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Redwood Falls Gazette
  • JOSHUA'S COLUMN — Three wishes: the genie’s dilemma

  • If you’re feeling generous, suppose you say, “I want everything on Earth to be perfect in every way for everybody"; does the genie have the power to make that happen?
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  • If a genie gave you three wishes, what would you wish for? It’s a harder decision than you’d think. At least it would be for me. You’d want each wish to count and not backfire in some ironic way as tends to happen in stories about genies. Genie: “And what would you like for your third wish, Master?” Me: “Make me the world’s biggest chocolate milkshake!” Genie: “Yes, Master.” Poof! I turn into the world’s biggest chocolate milkshake. Me: “Dang. That was only my second wish, right?” It seems to me there would have to be limitations on how powerful the genie is. If the genie is too weak, there’s almost no point in having three wishes in the first place. Me: “For my first wish, get me a Hershey bar with almonds, one of those big 2.6 ounce ones!” Genie: “Yes, Master. Can I borrow the car keys to drive to the convenience store?” Me (watching the genie drive away): “I could have done that myself.” On the other hand, if you’re feeling generous, suppose you say, “I want everything on Earth to be perfect in every way for everybody!” Does the genie have the power to make that happen? Suppose you believe there’s a personal God who is in involved in everything from creating universes to the fall of every sparrow. The genie can’t overrule God, so your wish is limited to whatever is between what the genie’s power is capable of doing, and what God allows. If you believe in the concept of free will, where does that fit into the genie’s ability to grant your wishes? What if making everything on Earth perfect in every way for everybody denies everyone their free will? Does the genie have to get special permission from God to undercut that whole “fall from grace in the Garden of Eden” thing? Let’s say for the sake of argument that God allows it, and everything is perfect on Earth just because you wished for it. Now what would you do with your next two wishes? No, it’s too big. I think it’s a given your three wishes have to be a little smaller scale than “world peace” or “get rid of greed and stupidity.” To the extent greed and stupidity are choices, God already has dibs on how much you’re allowed, not some stupid genie. I think the wisest thing is to limit your wishes to basically stuff like, “Give me ten billion tax-free dollars”. I guess I could just settle for that, and leave the free will part up to what I do with all the money.

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