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Metaculus ProblyMail

What is ProblyMail?

ProblyMail is an email service with one simple property: there is only a 68.3% probability that your email will actually arrive, as determined by a quantum-mechanically generated random number.

Why would I want that?!

Have you ever wished you could say that an email to you got lost in the mail (or lied and said it?) Have you ever failed to receive a reply to an email and felt a bit better after telling yourself that a spam filter, or an administrative assistant, or some other act of fate stopped it from reaching its intended target? Have you ever written in an email something like "if it's a bother, just ignore this email."? Have you ever said "I'll email you!" but really only meant that you'd probly email them?

A "yes" to any of these indicates a belief that 100% transmission of emails is not always optimal. Sometimes you may want email to be just a bit less black-and-white.

How exactly does it work?

When you send an email via ProblyMail, a quantum random number generator is run and decides whether the email goes through, with 68.3% probability. If the email does not go through, it simply vanishes. If it does go through, it arrives with a footer explaining that "This email was sent with ProblyMail. Its sender is fundamentally uncertain as to whether or not it arrived." The recipient can use this information as they see fit.

What can I use it for?

There are many potential use cases. Here are a few.

  • You want to ask a favor that could potentially be done by a bunch of people. But you're very polite and don't want to obligate them to do the favor, or even reply. So you ProblyMail them, and they know that if they choose not to do the favor, they can safely ignore your email with no negative feelings.

  • You want to make a "big ask" – say for a date, or important meeting – while keeping your fragile ego intact. Use ProblyMail and you will always be able to tell yourself the email did not go through. And the door is open to ask again, since if the recipient did get your message, then they know that you don't know that they did, so it can make sense for you to ask again!

  • Set a precedent that you will only accept certain types of mail via ProblyMail. Then you can simply delete them guilt-free if they are not of interest, as nobody mailing them can be certain that they arrived.

  • You're going to send a life-changing email, but want to leave the outcome up to "fate." Let ProblyMail make the choice for you!

  • You're going to send a life-changing email, believe in the multiverse, and want to cover both bases in different branches of reality. Since ProblyMail uses genuine quantum random numbers, relative outcome frequencies across the multiverse will be given by known odds (68.3% vs 31.7%), which is not guaranteed using some random number sources such as a coin flip.

  • Tell someone you'll "probly mail" them. Then ProblyMail them. Or don't. They won't know!

  • SInce 68.3% (1-sigma) significant is generally below-threshold in scientific circles to believe something actually happened, if you do something by ProblyMail you can argue that you had a reasonable doubt that the effect would occur. Don't count on this "plausible deniability" to hold up in court, but who knows?

Can I change the transmission probability?

Nope. If you need a higher probability, just use regular email. If you want a lower probability, you might reconsider whether your email is worth sending at all...

What do you do with the data passing through the server?

Metaculus does not retain any information on our servers regarding your email other than that an email passed through (or was annihilated) at some time, so that we can keep statistics on how much usage the servers are under. We don't read, analyze, store, or do anything else to your email except to add a footer, and of course delete it 31.7% of the time.