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Tuesday, 13th November, 2012, 09:13 PM #1
The Great Druid (Lvl 17)
Why does the idea of no Free Will bother some people?
Here's a new topic I been meaning to start.
I read Scott Adams' blog (the guy who does Dilbert). He proposes the idea that we are all just Moist Robots. I agree with him.
an interesting observation is that some people are really, really opposed to that idea. It's like saying that humans don't actually have Free Will deeply offends them.
I suspect part of the problem is that my definition of Free Will (or the lack thereof) is not the same as others. And there's people who just don't agree with what science tells us.
there's even a recent article where lawyers are getting criminals lighter sentences due to the science behind this "lack of Free will".
So, before I go into the details of my position, how do you feel about Free Will right now? Does it bother you that I think you don't have it? Do you think the science is wrong? Do you think you have Free Will?
Here's my position:
when I talk about the lack of Free Will, I am not talking about Religion, or the Norn's big loom of pre-ordained destiny. There is no master plan that I know of that says what'll happen to you. Nobody is controlling you. You are autonomously operating from my perspective.
But science is continuing to progress in ways that show what you decide to do or think is influenced and eventually determinable by the structures in your brain.
Let's start back at the beginning. With Star Trek's Hisenberg Compensator. This little doodad was made up to explain away how the Transporter can move all your molecules from point A to point B. What it really is is an homage to the Hisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which basically says that for all practical purposes, we can't really know the exact positional details of every atom or quantum doohickey that makes up the universe at any point in time.
But here's the thing, if we DID, we would know EXACTLY what would happen next. Because what happens next is based on the exact current position, velocity and trajectory of every unit of matter and energy in the universe. Including the insides of your brain.
Take Dr. Malcom from Jurassic Park. He's got his lovely analogy about Chaos theory with the drops of water taking different paths as he drops them on the lady's hand. That's no different than what we as gamers have tried to do when practicing the art of the perfect repeatable die roll that will always roll a 20. the theory being, if we could just repeat it exactly the same as before. The reason it never works is Chaos Theory and the Hisenberg uncertainty principle. Basically, there's just too many bloody variables for a human to reproduce exactly as the last, and don't forget, the Earth itself is spinning at 1000 some miles per hour (well, relative to it being 24,600 miles in circumference and completing a rotation in a day), and thus isn't exactly the way it was since the last roll.
So basically, thus far, I'm saying the universe is really really complex and while some stuff is predictable, other stuff apppears to be random. But if we KNEW the state of everything, we COULD compute the future.
Now let's look at your brain. Hopefully, you accept that I can put electrodes in your brain, and make you say things. or chop out chunks of your brain and change your behavior. It's been done. Well not by me, I'm not a brain surgeon. that's a not a good thing for the idea of Free Will, if somebody can fiddle with your brain, and change your behavior.
I'm a software kind of guy, so I get the basics of logic and neural networks. Computers, operate on a much narrower band of variables as compared to the entire universe. So when a signal pumps down a neural pathway, it's pretty much going to make a consistent result. Any bug or bad behavior is a problem with the programming/wiring, rather than the neuron itself (well, don't quote me on that, for all I know there's a disease for random neuron misfunction).
In any event, your brain has billions of these neurons, and if I can send the same pattern into it, I can get the exact same outcome out of you. I don't think we've mastered the science on feeding signals into brains yet (or anywhere close), but things aren't looking good for you actually deciding things as you picture it happening.
On that note, apparently, there's also science that figured out that people decide things before they think of WHY they decided them. Case in point, a study about interviewing candidates. They found that people made the same decision about who they liked within like 10 seconds as within 10 minutes. People were actually building justifications for the guy they liked, and the the guy they didn't when they both lacked experience. Other science with MRIs and such tracked this kind of decision making to the emotional part of the brain making the choice, with the rational part of the brain firing afterwards which reflected as the person thinking about the reasons. It's like backwards cause and effect, as normally I'd like to know you reviewed the evidence and then made a decision. Instead, what's really going on is your gut decided guilty, and then picked and chose the evidence to support that.
It's always posssible, and probable the details of the science is wrong. But the nature of our brains does not strike me as one where I am really choosing to write this thread or not. It is certainly probable that readers who disagree with my position will not be able to change their mind.
Personally, for me, it doesn't bother me that I don't think that I have Free Will. Whatever the mechanism that decides what I do next still keeps on firing. I am still autonomously functioning. If I go bad, society should hold me responsible as an entire entity, including my malfunctioning brain. Arguments of "my brain is broken" only explain why a person behaved badly.
Society as a whole does not need to be overly concerned over this, as the objective is to remove the poorly programmed moist robot from the factory floor. It would be nice if we can fix the broken ones, but that's not a priority to all people.
I feel, that at best, we can sort of agree that the amalgamation of stuff that happens that result in you doing stuff could be called Free Will. But the foundational parts of that simulation are not, and one day, will become predictable and manipulatable.
Tuesday, 13th November, 2012, 10:39 PM #2
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
I more or less agree with you:
I have free will in the sense that nobody can perfectly predict what I'll do, nor control what I do.
I don't have free will in the sense that I can't act outside of what my biology and anatomy allow.
People who have an issue with "no free will" tend to use the first definition, while those without an issue tend towards the second.
Tuesday, 13th November, 2012, 10:51 PM #3
The Great Druid (Lvl 17)
Wednesday, 14th November, 2012, 01:43 AM #4
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
Quantum physics says everything's random, anyway. So your entire premise of predictability is wrong.
Wednesday, 14th November, 2012, 01:58 AM #5
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Sadly, that seems similar to "why is religion still a dominant cultural aspect, in spite of the advances of science in the last 500 years?"
People are loath to accept the idea that they are not special, or loved by an mystic invisible man who lives in the sky.
Mod note: making fun of peoples religion? Not acceptable here thanks.
Last edited by Plane Sailing; Thursday, 15th November, 2012 at 01:33 AM.
Wednesday, 14th November, 2012, 02:15 AM #6
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
Wednesday, 14th November, 2012, 02:45 PM #7
Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
It is actually unknown because we are talking about forces so small that we do not understand them.
Just because something seems random, or better phrased "non-deterministic", does not mean that it is. This just means that something is so complex that the results cannot be determined by people.
If the laws of physics are not random at all, then we do not have free will. Everything that happens to us and everything we do and think, is "programmed". It appears random. It appears to be free will. But, it isn't.
If the laws of physics are random, then fate is not determined ahead of time. However, we still do not have free will in the normal sense of it. Everything we think is pre-programmed into us from all of our lifetime experiences. If you had a different set of parents (say that you were adopted), then your likes, your dislikes, your entire being would be different because your experiences would be different. There would be some propensities based on your genetics, but your different experiences would shape you differently.
Wednesday, 14th November, 2012, 03:05 PM #8
Time Agent (Lvl 24)
Not in the "there are too many things, as a practical matter we cannot know them all" way. Quantum Mechanics appears to enforce this in a far more fundamental way - the information you would need *cannot* be known.
This is the root of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. It isn't just that we currently lack the ability to know the variables in question, but that if we actually peg down one, the act of doing so scrambles up the other. Nailing down the position of a particle actively changes its momentum in an unpredictable way.
Yes, there was a recent experiment in which someone got more information than one might have guessed they could have. On the other hand, every piece of modern electronics (anything using a semiconductor) is based upon the Uncertainty Principle - it is the basis of "tunnelling", which is required for electronics to function.
So, this point, that *if* we had all the information, we *could* calculate it all, breaks down - the IF cannot be fulfilled.
A couple posts up, KD refers to what in the business we'd call "Hidden Variable" theory - that QM is actually not what's going on, and we don't know the actual rules. Hidden variable ideas have been around for a long time, but remain unproven. In general, Hidden Variable theories seem to have their own bothersome problems, so you may be trading randomness in the universe for something just as unpalatable.
Last edited by Umbran; Wednesday, 14th November, 2012 at 04:06 PM.
Monday, 19th November, 2012, 03:41 PM #9
Defender (Lvl 8)
Thursday, 22nd November, 2012, 07:44 AM #10
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
If we have free will, then I'm right.
If we don't, then my decision to act as if we do have free will was predetermined anyway.
What it really is is an homage to the Hisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which basically says that for all practical purposes, we can't really know the exact positional details of every atom or quantum doohickey that makes up the universe at any point in time. But here's the thing, if we DID...
It's important to understand that quantum mechanics is not due to some failure of our instruments: The universe itself really is uncertain. (Do some research on the two-slit experiment for a relatively simple example of this.)
What you're doing is confusing the Heisenberg uncertainty principle (which is a statement about the actual physical properties of the universe) for an observer effect (in which the observer alters the state of what is being observed). This is a common error, but an error nonetheless.
If we do have actual free will (and not some biological predeterminism) then it will almost certainly be an emergent property out of quantum mechanics.
that's a not a good thing for the idea of Free Will, if somebody can fiddle with your brain, and change your behavior.
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