The Ultimate Utilitarian Device

"That's it?"

A small black cube, with exactly two ports for a voltage difference, rested on the table.

"Correct, sir. This is the moral utility maximizer."

He inspected the device again. Surely there was more than what they said? It certainly had imperfections, scratches and scrapes, but other than that appeared to be simply smooth metal. The two ports at the back were nothing but glorified metal contacts.

"May I pick it up?"

"Of course."

Lifting it up yielded the first strange thing: a sloshing from inside. It appeared half-full with some liquid. Was this a practical joke? An upgrade from the bucket-over-the-door?

"I'm sorry, but I did not come here to mess around with what appears to be a metal cube filled with water. I have more important things to attend to."

"Let us explain its operation, first, perhaps?"

"It better be worth it."

"Of course. What you see in front of you is a decision-maker. Wait! Do not leave yet!"

"The amount of moral decision making devices I have been subjected to, Doctor, is absurd. Half of them are incapable of making sensible decisions at all, and I have yet to see one which can justify the decisions it makes. Such a device is plainly useless for any practical purpose. Do I have to recite the tired spiel of why moral decision making devices have no practical use in government?"

"It is not a moral decision-making device, sir. It is a decision-making device, but its decisions are of no consequence and should not be considered. Please, sit down."

Should not be considered? What strange decision-making device is this? He sank back into my seat. This better be interesting.

"You have heard of the Many-Worlds Theorem, sir?"

"I have."

"You thereby know it supposed that a quantum state forks our universe into many: one each where the quantum state turns out to measure a certain way?"

"I have."

"Would you say that the sum of all happiness of all perceiving beings in our world's future is positive?"

He thought. This was a rather opinionated question, and of course there was no way to give a real estimate: it was a fundamental statement that the future with life would be better than a future with no life at all. But if he had to go off his gut feeling...

"Well, I cannot provide an empirical estimate. I believe the answer, however, is yes."

"We agree on that, then, sir. Can you figure out what this device is, therefore?"

A decision-maker. Decisions split the universe into many. The universe's future is positive. That therefore means...

"Don't tell me. You're making as many quantum decisions as possible, to create so many universes, simply to increase the total amount of happiness."

"Yes, exactly correct, sir. The black box contains a chemical compound soluble in water, which collapses in up to 61 different ways based on chaotic fluid dynamics equations, in less than a millisecond per collapse. The voltage provided simultaneously releases the collapse, meaning that whether or not the compound undergoes collapse in a certain state is a 61-state quantum variable, repeatedly remeasured. The box alone contains well over a trillion of these compounds. Leaving this on power for a single second amounts to 61^(10^15) different universes being created."

"And thereby 61^(10^15) times the amount of life in the universe, every second."

"Yup, sir. And it goes even farther than that; running it for twice as long squares the total number. This decision-making device, if happiness in the world is truly positive, would increase the happiness more than any other human contribution in history."

He thought for a second.

"This is great, Doctor, but that'd take too long to explain to the voters during the next debate. How about we go with the anti-torture chamber from earlier? Reverse human screams are really a thing to witness."

"But, sir-"

"I know, I know, look, it doesn't matter if the people in the anti-torture chamber are in fact being tortured as long as the public doesn't think so. I really need to win this election, you know. Look, you can leave the device on, okay?"

He left the room.

The doctor pondered this for a moment, and then smashed the device with a hammer.