Hello. I’m new in htm community, my doubt is about htm brain model and its deterministic property. Could we predict our (brain) new state by evaluating the previous?


Our neurons are constantly predicting their next state, this is a central point of HTM theory and the HTM neuron model. But many of these states are representing reality through sensory input. The external reality they are trying to represent is non-deterministic, therefore the internal reality is non-deterministic. This is not a closed system. There must be action within some environment (reality) which the agent has no control over.

That being said, perhaps you could contrive simulated deterministic environments and say that HTM is deterministic, but this is not the way in which biology uses these algorithms, and I am not sure you would really be saying much.


Thanks, I have more doubt about free will. But first,I must read something about it. And I saw some comment about active dendrites make and breaks connections in learning, I want read about it.where do I find it?

The illusion of free will is one of my main interests. (It’s almost an obsession for me). Through the years I found this to be the best repository of information about what different philosophers thought about this subject:

In vivo (in reality):
Here’s a good synthesis about how synapses and dendrites change and grow, which is how our brain learns:
(The entire course is worth while, if you have the time).

In silica (how HTM does it in a computer):
Here’s an excellent (excellent!) presentation by @rhyolight

I also encourage you to watch the complete series. Did I mention it was excellent? ;-).


Thanks for the information.

I find the argument of free will being an illusion rather humerous. If my action didn’t originate from me, then who did it originate from? The argument seems to place undue weight on my global attention being fixed on an action before it can be considered “me” who did it.

If you think about it, almost anything of real consequence that I do will have entered into my global attention soon after it was decided. As such, a large number of my neural networks are recruited to attend to the action. This means the weight of these networks’ combined experience has voted and decided to continue executing on the decision. I didn’t have a moment of “wait, what am I doing?” and abort the action.

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I’ve come to find that too, but for the exact opposite reason as yours.

It’s a very old debated problem. Epicurus (341–270 BC) came up with the idea that the universe must be built out of indivisible elements. He called these elements atoms. And he reasoned that all these elements moved based on previous collisions. His students (the epicureans) thought that for free will there had to be an exception, so they decided atoms must have the property to sometimes change their course by themselves.

@rhyolight, that is priceless! :-D.


You seem to be looking at it from the “predestination” perspective, that everything which would ever happen in the universe was determined from the very instant it began. I don’t think we are even close to understanding the universe from that macroscopic of a level to be certain that all randomness is itself an illusion. I am looking at it from a much smaller and (relatively) manageable scale.

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There is a massive gulf between randomness and chaos.

Chaos is a result of complexity.

Randomness is the result of secrecy.

I would say that notions of free will are some cross product of secrecy with complexity.

You can eventually solve for most levels of complexity but there is no guarantee that you will ever uncover all secrets.

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No, I just mentioned some historical beginnings about the debate.

For me, randomness is not an issue. Whether reality is deterministic or not, there is no basis for free will either way. (Sam Harris has a fun thought experiment about that).

Now, I am pretty convinced. And I have heard and thought about tons of arguments. But I remain open-minded. That’s one of the reasons why I am so interested in it: I constantly hope to find novel view-points to think about. I’m not entrenched in this position, and I have at least one or two reasons to still doubt.

Could you expand on that, please? (No pun intended).

Isn’t that like asking me to prove the inexistence of god?


Sure, I am starting by placing the universal predestination question aside, and beginning with a much simpler fact that our bodies are designed in a way that makes certain assumptions about reality. Things fall down, time moves in one direction, etc.

One of those assumptions is that many things important for our survival are chaotic. Evolution is too slow to keep up with the chaos, and the specialists tend to die out in the long term. Thus a significant part of our behavior must be wired up as a response to our specific experiences.

This in turn makes each of us unique, and allows the concept of “me” to even exist. Since “I” am a product of my specific experiences, my behavior (and decisions) are specific to me. Thus I am responsible for my own actions.

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So, we’re honed accident evaders. Every succesful evasion is an act of free will. And when someone fails to evade the bus, does he choose to die? Or is his free will in pauze mode?

Cockroaches are very hard to exterminate. Evolutionary seen, they are amazing. They survived several mass extinction events. Does that give them free will?

How about a tic-tac-toe program? When the computer starts, it can never loose. Are those acts of free will?

Maybe we have different opinions of what free will is. In that case, fine. We’re complicated tic-tac-toe programs. Still programs though.

To me this I is a passenger in a unique vehicule he has no control over.

But I don’t try to escape responsibility. The illusion of free will is not a get-out-of-jail-free card.

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This actually gets directly to the core of our different points of view. It is the semantics of “I”. In my mind, this includes both conscious and subconscious components of my brain. My global attention system may be a mere passenger, but “I” also includes the network which initiated the decission and those which were recruited and came to a consensus on executing it.

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I have difficulty communicating abstract ideas like this sometimes, so describing it from another perspective might help convey my point.

Think about what the word “illusion” is in reference to. It is referring to the feeling one has of making a decision. It is a feeling that we are consciously aware of. There are other feelings that we are also consciously aware of. Touch, colors, pain, emotions, etc.

We become aware of these things when they enter our global attention space. They originate somewhere lower in the hierarchy of our brain, which means some period of time passes before we became consciously aware of them. Thus the awareness of a thing is a separate component of the system than the component which originated the thing.

In this system, the fact that I become aware of a feeling, means the feeling originated from somewhere else in the system. This is also true of the feeling of making a decision. When I feel as if I am making a decision, it means the feeling originated from a component lower in the hierarchy which was making a decision.

This other component is as much a part of “me” as the component which allows me to become aware of the decision originating from it. The question of whether or not “I” was in control depends on where you draw the boundary between what makes me “me”. To me it includes a lot more components of the brain than just the global attention space.

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See connection making/breaking neurons here:

Or whole zebrafish development here:

Free-will and determinism are primarily concepts from philosophy and religion, not science. Latest experiments indicate that Albert Einstein was correct, quantum mechanics was missing something that would explain why its formulas only provide mysterious probabilities:

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This of course is the predestination argument. IMO it is as much a belief as religion is. We are nowhere close to understanding the universe well enough to say definitively that every minute aspect of universe only ever could have turned out exactly as it has. IMO it is also somewhat irrelevant to the discussion of the brain, which is modeled as if it were capable of making decisions (even if ultimately the nature of the universe means that it really isn’t)



Or in other words an armchair-warrior level argument from ignorance that is sometimes used to make a religious debate look scientific, when it’s not.

The logical scientific answer is as you said “We are nowhere close to understanding the universe well enough to say definitively…”

I agree. In my opinion morning_star needs to add this to their playlist:

Maybe this one too:

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Predestined implies intent.
How “big” that intent depends on how distant that intent is applied.
The time scale is conceived to be as long as the Big Bang and as short as an ongoing manipulation of “random” events.
If you go back as far as setting the initial conditions and letting it rip you would have to anticipate a large number of interactions such as the creation of all matter from energy and all the transmutations in various stars going super-nova as part of events leading to this point. Such an intelligence to pull this off is so far from my experience as to be utterly incomprehensible.

As we pull the time horizons in you run into metaphysical problems such as how would such a metaphysical entity interact with matter in an unobservable way.

If there is no intention driving the course of action the the concept of predestination falls away.

If an agent is gifted with some innate wiring and programming the everything going foreword is nurture. What programming is instilled in the agent to perceive the environment and what behaviors are learned. Your “free will” is the learned values and behaviors. I see some colored light and decide to stop. Why did I do that? In a different universe that same light could mean go - the difference is in my programming. This basic concept can be extended through all my “decisions” and “values.”

in my opinion free will and true random number generation are in somewhat equal concept. so both are against laws of conservation of energy so in conclusion freewill is only a concept like perpetual motion.but I’m not sure about it.