Sunday, March 12, 2006

Three wishes

While I was in the United States earlier this year I read this light piece by David Owen in The New Yorker. I found it amusing but others I showed it, including my kids, thought it stupid. Its a standard story. A genie/fairy etc has granted you three wishes—congratulations. If you wish wisely, your wishes may bring you great happiness. Before wishing, please take a moment to read the following FAQs.

1. Do my wishes have an expiration date?
2. May I wish for absolutely anything?
3. May I use one of my wishes to wish for more wishes?
4. What happens if I merely think a wish?
5. How specific must I be? If I wish for 'world peace', will you know what I’m talking about?
6. If I wish for money, how much may I wish for?
7. How come people who get three wishes always seem to wish for something they regret, big-time—like that woodcutter and the black pudding?
8. Can I use one of my three wishes to guarantee that neither of my other wishes will have negative consequences that I failed to foresee?

The link to Owen provides his responses.

On another issue, the fairytale story of always getting what you want reminds me of Charles Gruner's, The Game of Humour where he provides a theory of humour - why do we laugh? To Gruner the answer to question 7. was that pleasure is always most intense when unexpected so always getting what you want would not be pleasant. Indeed, economists remind us that the $100 you find on the street is always more valuable than the $100 you earn as part of your pay-packet. Similarly enjoying life's pleasures needs to include the prospect of losing. Always winning would be hell!

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