additional made up - and admittedly kinda dull - restriction, please answer as well: One cannot just tell the genie that what he says just doesn't count any more at all. I don't know now if the question is very well defined now, but maybe someone can still make something of it.

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    If you are asking for us to speculate on the rule-based restrictions of a mythical creature in a work of fiction, then I think this is off-topic for Philosophy.SE. – Niel de Beaudrap Jul 3 '13 at 14:34
  • It is a question about logic. A Gedankenexperiment. Rather obviously. – Jack Jul 3 '13 at 14:38
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    "asking for us to speculate on the rule-based restrictions of a mythical creature in a work of fiction": The name here is philosophy of religion ;) – Annotations Jul 3 '13 at 15:10
  • Some somewhat related stuff on genies and wishes: three wishes joke and genie in popular culture – user3164 Jul 3 '13 at 15:15
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    It would be more interesting to wish "I dont want this wish to come true". – jinawee Jul 3 '13 at 15:47
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If you want to leave no loopholes, I would recommend wishing for a logical system to be true. E.g. you could wish that everything you show in naive logic would come true, and then use Curry's Paradox to prove whatever you wanted.

  • That is pretty nice! I think I'm gonna except it as an answer ;) – Jack Jul 9 '13 at 21:45
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This solution uses the term void, which is (also) used in law, thus keeping it sort of in line with the question.

Genie: Fine, fine! So let me guess – your first wish is to void all the wishing rules., right? I’ve been waiting 2,000 years for someone to figure that out.

Aladdin: Yup, and then infinite wishes.

Genie: Granted and… granted…

Aladdin: And I wish for you to prevent me from ever making a bad wish.

Source: CollegeHumor

I think that wish number 3 is actually quite smart, as many wishes are not quite thought through well, and usually backfire when granted (particularly in jokes). The meaning of "bad" is of course discussed elsewhere on Philosophy SE. Also note that these wishes might result in the (perceived) loss of (some) free will (if there was any, perceived or not). Which might (or might not) be "bad" in itself.

  • Ah, no I see, this is basically saying, I wish that your restriction doesn't count. Well, yeah, that actually would be the easy way out. Boringly easy, unfortunately ;) – Jack Jul 3 '13 at 15:46
  • @Jack I thought that wish number 3 was actually quite smart, as many wishes are not quite thought through well, and usually backfire when granted (particularly in jokes). – user3164 Jul 3 '13 at 15:50
  • I would formulate it differently though. "prevent me from ever making any wish that makes me unhappy" (Because bad wish is so terribly ill defined and you are letting the genie decide what is bad...) But really this can be done more easy by just wishing to be maximally happy in the first place, which is what I would actually really do. – Jack Jul 3 '13 at 15:57
  • Well just saying that "bad" is discussed by philosophers doesn't make it more secure ;) Also again, as well one could have asked for "make me wish the best wishes" in the first place (one didn't even have to think about how to trick the genie into having infinite questions since, if that is something "good", the genie would do that for you.) – Jack Jul 3 '13 at 16:04
  • @Jack Note that with your comment on "happy" you are touching on philosophical debate (also in economic theory, political theory, decision theory, and probably more fields). Your other comment ("make me wish the best wishes") seems quite a smart short-cut, but you asked about infinite wishes. However, also, note that both strategies might result in the loss of (some) free will. Which might be bad. :) – user3164 Jul 3 '13 at 16:12
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Your initial premise is that a genie can grant you exactly three wishes, and that he cannot grant you the wish of more wishes. I would presume that the heart of what is meant by the latter restriction is that you cannot wish anything that would alter the structure of the wishing system itself. This, however, is easily bypassed if you wish for more genies of the type in our premise.

Tradition brings us two more rules regarding wishes, however. Here are all three:

  1. You cannot wish for more wishes.
  2. You cannot wish to kill or bring back from the dead.
  3. You cannot wish for anyone to fall in love with you.

Again, these rules seem to have more generic rules at the heart of them:

  1. You cannot wish anything that would alter the structure of the wishing system itself.
  2. You cannot wish to bring anything into existence which is not already in existence nor remove anything from existence.
  3. You cannot wish to alter someone's emotions/desires/feelings.

To elaborate on number 2, obviously the genie could rearrange matter to produce many things, but reproducing a person would make an indistinguishable replica but not the original--which for some reason the genie refuses to do on principle. Also, technically killing is a transition of states, but the genie likely refuses to do this on principle as well.

Assuming that there are already more genies of the type in our premise out there, wishing for more genies should still work, but eventually you will run out of genies (unless there are already an infinite number of genies out there).

  • Love the idea, kinda sneaky. – Jack Jul 9 '13 at 21:49
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A man is granted three wishes by a genie. His first wish is for infinite wishes. The Genie replies: "Sorry, but that is a wish about wishing, a meta wish. You'd need a meta-genie for that."

  • Cute, from where did you get that? – Jack Jul 9 '13 at 21:51
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    @Jack My guess: Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach, "Djinn and Tonic". See this transcript. – user3164 Jul 11 '13 at 9:28
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What about "I wish to have the power to fulfill all my wishes." All subsequent wishes are now fulfilled by you instead of the genie.

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