Determinism

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…

Let’s take a break from this topic for a bit.

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I think you’re looking at free will from a psychology standpoint. You are proving the point that you can exhibit awareness, but on an atomic level, the atoms are moving in deterministic ways. Given the state of atoms at the start of the universe, there is one and only one possible set of actions that can proceed. (Ignoring quantum physics for now) As impractical and theoretical this is, it is a fact.

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IMHO, that is a theory, not a fact. Not one that I disagree with, though.

The problem is that this theory may be unprovable.

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You bring up an interesting point. My concern though is that even if somehow there were quantum properties that meant the universe isn’t deterministic, and even if our brain could alter the state in some way, decisions are made before our conscious experience of them, so even in this case, I don’t think it would be free will entirely. However, that all lies on whether or not the universe is deterministic, so I am of course excited to see where this field goes.

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I don’t agree. (Or maybe I misunderstood your point).

  • If the universe is deterministic, we can’t have free will because our actions depend on prior effects.
  • If the universe is not deterministic, our actions depend on random chances, and we can’t have free will either.

The nature of reality is therefore not important to the question of free will. (Also, according to some physicists, even the collapse of the quantum wave function can be interpreted as a deterministic effect).

In both of the cases you outline - is there any difference to the agent in question?

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Yes, I agree subjectively that there is no such thing as free will, but I am not closed off to the idea that there may be quantum properties that we don’t yet understand. But in terms of my working knowledge, I am going to side with you here.

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That’s a good question. I think it depends on the level where you analyse the quantum function.

If for instance the agent considers what to have for lunch based on the state of its stomach, and the state of its memories (vast systems with gazillion molecules), the situation defaults to Newtonian physics, and so a deterministic reality.

But if the agent decides wether to have indian or chinese food based on the next side a photon is going to appear in a double-slit experiment, then that decision is purely random. The rest of the agent’s life will balance on a pure random effect.

Since that second situation is extremely exceptional, I’d say mostly no.

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I personally am still having a hard time finding the relevance of universal determinism to discussions about the brain…

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Dr Robert Sapolsky on behaviour

where you could also gather some insights and/or his view on the subject

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Speaking of Dr. Sapolsky, I think this lecture is also really relevant to the subject of determinism. In particular, around 1:07:38 where he explains the scale-free aspect of chaotic systems.

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I’m at the eighth lecture… I’ll get to it in a while ^^

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