Determinism

I’ve got a few thoughts about this “problem”. Since we know nothing about the structure of the universe ( many people sure they are but I really doubt), about how exactly human brain works - let’s start from the result of brain’s work. Result is - our culture, society, communication between people and so on. So - our consciousness is smallest part produced by our brain. Human brain is ancient machine for survival and reproduction, thousand of years passes and our society and culture is getting more complicated, our communication getting much more complicated (I’m talking about 3-4k years BC till now).

So now we dive into psychoanalysis: our consciousness is only few things which float to the surface of what we see, the only things which our inner mechanism allow to appear for successful survival (here I mean not only real SURVIVAL but our adequate interaction with people and society). Other things are hidden but also affect our lives, our decisions and our relations. Superficially and roughly speaking human being has huge amount of unrealised aggression, love, despair, fears, illusions and so on at the same time and the only way to function normally is to block part of it (here I mean things inside which constantly happens without external irritants, is our reaction to irritants are normal under certain circumstances - another huge topic). Which parts are blocking most (or completely) is result of our genetics and childhood and society.

I want to mention separately such a thing as an illusion. It is directly related to the topic under discussion. Illusion is when your expectation from your actions or from external events completely not related to the normal reality. As examples: you think money will make you happier, or another person will make you happier, or if you will know more about how human brain works you will be able to make you happier, or if you build real AI it will solve all the problems of humanity and make you happier, or if you marry (or give a birth to a baby) - it will solve all the problems in relations and make you happier, or if you buy bigger house (car, phone, yacht, plane etc) it will make you more happier. As you can see - illusions are everywhere, in any human action.

So from this perspective I see the next statements:

  1. Everything is predetermined - so we do not have options, we are puppets and we do not have any responsibility for our lives. It makes life easier.
  2. Everything is NOT predetermined - it scares. The responsibility for live and death are terrifying and it’s a reason why first statement more popular.

In reality you can’t claim that everything is determined or not. You just don’t know enough to be sure. Our observations are insufficient, our knowledges are changing every day, and human brain not perfect to make right conclusions about the world.

So I’m thinking that reality is determined and not determined at the same time. We think in stereotypes which has time frames (beginning and end of universe, birth of start and it death, sunrise and sunset and so on) and it’s normal, it’s a reason why we survived - we ( as any other intelligent animals ) understand that any process has initial data and result which determined by this data. And I pretty sure that human brain unable to work in other way.

Sorry for my bad english - I would like to say a lot more, but I can’t.

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I am reasonably familiar with brain mechanisms and topology and don’t see how your proposal might work. Perhaps you can elaborate? References to actual neurological mechanisms would be nice.

I have outlined my dumb boss/smart advisor model in part several times on this forum. Perhaps it’s time to work through a detailed exposition. The dumb boss is the subcortical structures that are the neural correlates of the subconscious.

I’m working with flawed archetypes, but I’ll give it a shot…

Imagine a grid of neurons representing desires along one axis and time on another. The most important desire is a drive towards continuity. We’ll say that is the simulation of you (and your world) in the present moment, some segments of time forward in time and some segments backwards in time since your last sleep. When the near future segment fires, it applies its desired outcomes to your model of the world and watches what the simulator (the rest of your brain) imagines will happen if it takes some set of actions… lets say the hungry you imagines eating the cake that is on the table… it sends back an emotional signal that the cake was yummy… a moment later, a more distant future you on the grid that represents the desire for self fulfillment sees a future where eating the cake has lead to a breakdown of your diet and sends back a signal that causes you to feel guilt… present moment you gets lit up and rather than experiencing the eating of the cake or the failure of the diet, simply experiences the emotional content of following those points on the grid to their conclusions and you decide that the guilt is not worth the yum…

In essence, by lighting up time slices of “you” that are able to pursue specific wants and are able to send back emotional results before being reset for new simulations, “you” (present moment continuity you) are left as a prioritizer and selector of next self future based on emotional signaling. The catch is that you can’t know whether you are you or you are a future cast because if a future cast is aware of its nature, there is no reason for it to stick to realistic scenarios (as opposed to simply ordering up all cakes all the time)… “You” also have to be limited to only receiving emotional feedback because if you actually spent your time living in those futures, you would likely get eaten by a tiger.

One thing I find funny about the whole system is that it seems that we’re low on archetypes, so we culturally tie certain emotional feedback to body parts… so your heart aches for a lover and your stomach wants the food… you are literally in a constant state of being dragged forward by cables cast by your future simulating selves and trying to decide which cables deserve you following them to their actual conclusions.

I suspect that there are enough connections along an axis of such a grid so that continuity you can potentially see the past and future simulations of other continuity you(s), so that you are able to personally imagine futures and pasts rather than only get emotional signaling from them… but I think the majority of the simulations are inaccessible to “you”.

None of this matches up with any part of the cortex that I am aware of. Not even a little.
First - mixing high level desires and a “time line” grid don’t really match up with any of the structures I am aware of. This tosses out much of your following description.

The closest mechanism to what you are trying to describe is the passive experience of the single you that is collecting all the perceptions (internal and external) and forming the “here and now” in the temporal lobe. This is the experience of you and there is only the single state that is the present. This is digested to a more compact form and stamped in the hippocampus. As each episode is experienced the emotional subcortical structures overlays that memory with the sensation that the episode was “good” or “bad.” Each day the buffer of these experiences are pushed back onto the cortex during sleep.

There is no time slicing. There is no slices of you.

The weighting of selection for action is the overlap of current needs and perceptions. (internal and external). These perception are an active recall process (memory) of both the external perception and internal recall which also calls up the good/bad weighing on the memory/perception that is being weighed for action selection in the forebrain.

There are no multiple simulations - the closest you get to that is the cycles of action unfolding in the forebrain that is projected to the sensory stream to be perceived just the same way as an external perception. This can trigger new internal action selection and so on. We usually call this thinking.

I feel like you are completely missing subconscious processes…

For example, you are looking at a table that has cheese and cake on it. You can practically taste the cake in your mouth… who chose to imagine the cake rather than the cheese?

You agree to help your mother-in-law hang curtains, but you only help half heartedly… who’s keeping track of your denial about hating her thereby causing you to be passive-aggressive.

Who is driving the car while you’re imagining the fantastical world being described by the book on tape you’re listening to?

When you’re standing at a high balcony, who’s decision is it to imagine what it would be like to jump?

Who decided to block out that one time when you did something really foolish in high school or some of the truly terrible things you might have said to your parents?

Who’s filtering things that are right in front of your face because you’re focused on some other thought? Why did wearing red appeal to you more than blue today?

When you take a dissociative drug and forget that you’re a human and your own name… who are you? Are you still you? Who’s driving your body?

Why is it that a psychologist can bring about resolution by reminding you of a long buried memory.

These phenomena are all real things and are real aspects of the subjective conscious experience and any theory of brain to mind mapping that is not able to recreate them is going to be lacking an important set of machinery from the human brain.

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And I feel you are unaware of the division of labor between the subcortical structures and the cortex.

The thalamic nuclei and amygdala (subcortical structures that are the bulk of the subconscious) have no idea what a piece of cake or cheese looks like. They have no idea what your mother-in-law looks like; they have no idea what your social obligations are. They have no idea what is work or play to you. Mental projections, social interactions, mental experience - all are perceived and digested and spoon fed to the subcortical structures by the cortex.

What the cortex does learn is how to break these things down to the point where they can be matched up with an ignorant tyrant that can only make the most simple of decisions. These primitive decisions are elaborated into the complex actions that we learn as we transition from a helpless baby to the wonderfully nuanced humans that we are.

To get some idea what the subconscious really is all about - look at any newborn baby. At this point the primitive brain is in the drivers seat.

These old subcortical structures know hunger and thirst and cold and hot and salty and sweet and bitter and pain. They have very simple visual primitives like general faces and expressions. They know happy and sad and anger and curiosity. A few built in instincts and reflexes. Stuff what babies know. And not much else.

The cortex learns to layer behaviors on top of these primitive actions but never forget that the old part of the brain is firmly in the loop - all perceptions are simplified and presented to this old part of the brain and it makes it’s animal decisions. No action ever originates in the cortex - it is a strictly a passive processor. We take these orders from the thalamic nuclei and and make it happen.

This is you - with a fancy veneer of leaned human perceptions and behaviors on top. This partnership is the you that you are asking about. A dumb boss with a really smart advisor. It is a wonderfully close and finely tuned relationship. It took your whole life to learn it. From both the inside and outside the division of labor is hard to discern. Researcher have teased apart some of the dividing line and it is clearly there if you know how to look.

After sleeping on it, I feel like we might be closer to being on the same page than we realize…

I don’t think your consciousness ever actually visits the cortex. I think maybe the thalamus represents the simulator that I’m talking about, but correct me if I’m completely off the rails…

So, I think that there is A the “real” brain… one that you personally never experience that receives direct inputs and is tied to the outputs and is equivalent in it’s direct interaction with the world to the wiring of a beetle… Then there is B (what I think of as the simulator…) this place is sometimes lit up as a fair representation of A but can also be made to be any simulation of A as projected from C (maybe the cortex?)… finally there is D (maybe the hippocampus? The dumb boss in your lingo) that is watching B at all times and issuing requests to C and A. C being the smart advisor that communicates back to D through projections on B.

So basically, I’m thinking that all of what you think of as your consciousness is residing in D.

When I am saying time slices on the simulator, I think that C uses B to test out theories about the “real” world, but that D doesn’t get to see those simulations unless there is something weird going on chemically…

The exploration of neuroscience continues …
Nothing enters experience unless it has cortical representation; there must be an activation pattern in the cortical sheet to be registered in the temporal lobe as experience.

Possibly the best way to envision the hipppcampus / entorhinal cortex is as a layer “behind” (next to?) the cortex with the EC part acting as carbon paper to force a temporary copy of the temporal lobe onto the hippocampus during the day, and the contents of the hippocampus going the other way at night. This is more of an artifact of how our memory works than some sort of simulation device. Note that patient HM did not need a HC/EC to function in the way you are describing. He could not form new memories but he was capable of many actions without this.

As far as a “simulation” goes - I have never seen anything that supports this in more than very limited cases where you “think” and explore higher dimensional spaces in your memory.

Let me give you an example that contrasts this idea with what I think is actually happening.
Setting: You are sitting at your desk at work and your body has been filtering water into the bladder. Your blood is slowly shifting to a more saline condition that you register as thirst. Your bladder is sensing distension that you register as having to pee. Your computer screen is partially filled out and your social expectation is that you are successful in your employment so you keep getting paychecks and support your shelter and mate - conforming with expectations of your tribe with all the positive social affirmations that come with that.
You are processing all these sensation and the body sensors have a fairly direct connection to the thalamus nuclei. As all this is collected and represented in the temporal lobe the lower level body sensors (bladder and thirst) are also projected to the cortex to be registered as sensation.

Your way: You are constructing vast numbers of simulations that include going to lunch, punching your boss for making you work, peeing your pants, going to the water cooler, going to the bathroom, dancing on your desk, quitting your job, jumping from the office window and ending it all, leaving work and laying down in your bed at home, leaving work and watching a movie, leaving work and watching a different movie, going skydiving, (the list of possible actions at this point is really big - you can continue to add these as your imagination dictates)
You weigh all the alternatives in some sort of vast simulation and balance the risk/reward from all these and come up with the highest value for going to the restroom. I am not exactly sure how your system accounts for the intermediate goals of navigation but assume that all the goals are run again as you progress, once the bladder signal is less your run the simulation and the water cooler now is the highest ranked goal so you go with that. And then going back to your disk wins …

My way: the present state is registered in the temporal lobe. The body sensors are being registered and are ranked according to which is signalling the loudest. The thalamic nuclei are weighting the current needs and picking the action selection that most closely matches this need. It signal this selection by pushing out some action activation to the forebrain. At the current time the rewarding action of getting that one last screen filled out is being activated by the ritual parts of the lizard brain that this being projected to the forebrain and elaborated into the script for action. In this case it is the nested habits of being at work and the sub task of what you have learned as your job. The little reward of working on some task and completing it is the current sub-task and as you register the part that you have learned is the reward state (screen completed) the task state restart and is weighed against the pressing need to pee. Your action selection by the thalamus is now weighed higher for starting the peeing task. This script is matched with the sensed surroundings to find the closest matching combination of scripts that can match the need to the perceived environment. You select the script for peeing with the sub tasks of navigating to the bathroom and sub-sub-tasks of getting up, walking, doors, and so on. When you complete the peeing task the thirst sensor now is the highest priority signal (competing with going back to your desk) and it starts to project the needs for drinking. Again you match up your internal knowledge of where water can be found with your sensed environment and select the task of drinking with the sub-tasks of navigating and so on. Once you have satisfied the thirst need the ritual of work resumes as the highest priority task …

As I understand this - the needs sensors, learned scripts (rituals) and values of the scripts, are combined to select actions. The goals and associated weighting of the cost of access are not simulation but simple summing and selection. This summing is done at the cortex level and the subcortical structures make the choice from the alternatives presented by the cortex. There is an evaluation process where the needs are presented to the forebrain and a competitive process matches up the possible choices with the current perception. I have to point out that this is NOT a simulation but an analog weighting and selection. After all - this is being done with nerves that sum inputs and fire if the inputs exceed a certain threshold.

The ability to allow the activation to be projected back to the stored memories and add additional perception (memory) by considering costs of sub-tasks (thinking) is the closest this ever gets to simulation. I see this as a different thing as the search tree is driven by the weighted needs. It ends up doing about the same things but the mechanisms are very different. Projecting your “self” through all of search space and settling on the most appealing is distinctly different from having some need combine with with perception to select the best fitting action (lowest cost) from your learned repertory. I can elaborate on the the selection method in the forebrain but this is getting to be a fairly long Wall-Of-Text at this point.

What was your consciousness doing in all this?

  • “Let me get this one last thing entered, then I will go pee.”
  • “Woo hoo - got another one done!”
  • “Really gotta pee”
  • On the way back, “oh - I could go for some water - better stop by the cooler.”

All the steps in-between are on auto-pilot and not a lot of thinking going on.

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Relevant to to the current focus of this thread:

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I think thinking in terms of chosen fate, chosen deterministic fate, might allow us to somehow square free will in. Like a road where you know the paths leading to good and bad places, the route, and actions, normally deterministic(though sometimes factors exist outside your control), you choose perhaps in a deterministic way to move towards a good end good location good fate, your ability to reevaluate this at any moment prior to reaching your fate, even if it is using deterministic notions to evaluate goodness, is the core of your free will. You are choosing your fate, your deterministic path, and can reevaluate it.

Do not think the decision algorithms have to be fundamentally random or unpredictable for the ability to evaluate and reevaluate the future course of action as being considerable as free will.

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What you descibe is called compatibilism. Compatibilists understand the deterministic nature of reality, but they don’t want to give up the notion of personal responsibility. (Or sometimes even personal sin).

The evaluation and reevalution is done by a deterministic system. And even if it is iterating several times, the outcome of your evaluation is going to be based on the stored information your brain accumulated over time, mixed in with external stimuli. Ultimately it is the result of the physics of reality. You have no control whatsoever over that outcome.

It’s a somewhat deeper level of the same illusion.

So at best you feel happy by feeding your pride. At worst you fool yourself into the wrong kind of morality.

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This whole “all the universe forces this moment” thing is seriously tiresome.

The argument is offered that if you knew all the movement and energy of all the particles you could calculate the outcome and there is no free will. Sure - if you did somehow and quantum uncertainty was not a thing - you could do that.

Forgetting for the moment that there is absolutely no conceivable way to gather this information and process this as a simulation you still have to contend with the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. You really can’t know these things to the degree necessary to make a useful prediction.

In theory and in practice the underpinnings of the determinism argument are dubious at best so determinism is sterile and useless.

Science is pretty good at explaining what happened and not so good at predicting the outcome of complex systems - like humans.

People perceive and decide based on experience. From an engineering point of view this has predictive power so this is what I am using.

The concept of Determinism has no predictive power; navel gazing philosophy does not inform my designs in any useful way.

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hidden variable theories are still not fully ruled out. A nobel prize winning physicist is working on such, and I think wolfram of mathematica fame among others also hold similar views if I’m not mistaken.

I’m not arguing that you need to be able to make the prediction. You’re both arguing free will from ignorance: “I don’t know what’s going to happen, so my choice must be free”.

That is ridiculous, and it’s not what I’m saying.

I’m saying that whatever decision you make, it is out of your control. If determinism is true (which I don’t know) then it is the only outcome that could have happened. If reality is random, then you still have no control over which outcome happens.

(On a side note: I have heard an argumentation that even the collapse of the quantum wave can be interpreted as a deterministic function).

In practice, I’d say for 99% of your decisions, you’re probably right. But for the most fundamental questions, with morality as the first, I think you are making a capital mistake.

I’m not interested in what you have for breakfast. I’m not interested in whom you voted for. I’m interested in how the neo-cortex works. I’m interested in how an AI is going to be built out of that information, and how this AI is going to shape my future.

On this forum we can not allow ourselves to fall to the vagueries of religion. We’re not allowed to become pray to our pride. We need to understand what is right and true.

Still useless sophistry. I have to perceive and make actions to survive. I need to make predictions both from a day to day survival point-of-view and from an engineering perceptive. It’s a very mammal thing to do.

As an engineer I have to design systems to perceive and act. For this to happen I have to design it a certain way and for that I have to assume that it acts on the model of perceive and decide.

Along comes you (and others like you) that make useless pronouncement such as “it is all predetermined” as if this is some profound statement. Does the predetermination aid me in any useful way? Does it offer even one line of code or one line laid out in a circuit? Will this predestination build anything for me if I don’t make the decision to act?

No?

Then in what way is this a useful theory?

Next I suppose you will tell me that the sun will morph into a giant red start someday and that everything we are doing won’t matter. Another utterly useless fact. Does that mean you stop going to work or even eat? After all - what’s the point?

You say the words but what are you doing about it? How should this change anything you or I do?

If it has no practical affect then it is … useless.

No I think it can be potentially known, and it is indeed deterministic and uncontrollable, only the illusion of control can be had. But that said if the control elements are internal even if it is not real control, the decisions can be viewed as acceptance of fate, even if that acceptance is forced, it could be viewed as a sort of free will, though I too dislike compatibilist notions.

Right now the laws of physics dictate what I can or cannot do. Once a computer is connected to my brain with AI, and enough security, I’m free to experience whatever I desire as I have full control of memory and sensation, of qualia, and can generate complex arbitrary sensations indistinguishable from real.

Perhaps I’m not truly free, in choosing an utopic cycle of experiences, but at least that state is quite different from one in which external forces determine the experiences had.

Not if you’re building a toaster, no. Or if you’re writing an app to find the closest pizzeria. Or if you’re printing glossy magazines full of ads for overpriced shoes and gold-plated wrist watches. That’s part of the 99.9% of decisions where it doesn’t matter whether you have free will or not.

Do you think Marie Curie envisioned nuclear energy while she was discovering radioactivity? Did George Boole think of digital computers when he developed binary logic? Did Isaac Newton predict ballistic trajectories when he came up with differential calculus? Did Archimedes, two millennia before him?

These people didn’t care about usefulness. They were interested in advancing science.

But you know what, @Bitking, we have enough toasters already. And doing the same thing over and over, that is kind of useless. :-).

But that’s why free will is an illusion. I do experience the feeling of being in control of my decisions. It’s just that I am rational enough to understand that it is not real.

And for the majority of my decisions, it does absolutely not matter. When I wake up, I decide what to wear. When I go for a walk, I decide which direction I go. When I watch a movie, I choose which movie. I enjoy the feeling of being in control.

But when we debate the real important problems, like migration policy, or copyright law, or perpetual emprisonment, or abortion law, then it matters. And very soon we’re going to have these debates with an AI at the head of the table. I think it’s worth preparing for that.

How is it different? How would you be more free?

Nice try - still not useful. Get back to me if anything useful pops up.

I explained why it is important to me. You said it was “hard to follow”. Maybe we should leave it at that…