Free Will?

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Rex Idiotarum
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Re: Free Will?

Postby Rex Idiotarum » Mon Dec 10, 2007 3:01 am UTC

Free will works best under a Solipsists argument. I may be able to prove I have free will to myself, but if unable to prove others exist, how do they have free will? And any limit that occurs to me is because, on some deep, deep, level, I want or need it to.

But, on the other hand, if the universe exists as presented, I'd have to argue that science, chemicals, and neural processes can be predicted upon adding up all my data. In turn, I am just a fleshy computer. An intelligence far from artificial, but also not free will.

Anyways, what does Free Will add? It tells you that everything that happens wrong is your fault, and no one else's, whereas a Deterministic approach just says, "Well, I should've foresaw this, but there was nothing I can or could've done otherwise."

Again, like Realism vs. Solipsist and Half-Empty vs. Half-Full, Free Will is all about perspective, and I could shift my views easily.
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Re: Re:

Postby yy2bggggs » Mon Dec 10, 2007 4:05 am UTC

TheSwaminator wrote:
yy2bggggs wrote:Likewise, people who search for control in the midst of quantum randomness, are committing this error. Cosmic dice are not choices--choices are necessarily considered by the agent, weighed by the agent, and caused by the agent. Random elements may very well exist in nature, but they cannot play a role in choice.

Are not you searching for control, by saying that everything is deterministic?

No.

You've grossly misinterpreted what I wrote, and this only continues to demonstrate the errors with the term "free will" that I only continue to point out. What I'm saying is exactly what I said--no cosmic dice toss can possibly play a role in volition. What you read, apparently, is that since the universe is non-deterministic, if I drop a glass, it won't break.

I refuse to conjoin disjoint concepts, such as will and free will. I've absolutely no problems with will. It's the term "free will" that's messed up.

By control, above, I mean specifically volition, and by randomness, I mean randomness. The universe is non-deterministic, but not all random. Control is necessarily like dropping glasses, and necessarily not like tossing cosmic dice.

Essentially, you equate free will with control, and have a notion that control is necessarily non-causal--or at least not caused by all of this "outside" stuff you call the universe. This is where you make the mistake. The same stuff on the "outside" that is the universe, is on the inside, and the stuff on the inside, in this particular essential sense, is you.

In fact, there's no coherent way it could be otherwise--at least, none that really matter in the way you think it does.
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Re: Free Will?

Postby Yakk » Mon Dec 10, 2007 5:19 pm UTC

Some postulates:
1> The human brain "contains" the mental state of a person.
2> Someone's mental state determines their actions, barring inputs and outputs to that mental state.
3> There is an absolute limit to the state knowledge someone can have about a human brain.
4> Any model that postulates more knowledge about the state of something than can be achieved will not generate the correct distribution of predictions of behavior.

In essence, you can draw a manifold around the human brain, and pick up as much information as you can along that manifold. Pick up information going in, and information going out.

From this, the best you can do theoretically is generate a distribution of behavior of future (and, equivalently, past) responses the brain will do to specific stimuli.

This ability, while theoretically as accurate as "will an atom decay in period delta t" from Q-M, is practically much more limited, because the amount of information that can be gathered about the brain is much much (much) larger.

And even at that theoretical level, there are large uncertainties which must be modeled as "the brain is anything and everything consistent with the uncertainties".

As such, this "high order" prediction of the brain's response to actions is not very practical.

A "low order" prediction of the brain's response would consist of a model with _less_ than "best possible" information about the state of the brain. Such a "low order" model would open the brain up to even larger possible sets of states.

I would posit that in any currently practical "low order" model of the brain, an agent that is indistinguishable from "free will" would be present.

And given that a "high order" model of the brain would require more computational work, and sense information, than the average science fiction galactic civilization has, the "low order" models are far more practical than the "high order" 'the brain is nothing but QM-clockwork' model.

How is that?
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Re: Free Will?

Postby Afromonkey » Mon Dec 10, 2007 5:29 pm UTC

Netrilix wrote:Hmm... Why the argument about whether or not we would do the same action twice? How does repeating an action somehow mean we did not freely choose that option both times? If I do x action every time I'm in y mindset, it may just be because that is what I freely choose given that situation.


Because if you always choose the same option, you have no choice. The other options are illusions, you will choose the same option you always choose, which many people think of as a violation of free will. As i said before somewhere 'We are free to choose, but whatever we choose is what we always would have chosen'
I think free will is a confused and irrelevant idea. It doesn't matter either way.

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Re: Free Will?

Postby segmentation fault » Mon Dec 10, 2007 5:39 pm UTC

i dont think we have free will. my opinion is that existence is based on cause and effect, and that these effects can cause more effects. the causes for our decisions can be broken down to a molecular and even subatomic level, which are things we cannot control.

all life is just one big chemical reaction.
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Re: Free Will?

Postby Greyarcher » Mon Dec 10, 2007 5:55 pm UTC

Afromonkey wrote:Because if you always choose the same option, you have no choice. The other options are illusions, you will choose the same option you always choose, which many people think of as a violation of free will. As i said before somewhere 'We are free to choose, but whatever we choose is what we always would have chosen'
I think free will is a confused and irrelevant idea. It doesn't matter either way.
I agree with this thinking. I've often found what I would call "traditional" notions of free will quite confused (i.e. a will that is neither determined, random, nor stochastic, but wills only what 'we choose'). It seems to me now that the best arguments can do is create a "space" for free will, but the mechanism by which we have "traditional free will" where "'we have control' and 'decisions our ours'" is indescribable. ...it's sort of similar to a god of the gaps, I suppose. Find the limits of our logic/knowledge/predictions, then stuff "free will" in there.

As a side note, I've often suggested that, for many of us, we would never randomly stab someone for whom we have deep affection. Although we may assert that we "can" because we're "free", it seems that if we never would stab that person in a given situation unless some extra factors were inputted, then this is practically indistinguishable from being unable to do this act (i.e. not free to do so). Basically the implicit message is, "if 'free will' means being able to do something other than what one did, then that type of 'free will' seems to be bushwa". And I would also propose that, "if 'free will' means 'freely choosing' as opposed to 'necessarily choosing due to how we are constituted', then examples such as these suggest that 'free will' is not always clearly evidenced". Well, it can probably be seen why I call it "free will of the gaps", giving points such as these.
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Re: Free Will?

Postby daydalus » Mon Dec 10, 2007 6:18 pm UTC

Lots of posts are simplifying the human decision process with computer models, state machines, circuits, etc. All of those things are sequential processes with singular states.

The human mind is massively parallel. It contains thousands of states constantly acting on each other. Because of that format, we can predict future mind state, integrate memory with sensory input, think recursively. Yes, the computer can be a helpful metaphor for the human brain, but under the surface they operate in fundamentally different ways. Therefore using a "Turing Machine" as philosophical model to discuss free will is flawed.

Perhaps free will is illusion, but we tread very dangerous ground if we start assuming that people are merely mindless automatons and could "function better" via conditioning or pharmacueticals. I think we've already started down that path. Imagine if the "Free will doesn't exist" philosophy filtered out into politics, administration, business organization and law. Not a great outcome, I think.

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Re: Free Will?

Postby Yakk » Mon Dec 10, 2007 6:24 pm UTC

daydalus wrote:Lots of posts are simplifying the human decision process with computer models, state machines, circuits, etc. All of those things are sequential processes with singular states.

The human mind is massively parallel. It contains thousands of states constantly acting on each other. Because of that format, we can predict future mind state, integrate memory with sensory input, think recursively. Yes, the computer can be a helpful metaphor for the human brain, but under the surface they operate in fundamentally different ways. Therefore using a "Turing Machine" as philosophical model to discuss free will is flawed.


You fail to understand "Turing Machine"s. That is ok, they are a tricky concept.

A TM single-state single-tape TM can simulate a billion-tape, billion-state TM with cross-communication channels out the wazoo: it just runs slower on the single-tape TM simulation of the more complex machine.

Perhaps free will is illusion, but we tread very dangerous ground if we start assuming that people are merely mindless automatons and could "function better" via conditioning or pharmacueticals. I think we've already started down that path. Imagine if the "Free will doesn't exist" philosophy filtered out into politics, administration, business organization and law. Not a great outcome, I think.


Hence my position: free will is no more an illusion than Newtonian Gravity is an illusion. The cases where the "free will" as a model could even be questioned are even more remote than the cases where "Newtonian Gravity" as a model doesn't return the correct results.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: Free Will?

Postby daydalus » Mon Dec 10, 2007 6:37 pm UTC

You fail to understand "Turing Machine"s. That is ok, they are a tricky concept.

A TM single-state single-tape TM can simulate a billion-tape, billion-state TM with cross-communication channels out the wazoo: it just runs slower on the single-tape TM simulation of the more complex machine.


You posit that the human mind could be simulated by a TM. Fair enough, but by no means proven.

Interesting (but tangential) reading to the free will discussion.

http://64.233.169.104/search?q=cache:y0 ... cd=2&gl=us

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypercomputer

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Re: Free Will?

Postby Maurog » Mon Dec 10, 2007 6:43 pm UTC

Essentially, you can see a human as a function, where everything except actions is input and actions are output. However, since there are so many inputs and they include stuff like past experience and sense of time, you will never in your life have the same exact input twice. Even if you work in a box-making factory, and all you ever do is pull a lever when a box comes in. It may look like the same conditions, but between box no. 4267893 and box no. 4267894 you finally finished the subconscious line of thought that caused you to remember you left the water running in your bath, and your apartment is probably flooded by now. Oh look, you didn't pull the lever!
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Re: Free Will?

Postby RockoTDF » Mon Dec 10, 2007 7:02 pm UTC

Maurog wrote:Essentially, you can see a human as a function, where everything except actions is input and actions are output. However, since there are so many inputs and they include stuff like past experience and sense of time, you will never in your life have the same exact input twice. Even if you work in a box-making factory, and all you ever do is pull a lever when a box comes in. It may look like the same conditions, but between box no. 4267893 and box no. 4267894 you finally finished the subconscious line of thought that caused you to remember you left the water running in your bath, and your apartment is probably flooded by now. Oh look, you didn't pull the lever!


....If only xkcd had mod points. Nice analogy, really states the point I was trying to make earlier about how the overwhelming number of inputs makes it easy for people to mistake their experience for free will.
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Re: Free Will?

Postby cephalopod9 » Mon Dec 10, 2007 7:20 pm UTC

Ok, you lost me. If the human mind can be described as massively complex equation, then what is it that is being reffered to by the use of "I"?
It seems to me that the argument is being made that the observer of the illusion is an illusion, which I can't make sense of, so I assume I'm missinterpretting it.
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Re: Free Will?

Postby Maurog » Mon Dec 10, 2007 7:53 pm UTC

"I" is just a sum of my memories, subconscious, and current conscious thoughts. Somehow it's consistent... don't ask me how, since it's slightly different every second. That's one of the mysteries of life... why the stranger that rises from my bed tomorrow thinks he's me, and why he's right.
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Re: Free Will?

Postby Tchebu » Mon Dec 10, 2007 8:32 pm UTC

Somehow it's consistent...


Wait... why would that be surprizing? I'd be far more surprized if it wasn't consistent...

The way I see it, "I" is just the result of your mind having a module that monitors the mind itself to a limited extent. Naturally notions like "I" are useful to such a module... and naturally such a module is useful to the functionning of a mind and will therefore exist...
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Re: Free Will?

Postby daydalus » Mon Dec 10, 2007 8:39 pm UTC

The way I see it, "I" is just the result of your mind having a module that monitors the mind itself to a limited extent. Naturally notions like "I" are useful to such a module... and naturally such a module is useful to the functionning of a mind and will therefore exist...


If that's the case, why dont we see more medical cases where people have completely lost the "I"? There are cases for all other sorts of brain damage - losing short or long term memory, the inability to recognize faces, even damaging the ability to act morally. Multiple Personalities or Schitzophrenia might provide some clues on how tightly woven the "I" module is to the rest of the brain.

Also, consider sleepwalking - the ability to perform functions that normally would require consciousness while unconscious. This certainly points to "illusion" of free will.

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Re: Free Will?

Postby Tchebu » Mon Dec 10, 2007 8:50 pm UTC

Note that I said "mind" not "brain"... there doesnt have to be a specific region in the brain for the mind to have something that we could theoretically isolate as a "module".

As for sleepwalking... you don't really need to monitor your mental processes to walk around... in fact you never do. You never consiously think "Move foot over there; shift weight; regain balance" etc. What I'm talking about is really some process which revises certain aspects of other thought processes.

Edit: I do agree that free will is just a "feeling" that our brain creates. It's basically the result of you remembering that you actually had to put some effort into making a choice, and the knowledge that it was your though processes that caused one alternative to happen rather than the others that you may have considered while making the decision (once again, that's just my take on it). In that sense, I guess you could call it an illusion... but I like to think about more as "what I just described is the definition of what free will is", rather than "free will is *insert bad definition*, and it doesn't exist; our mind just makes us think it does".
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Re: Free Will?

Postby Yakk » Mon Dec 10, 2007 9:20 pm UTC

The "I" module is probably closely wired with the "other" module. Ie, being able to identify people as actors that have motivations: "I" is just another actor that you identify with.

There are people who lose that connection between their body and "I"...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alien_hand_syndrome

I've also heard of variants, like people insisting that their arm isn't theirs, despite an ability to control what it does and feel what it feels.
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Re: Free Will?

Postby Tchebu » Mon Dec 10, 2007 10:21 pm UTC

There probably are key differences though. Since for "others" you don't have a direct perception of their thoughts, emotions and intentions, whereas you have direct access to feeling your own... Their functions are also slightly different.

The alien hand syndrome sounds like fun... as do split-brain patients in general. As terrible as getting your brain cut in half sounds, it really gives us a lot in insight into the workings of the brain...
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Re: Free Will?

Postby mosc » Mon Dec 10, 2007 10:28 pm UTC

Rex Idiotarum wrote:Free will works best under a Solipsists argument. I may be able to prove I have free will to myself, but if unable to prove others exist, how do they have free will? And any limit that occurs to me is because, on some deep, deep, level, I want or need it to.

But, on the other hand, if the universe exists as presented, I'd have to argue that science, chemicals, and neural processes can be predicted upon adding up all my data. In turn, I am just a fleshy computer. An intelligence far from artificial, but also not free will.

Anyways, what does Free Will add? It tells you that everything that happens wrong is your fault, and no one else's, whereas a Deterministic approach just says, "Well, I should've foresaw this, but there was nothing I can or could've done otherwise."

Again, like Realism vs. Solipsist and Half-Empty vs. Half-Full, Free Will is all about perspective, and I could shift my views easily.

Very well said. This is very difficult to argue or improve on. I think Rex Idiotarum wins the thread.
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Re: Free Will?

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon Dec 10, 2007 10:37 pm UTC

Is most of humanity self-aware? I vote no. Am I? I vote yes. Have you ever had an existential crisis? Cool, lets make a club.

Anyone hear of the law of self-serving averages? When interviewed on college campuses, something like 80% of individuals said they were above avg. intelligence compared to the rest of the campus. Asian men report a lower rate, like 38%. Just interesting.
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Re: Free Will?

Postby Rex Idiotarum » Mon Dec 10, 2007 10:55 pm UTC

I delved too much into Philosophy, and now my only irrational fear is not existing in ten minutes. Like the being that I refer to myself as "I" will no longer be, and will be replaced by another "I" with the same memories and mannerisms as this "I". That "I" will presumably also have the memories of this "I"'s thoughts and actions.

If one cannot prove that there is anything else, how can he prove that he, himself existed in the past? Especially when memories have been know to fabricate themselves.

If that's the case, you may ask, why do I bother spending my present doing mundane tasks? I really have no clue.
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But moreover on the Topic of Free Will, Existentialist argue that you are doing what you really want to do. Determinists are arguing that that is what you would be doing no matter what. Determinist says that he thinks he knows what the outcome will be, and does it because his nature tells him to. Existentialists argue the exact same thing, but this time saying that he chooses to do what he's doing. And the Soft Determinist is just a pussy.

It's really freakin' confusing just for a small bit of perspective onto things.

Even so, as someone who has used Self-Hypnosis, Free Will is still debatable with "Subconscious" and "Conscious" thoughts. Just because we may not remember the choices, doesn't mean we didn't have them, and there is much proof that if a subject is unwilling to do something while they are hypnotized, they will not do it. So Memory or Thought != Free Will. Free will is defined only in the ability to choose.

On top of that, with my Solipsist argument, tests and reactions on another person's mind means what now?
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Re: Free Will?

Postby Ari » Tue Dec 11, 2007 12:10 am UTC

I'm a free will determinist. (haha!)

What choices we make are determined by factors such as how we think, what emotions we're feeling at the time, what psychological characteristics you have, and so on... essentially what makes you you.

The choice you will make will always be the same choice that you would've made under those circumstances, because you couldn't be you at the time and make any other choice. But because to an extent we define ourselves and choose who we want to be, we do have free will. We can control our emotions. We can retrain ourselves. We can take different actions, we can drop out of college, aso... There's just enough random chance there that if you have persistant meta-desires about who you want to be, that you can work in change, while there's also enough determinism that you can make decisions consistently.
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Re: Free Will?

Postby arkady » Tue Dec 11, 2007 12:38 am UTC

I believe, but cannot prove, that any computer that can simulate the brain will NEVER be able to predict what the brain will do before the brain actually does it, even with perfect information about the brain's current state.*

This means that even if there is no such thing, technically, as free will, for all intents and purposes free-will exists.


*I have no guilt about holding this position as scientist as it is potentially falsifiable.
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Re: Free Will?

Postby Tchebu » Tue Dec 11, 2007 12:47 am UTC

But brains constantly predict what other brains will do... everytime you guess someone else's intentions, or their reaction to a situation, you predict what the other person's brain will do. On a gross scale of course, and with quite a big margin of error, but nonetheless...

Or do you mean predict as in describe perfectly the whole scheme of neuron firings?
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Re: Free Will?

Postby Rex Idiotarum » Tue Dec 11, 2007 1:02 am UTC

Okay, let's presume for once, that omniscience is possible. I'm not saying that God exists or not, just that there is a finite, if vast, amount of knowledge in the Universe. Therefor, this being can even predict butterfly effects and such with perfect accuracy. This being, with it's ability to know everything about the universe as it currently is, has the mental capacity to predict your reactions, perfectly.

Is it possible that such a creature exists? That one being can know everything in the universe?
If it is possible. Congratulations, your Will, no matter how Free, is still predictable.
If not possible, stop being a difficult prick.
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Re: Free Will?

Postby Ari » Tue Dec 11, 2007 1:16 am UTC

Rex Idiotarum wrote:Okay, let's presume for once, that omniscience is possible. I'm not saying that God exists or not, just that there is a finite, if vast, amount of knowledge in the Universe. Therefor, this being can even predict butterfly effects and such with perfect accuracy. This being, with it's ability to know everything about the universe as it currently is, has the mental capacity to predict your reactions, perfectly.

Is it possible that such a creature exists? That one being can know everything in the universe?
If it is possible. Congratulations, your Will, no matter how Free, is still predictable.
If not possible, stop being a difficult prick.


I'd absolutely concede that. But such a being would have to understand my decision-making process perfectly to be able to predict it with perfect accuracy. That's why only those very close or devoted to us can predict our behaviour reliably.
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Re: Free Will?

Postby Yakk » Tue Dec 11, 2007 4:14 am UTC

As far as we can tell, the information about the universe you can know has certain limitations.

Namely, the QM limitations. Alternatively, what we experience is actually a single universe history from an infinitely branching infinite dimensional swarm of universes.

What is worse is that QM works both ways with pretty symmetry. So if you know the state of something, you still cannot know what state it came form: you can only know what states it could have come from. And mathematically, it came from all of those states.

Tie this onto the "max entropy in a region of space is determined by that space's surface area", and you have a holographic universe in which the interface between two regions completely determines what one region is to another.

And everything consistent with that interface has and is happening on the other side of it, in an absolute sense of consistent. When two inconsistent results interact with the surface of the region, your perceptions split, and "you" follow one of the paths and can no longer interact with the other (and another "you" follows the other).

Total knowledge of the universe is either a flash-bulb of one set of membranes between regions (which leaves a lot undetermined: many things can be happening, and many things can happen, even with this perfect information), or a complete knowledge of the infinitely branching infinite universe structure that describes all that is, could have been, and might be from our perspective.

That later "complete" knowledge is, as a side effect, the universe itself in a sense: in order to fit the information required to describe the universe at that level, it has to be the universe, or something strictly larger and more complex.

Now, if that larger and more complex thing can interact with the universe, it no longer contains the information needed to describe the universe due to that interaction. So either that thing both contains and is a subset of the universe (ie, is the universe), or it is divorced from the universe (ie, it doesn't interact with it)...

Now, by "interact" I mean something a bit strange. Because it could rotate the universe-knowledge in a certain way and see what would happen if a large green stone giant appeared in washington DC and started preaching the true word of bob. Except it wouldn't be "adding" that giant: it would simply be turning the universe and looking at the parts of it where the large green stone giant happened, and whatever other parameters it wanted to specify. The future would then include everything from what you might expect to happen, to the large green giant disappearing and the memory of it being erased from everyone as if it never happened... Did I mention that this description of the universe is large? (Those are acts of astonishingly low probability, but as yet the QM models haven't found a threshold at which astonishingly low probability events can be shown not to happen...)

But ya, that's going off into the interpretation of current physics, which is a weird place.

From that perspective, do we have free will? There is knowledge that could describe the distribution of our choices exactly given their inputs. This knowledge is more complex than all of the knowledge that human kind has ever written down, spoken, or verbalized in thought and dream. And it still could not say, with certainty, if you will pick a blue slipper or a green slipper when you go to the store.

My position remains that a low-order model places free will into your actions, and that we lack both the tools and the knowledge to build a usable model that is high-order enough for free will to be removed from the model. But I thought this was a cute look at what might be meant by "omniscience", given certain assumptions about the universe that seem reasonable. :)
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: Free Will?

Postby Rex Idiotarum » Tue Dec 11, 2007 4:28 am UTC

Hm... So, you think that everything that is imaginable is also existing?

Well, your model still assumes Choice. What we're saying is that due to the addition of the entire subjects background, that people are programmed. And when you run a program multiple times without relying on outside variables, that program will repeat itself the same way. Every time.

There is no fork because the program will act the same way every time it's put through.

On top of that, using Science to prove metaphysics often leaves you with the notion of a Sci-Fi-y feel. QM accounts for how atoms are made, and can explain how you can have shows like Sliders exist. ((I will always miss you.)) But ultimately, how can you prove that the concept of the Ego actually exists, or if we're just in a Movie shot from First Person Point of View, with that?

What I mean is, what makes our choices and thoughts so special to deem a split in the universe at every level? Why would our minds be powerful enough to do that?
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Re: Free Will?

Postby Yakk » Tue Dec 11, 2007 5:14 am UTC

Rex Idiotarum wrote:Hm... So, you think that everything that is imaginable is also existing?

Well, your model still assumes Choice. What we're saying is that due to the addition of the entire subjects background, that people are programmed. And when you run a program multiple times without relying on outside variables, that program will repeat itself the same way. Every time.


Except as far as we can tell, the program isn't running in a deterministic programming system. If you know everything there is to know about an atom of uranium, it's entire history, every bit of information that can be wrung out of it -- you still do not know when it decays. You can tell the probability it will decay over a certain period, but that's it.

Humans are more complex that uranium atoms, but unless there is some as-yet-undetected divorce between QM and macro, the only way to predict human action is to run the complete "all possible histories" of every particle in a Human. This will result in a very high probability of certain actions happening in the short term from complete information (but this certainty will diverge over time, due to non-linear nature of a human: small micro differences will expand into complete chaos), but still no certainty.

It is possible that there is an as-yet-unknown magic action that divorces the QM level uncertainty from macro-level behavior, but people have looked for it and it has never been found. (QM like strange behavior has been found to hold on 60 atom molecules! (And yes, that's still a small number: I did say people are looking for it. But interaction causes QM alignment, which makes detection of strong and delicate QM states in macroscopic structures exceedingly tricky...)

There is no fork because the program will act the same way every time it's put through.


And that is not describing our universe, as far as we can tell. Any description of the universe with sufficient precision must contain probabilities and distributions of results.

Imagine if the only hardware in existence has a 1% chance that after each instruction, a given bit will flip state. Now you can build up complex error correction to detect and eliminate these tricks, but you cannot make the computer guarantee behavior.

What is worse is, as far as we can tell, the computer instead examines the result of all pairs, triplets, quintpulets, etc of bit flips on each cycle. It then uses subtle rules to interact these results. When you look at the output, the information from all of the flipped is then selected from, and the result is displayed.

Even worse, the computer has no discreet addresses, but rather a continuum tape. And the addressing method is imprecise. And the computer calculates the results of all tape states and random tape noise while you are running your program, and ...

See, things are weird. If you try to build a thought experiment based on the premise of "the world is clockwork", you end up with a problem, because human understanding of the world moved beyond the clockwork over a 100 years ago. One might as well be doing Philosophy based on the 4 Greek Elements and the Alignment of the Crystal Spheres and their impact on the human condition...

On top of that, using Science to prove metaphysics often leaves you with the notion of a Sci-Fi-y feel. QM accounts for how atoms are made, and can explain how you can have shows like Sliders exist. ((I will always miss you.)) But ultimately, how can you prove that the concept of the Ego actually exists, or if we're just in a Movie shot from First Person Point of View, with that?


Well, it can tear down models of reality which are not very consistent with how the universe works. :)

As a bonus, by doing Philosophy based on the best approximations of what the universe actually is acting like, you have a better chance of being able to say "Ancient Philosopher X is a fool!" And calling Philosophers fools is an amusing pass time. All the great Philosopher agree!

What I mean is, what makes our choices and thoughts so special to deem a split in the universe at every level? Why would our minds be powerful enough to do that?


Nothing. The rock next to you is making the universe split just as much as you are (well, maybe more, maybe less: at the scales involved, both are ridiculously infinite). If you take the "integrate over all possible paths" part of QM seriously, you end up with the Many Universes interpretation, which results in "oh my god, the universe is large".

Many Universes is, as far as I know, the only "deterministic" interpretation with decent following (can anyone correct that if I'm wrong?). There is at least one very wonkey "hidden variables" theory (with very strange hidden variables, no locality, and other wonkey issues...), a number of non-deterministic ones, at least one where "consciousness" is something special and magical (which seems egotistical), and a bunch of other ones.

For the most part they are mathematically identical, they just interpret the predictions differently. I like M-U, because there doesn't seem to be a term that makes "more orthogonal" terms disappear from the system: for M-U to be false, the "nearly orthoginal" universes would have to be basically as real as the ones that "exist", and then "poof" they go away when they become orthoginal. That seems inelegant: why throw away the infinite amount of nearly-orthoginal data just because it falls out of reach?

In any case, we are talking Philosophy, so speaking about Fiction seems appropriate. And as we are talking about the Philosophy of the physical world seems to mean we should pay some attention to the physical world's physics.

(And while sliders is cute, it isn't very hard spec. fic.: it is a QM-opera. ;) Flatland, Permutation City, or Death and What Comes Next are all harder examples of the topic...)
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: Free Will?

Postby Rex Idiotarum » Tue Dec 11, 2007 6:30 am UTC

Then we are back on Probability. Randomness != Free Will.

And Moreover, if there is a One Percent Chance for error, it is not part of the original variables of the Program. 1 + 2 = 3. 1 + 2 = 3. 1 + 2 + X = Where the hell did the X come from?

To tear apart the world, as I conceive it, every choice is the result of an infinite amount of T/F condition statements, and anything's reaction is only able to be calculated upon the direct result of all those T/F statements, and each of those are a direct result of another infinite series, upon which another infinite series exists.

The unfortunate thing about Quantum Theory and Unified Theory is that there is often very little proof upon what people are talking about, and in ten years, they could be proven wrong, like the sciences before them. But that is the problem with a lot of theories, Scientists cling to them like a religion, and others will proclaim that there is proof of it, like there is proof of God.

So, let's stay with what we perceive: I can put an Ice Cube in a glass for as long as I want. Probability indicates that eventually, putting the Ice Cube in glass, that the ice molecules will line up perfectly with the Glass', and the Ice will fall straight through. This may or may not be true. However, I will still be, every time I drop the Ice into the Glass, that the Ice will still not fall through the glass.

Possible, maybe, probable, also, maybe, but am I going to see it? I'm %100 percent sure I'm not. What will happen when I do? I really have no idea where I'm going with this... probably to say how relevant QM is in a topic about Free Will. As the last time I got into a discussion about it, we decided that because of the "Chaos" of Quantum Foam and the Butterfly Effect, a person's decisions would be impossible to predict. And again, I asked him what that has to do with Free Will.

But to bring back my Omniscient being, he would, no doubt take everything from the tiny 12th dimensional Strings, to Mars' position in Virgo into calculation about his knowing about your actions, and to him, even the accidental misfiring of neurons or the Ice Falling through the glass, how would he be surprised by that? I guess what I'm saying is, "Whatever happens, happens, and couldn't happen any other way." Because even with the thought of multiple universes, we still are down this road for a reason.
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Re: Free Will?

Postby Garm » Tue Dec 11, 2007 8:49 am UTC

Why does choice, assuming such a thing, have to be a yes or a no thing? All of you seem to be making the assumption that free will is essentially binary no matter the options. Everything is either yes or no, do it or don't. I, however, am quite capable of deciding to eat later instead of eating or not eating. Or maybe I can hold it until the next rest stop. A binary situation brings us to a dilemma which doesn't leave room for free will.

Free will isn't an absolute thing. It's not something that we have or don't have. Like most things in life, there's skill to free will. We have to learn how to make good decisions or bad decisions. Some decisions are easy, like do I eat Mexican or Thai food. Some decisions are difficult, like how do I tell my parents that I impregnated my girlfriend. There are lots of choices that can be made but not all of them need to be made and many of them may not even occur to the person who is making the choice.
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Re: Free Will?

Postby Maurog » Tue Dec 11, 2007 8:58 am UTC

Any amount of choices can be represented by binary flags. You have a million possible actions at every choice moment and you choose only one. The one determined by the function. Whether the decisions seem "easy" to you, the performer of actions, is irrelevant, as in the exact same situation, you would make the exact same considerations and take the exact same choice.

The fact that you will never have the exact same situation twice is also irrelevant.
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Re: Free Will?

Postby yy2bggggs » Tue Dec 11, 2007 1:39 pm UTC

What exactly is the difference between free will and will?

Specifically, what leads you to believe that your will must be unhindered to exist at all, and what exactly leads you to believe that if you're influenced, that entails you have no control over your actions?

I think it may help to treat the self--the entity that we'd like to claim is in control--as a real world object. After all, isn't it one? And if that's the case, doesn't control imply influence?

Someone convince me that there's even a logical possibility that compatibilism is wrong. Too many people seem to want to argue as if the existence or non-existence of "uninfluenced" will decides whether we do or do not have control over our actions. I say hogwash, and am calling you out.
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Re: Free Will?

Postby Rex Idiotarum » Tue Dec 11, 2007 3:21 pm UTC

There's an Ego that sees through these eyes, that may or may not be true. ((I'm not going to try to convince other Solipsist of my existence.)) But for all purposes, let's say it is true.

Okay, now that we have accepted that we have an "I" we must have free will, right? A Definite maybe. See, what we're trying to find out is if life is a video game or if life is a TV show. There is a being that watches my actions, and seems emotionally connected to the characters for some strange reason.

No matter how many times we watch that TV show, prerecorded and on a repeat, the characters will do the exact same thing.

No matter how many times we play the video game, the character will never do exactly the same thing. ((Depending upon the amount of control you have in said game.))

But again, it's a matter of perspective, and the one that thinks he's playing a video game may not realize that he's stuck in a cutscene, and the one that thinks he's watching TV may not notice the remote in his hands. *Shrugs* It's all about how you look at life.
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Re: Free Will?

Postby Maurog » Tue Dec 11, 2007 3:27 pm UTC

You have full control of your actions, they just happen to be deterministic based on complete input. The "self" is just one input of many, and the output is an action of this "self". You may be in control of your actions, but your memories and thoughts are in full control of you.

Do you claim to be more than a flesh construct with a mind encoded in its brain?
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Re: Free Will?

Postby yy2bggggs » Tue Dec 11, 2007 3:37 pm UTC

Rex Idiotarum wrote:No matter how many times we watch that TV show, prerecorded and on a repeat, the characters will do the exact same thing.

I submit to you that the same issue you're presenting exists if you substitute "recorded" for "prerecorded". Does this cause any problems for you?

In other words, suppose that at time T, I have "free will", and make a specific decision as a result of that free will, which we'll call D. Quite simply, record my decision at time T.

Time passes, and let's suppose it's 2 minutes later. Now, can I say that I had free will at time T? I know it seems like a silly question to ask, but look at the facts:
  • At time T, I chose D.
  • There's no time travel.
  • It is therefore a fact that I specifically chose D.
  • There's no possible way for me to choose a different thing, D', at time T.
I'll give you that, given the same exact circumstances again, it's possible that I make a new decision D'. But obviously I'm not exactly the same person either--I'm now a guy in the future of T. So that doesn't help.

But neither can I possibly decide to do anything other than D, at time T. The event is set in stone, much like your TV show. Remember, the question I put before you here, is whether or not you can meaningfully say that at any time in the past, you had free will. In other words, every analogy you can make to something being prerecorded, I can make to it simply being recorded.
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Re: Free Will?

Postby Rex Idiotarum » Tue Dec 11, 2007 5:28 pm UTC

Exactly. Do we control our actions, or do our actions control us?
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Re: Free Will?

Postby Ex Omni » Tue Dec 11, 2007 5:39 pm UTC

The more important question is: why must the concept of Free Will be even considered?

There is no evidence for or against the existence of free will, thus there is no debate.

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Re: Free Will?

Postby Yakk » Tue Dec 11, 2007 8:37 pm UTC

Rex Idiotarum wrote:Then we are back on Probability. Randomness != Free Will.

And Moreover, if there is a One Percent Chance for error, it is not part of the original variables of the Program. 1 + 2 = 3. 1 + 2 = 3. 1 + 2 + X = Where the hell did the X come from?


Are you attempting to simulate this universe or not? If so, without a random component (or something even more strange), you cannot simulate this universe.

To tear apart the world, as I conceive it, every choice is the result of an infinite amount of T/F condition statements, and anything's reaction is only able to be calculated upon the direct result of all those T/F statements, and each of those are a direct result of another infinite series, upon which another infinite series exists.


And this is not consistent with the current understanding of the universe. /shrug.

The unfortunate thing about Quantum Theory and Unified Theory is that there is often very little proof upon what people are talking about, and in ten years, they could be proven wrong, like the sciences before them. But that is the problem with a lot of theories, Scientists cling to them like a religion, and others will proclaim that there is proof of it, like there is proof of God.


And yet you claim that your Philosophical beliefs have more poof about them? They really do look like someone talking about the elemental humors and how they imply right action from the platonic solids holding up the crystal spheres...

So, let's stay with what we perceive: I can put an Ice Cube in a glass for as long as I want. Probability indicates that eventually, putting the Ice Cube in glass, that the ice molecules will line up perfectly with the Glass', and the Ice will fall straight through. This may or may not be true. However, I will still be, every time I drop the Ice into the Glass, that the Ice will still not fall through the glass.

Possible, maybe, probable, also, maybe, but am I going to see it? I'm %100 percent sure I'm not.


Now, let's presume you are wrong in your 100% certainty. Now you build a philosophical structure around that incorrect certainty. Is it unreasonable to say your philosophical structure is a case of GIGO? (Garbage in, Garbage out?)

What will happen when I do? I really have no idea where I'm going with this... probably to say how relevant QM is in a topic about Free Will. As the last time I got into a discussion about it, we decided that because of the "Chaos" of Quantum Foam and the Butterfly Effect, a person's decisions would be impossible to predict. And again, I asked him what that has to do with Free Will.


Because you said you had an omniscient creature who would predict what the person would do. I am simply claiming that, under the current model of the universe, one cannot make that prediction, even with perfect knowledge. If this omniscient prediction isn't important to what you where saying, feel free to say it again without that omniscient predictor...

But to bring back my Omniscient being, he would, no doubt take everything from the tiny 12th dimensional Strings, to Mars' position in Virgo into calculation about his knowing about your actions, and to him, even the accidental misfiring of neurons or the Ice Falling through the glass, how would he be surprised by that?


But that omniscient being, under current models, cannot predict the way the universe will behave: that being can know the entire state of the entire universe, and still not predict if you will buy the blue or green shoes next Tuesday.

I guess what I'm saying is, "Whatever happens, happens, and couldn't happen any other way." Because even with the thought of multiple universes, we still are down this road for a reason.


Once again, that isn't very consistent with what the current view of the universe is. Everything that is consistent with the current state of the universe may have happened, there is no way to narrow that down perfectly, and everything that could happen from the current state of the universe may happen. Even perfect knowledge of the state of the universe will not tell you with certainty if you will buy green or blue shoes next Tuesday, and it even wont tell you if you did buy green or blue shoes last Tuesday!

I am simply trying to state that if you try to state your case framed around "omniscient being who can take the state of the universe and determine what you will do next week", your case is (based on current understandings of how the universe works) pretty flawed, because that isn't how the universe works...

That is what my references to crystal spheres are about: by claiming deterministic behavior from the universe (which is required for some being to be able to tell how things will happen), you are invoking a premise as false as basing your argument on the alignment of platonic solids to crystal spheres and the 4 (well, 5) Greek elements. Sure, your conclusions could be right: but your argument is wrong on it's face.

Simply rephrase the argument without the deterministic assumption that one can predict events, even given perfect and total information about the current universe state and infinite intelligence.

yy2... wrote:But neither can I possibly decide to do anything other than D, at time T. The event is set in stone, much like your TV show. Remember, the question I put before you here, is whether or not you can meaningfully say that at any time in the past, you had free will. In other words, every analogy you can make to something being prerecorded, I can make to it simply being recorded.


And what is worse, it might be fundamentally impossible to demonstrate that the prerecording is what happened. Just as you cannot predict the future, you cannot determine the past. You might have a tape that seems to indicate what you did last week, and a memory of it: but the math works both ways. What happened in the past may not be static, but rather be anything that is consistent with what is happening now.

Maurog wrote:Any amount of choices can be represented by binary flags. You have a million possible actions at every choice moment and you choose only one. The one determined by the function. Whether the decisions seem "easy" to you, the performer of actions, is irrelevant, as in the exact same situation, you would make the exact same considerations and take the exact same choice.

The fact that you will never have the exact same situation twice is also irrelevant.


Given the exact same set of state, two uranium atoms will not decay at the same time. (Or the same won't the second time). There are featureless parts of the universe (with very little state) which can be shown to make different "choices" from the exact same inputs.

In essence, your premise looks incorrect. If your premise held, you'd have a point: but this is the wrong universe.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: Free Will?

Postby Garm » Tue Dec 11, 2007 8:46 pm UTC

Maurog wrote:Any amount of choices can be represented by binary flags. You have a million possible actions at every choice moment and you choose only one. The one determined by the function. Whether the decisions seem "easy" to you, the performer of actions, is irrelevant, as in the exact same situation, you would make the exact same considerations and take the exact same choice.


I disagree with your assertion that choice can be reduced to a function. I also disagree with your assertion that you have a million possible actions at every given time.

If Free Will were a function than it would necessarily be a composite function, for that is the only way to deal with a complexity of choices (huh, a complexity of choices. That's like a pod of whales or a pride of lions maybe. :D). Choice necessitates dependencies, however, so our function would constantly be changing. Not only that but since we cannot predict the future with any accuracy a large number of our function outputs would be indeterminate. Also since we either do not fully understand the past, or lens the past through our collected experience a certain quantity of our inputs are going to be indeterminate as well. Because of the dependencies of choice, our set of functions will further contain indeterminates. This leaves us with a range and a domain that are not well defined.

How does a function map an indeterminate value to a known value or another indeterminate? We make choices all the time that lead us to places that we cannot predict. So, I don’t think that choice can really be modeled by a function or a set of functions. Just to continue beating on this idea, however, in terms of functions, once our choice is made the switch has been flipped and we should know the outcome. There’s no branch of functional analysis that I know where one enters input to the function, says “well, let’s wait twenty years and see if that was a huge mistake.”

Not to say that the view of Free Will as a function is completely without merit. At any given time a human does not have, or does not realize that they have, a million possible actions from which to choose. This is a necessary and good thing. Too few choices and we get stuck, too many and we freeze up under the burden of choice. Being able to expand the number of choices when there are too few or to prioritize when there are too many is a very useful skill. Also being able to analyze what is effecting your decision (the inputs so to speak) is very valuable. Why do I have a desire to do this action? Is it a need or a want? Is it an external or an internal desire? Meaning is this something that I have generated a desire for or has someone told me that I need to do this. Am I actually hungry or did that Taco Bell commercial just make me want a burrito.

I disagree also, tho’ somewhat less solidly, with your assertion that any amount of choices can be represented by binary flags. Certainly we have the idea of positive or negative choice. The choice to either do or not do an action (go Yoda). But what about the category of rational or irrational decisions? We attach cultural meaning to these and so they could be categorized as being necessarily positive or negative but we seem to eschew typical judgment for reasons of sentimentality or situational complexity. Example: Errol Flynn in the role of Robin Hood climbing over the wall to see Maid Marian, irrationally dangerous but seen as good, dashing and heroic. Our perception of that choice is skewed by our emotional involvement.

I’m having trouble coming up with a good example of a ration decision that we see as being bad. Anyway, Hofstaeder discusses a third form of behavior in this category, that being Super Rational decision making. Essentially it’s a choice that gives the decision maker no benefit, or maybe even a detriment, but that benefits everyone else. Think Spock irradiating himself in Wrath of Khan. Suddenly we’re in a non-binary paradigm in terms of choice. Maybe a dimmer switch would work. :D
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