Suppose a genie offered you the following deal.

In return for $20, the genie will grant you a 73% chance of improving your life in a meaningful but non-specified way. You don't know if the potential improvement will come in the form of your career, health, personal relationships, or happiness in general. The genie promises that the benefits to you - should there be any at all - will probably far exceed the value of your $20.

To sweeten the deal, the genie says it will take 2-3 hours to transfer the benefits to you. But to make that process as pleasant as possible, the genie says you have an 88% chance of liking or even loving the transfer process itself. You can do the transfer whenever you want, on your preferred schedule. If you are one of the 12% who doesn't enjoy the process, it will be no worse than, for example, watching a movie you don't enjoy. And you can stop the transfer at any point without penalty. But you don't get your $20 back.

You still look unconvinced, so the genie further sweetens the deal. He says that after the benefits have been transferred to you, you will have the power, for no extra cost, to extend the same unspecified basket of benefits (with a 73% chance of success) to a person of your choice.

Let's say for the sake of the hypothetical situation that you somehow know with certainty there is no trick involved.

Here's the summary of the deal:
  1. You pay the genie $20
  2. There is a 73% chance your life improves in a meaningful way.
  3. The transfer of benefits takes 2-3 hours.
  4. There is an 88% chance you will enjoy the transfer itself.
  5. You can quit the transfer any time you want.
  6. If you don't enjoy the transfer, the worst case is that you are bored for 3 hours.
  7. There is no trick or hidden downside, and somehow you know that for sure.
Would you take the deal? Remember, there is no hidden downside. It is simply $20 in exchange for a high likelihood of getting meaningful benefits to your life that are worth far more than what you paid.

My hypothesis is that some people - perhaps many - will decline the genie's offer even knowing there is no trick involved.


My new book is called How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. It has the highest percentage of 5-star reviews of any book I've written.

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Jan 26, 2014
It's all in how the deal is pitched and appeals to ego. Product as well. A deal like this does not point out or infer that your current life sucks or your are unhappy, and a deal that only promises improvement with no risk can appeal to anyone. And a Genie is 'fantastical' enough a character that it allows a hypothetical individual to avoid the usual resentment that accompanies advice or guidance from any kind of 'real' source that would suggest they possess a superior level of knowledge or success.
Jan 16, 2014
I'm in. Of course, I'm at the point in my life, financially where $20 isn't that much. Two years ago I'd have been a lot more reluctant.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 15, 2014
Hellz, I'd take it.

Now I'm going to read what everyone else said.
Jan 15, 2014
yeah, I'd do it.
Jan 15, 2014
Soooo, this genie, which by definition has magical abilities, can only give probabilities? Not much of a genie and I would not trust his word.
Jan 15, 2014
I was sold by point #2 - way better odds than Vegas already.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 15, 2014

a) Show me the Genie. Is he pointy haired? If yes, I have a deal too.

b) I'll not sign, but I'll take 27% of $ 20 for every customer I get for him.

c) And I'll take 12% of $ 20 during the transfer. Returnable if the customer calls it back.

Note: My price only covers the uncertainty from 73 to 100 while ordering and 88 to 100 during the transfer. So that doesn't hit his business plan.


Following condition applies:

Genie must by pointy haired.


+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 15, 2014
It sounds like a sales pitch that:
a) We've all heard a million times before
b) And it never worked out.

Plus I only have $20 there's a million other people all making better-sounding offers.
Jan 15, 2014
Scott, are you seriously wondering why every English-speaking person in the world with the means is not buying your book?

The answer is there are hundreds of thousands of other "Genies" who are making a potentially better offer.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 15, 2014
I'm in, where do I send my money?
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 15, 2014
There was a funny thing on a tv show in Germany last week that's a little like this offer. The guy from the show offered people on the street money, ranging fron 10-200 Euros. The money would be given away, no return favour or tricks involved. All that people had to do was sign a very short contract, that stated exactly what I just said: The money is free, you don't have to pay anything back, and you don't have to do anything in return.
People hesitated heavily when they had to sign the contract, and some people did not take the money because of it.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 15, 2014
Ofcourse I would take the hypothetical offer. The benefits would have to outweigh the costs, so I would have to know a liittle bit about what they are.

If you're talking about the book, then the 2-3 hours aren't right. I am a fast reader and it took me way longer then that to read it, which is perfectly o.k. in itself.

So you're not talking about the book. You're talking about a new idea, like maybe videos, workshops or trainings based on (part of) the book, huh?

Jan 15, 2014
You don't have to believe there's a trick to turn down the deal, you just have to believe that what you consider a benefit and what some genie considers a benefit may differ so substantially that actually the deal stands a realistic chance of making your life worse by your own criteria. On average most of the population of the world would consider the greatest possible benefit would accrue to me if I converted to their own local flavour of invisible giant pixie worship, but by my own standards I'd be much worse off. I don't buy it, not because I think there's a malign trick but because even a benign change to my life as evaluated by a third party stands a very good chance of making an extremely good situation worse.
Jan 15, 2014
I wouldn't take the genies deal because I believe that anything that is given to me without me having to earn it, corrupts my mind. E.g that's why I don't buy into lotteries. If I win, I'll become hostile and stingy because I'm afraid that someone might steal something that I cannot recoup on my own.

That being said, your book wouldn't be such a gift; there's still work involved. So its still a no brainer !
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 15, 2014
What does "improve your life in a meaningful way" mean?

Anyway, if a genie offered me this, I think I'd go for it. If a cartoonist offered me this I'd wonder where that 73% figure comes from and if there's a way to identify whether I'm one of the 27%.
Jan 15, 2014
Sounds like either an educational opportunity (buy a 2-3 hour disc), exercise, or something involving food... a sit down meal that improves your health and you eat it over 2-3 hours. Maybe a meal, light cardio exercise, and an educational thing while you eat/work out.

From a logical standpoint and without knowing exact details, if this "genie" is only in it for the money, than the no trick thing is easier to believe (and for the benefit of the argument, I'll assume it's true).

I think it's the 2-3 hours in question, and other logicists that'll turn a lot of people away. You are busy at that time, something comes up and you miss it, you have errands to run right now, you've got another appointment before the end and you don't want to start something you can't finish, can't get a sitter for the kids and the kids don't care.
Jan 15, 2014
I'm disappointed I didn't immediately realise what you were talking about! Anyway, I think the real difference between the genie and the book is that the genie sounds mythical and magical and something that gets your attention. The book is competing against too many other inputs and demands on someone's every day life. I enjoy all your writing so it's a no risk option for me, plus I am not a student so don't have to worry too much about finding $20, and yet it still took me a while to order your book. Partly due to other demands on my time and partly as I am content in life and not really looking for something to show me how to make improvements. Now I have the book I rapidly read the first half and then got distracted (by life) and haven't finished it yet, but that is no reflection on the quality of the book.
Jan 14, 2014
The question is; if I had something that I knew could improve the lives of 73% of the people that came in contact with it, why would I be selfishly sell it instead of simply giving it away to improve as many lives as I could?
Jan 14, 2014
OK, I just bought your book. Happy now?

I bought the kobobooks version (in Canada) -- for some reason it's $15.99 (CDN) compared to $17.22 (US) on Amazon.com. It's also $15.99 (CDN) on Amazon.ca -- but I can convert the kobobooks version into Kindle format, and strip off the DRM while I'm at it -- allowing me to take up your offer of passing it on to another person after I've read it.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 14, 2014
The only part of the deal that I baulk at is the 2-3 hour transfer process. Schedule it to happen while I'm asleep, I'm in.
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