Free will?

  • Thread starter AlanPartr
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  • #76
If we did not have free will, it would be impossible to predict ANY future events*. This is absurd. Therefore, we have free will.
I think the problem most people have with determinism is the scale on which it is played out. Yes, you can 'choose' between door one and door two. But take a step back and look at what led to that decision. Now take another step back, and another, and another, etc...........

The events that you speak of are future events only because we haven't conciously experienced them yet. In classical physics everything is determined. That has been improved upon,... in special relativity for anything moving at the speed of light time is non-existent, everything just is. Then comes quantum mechanics. In QM you can substitute classic particle trajectories with wavefunctions, and the same deterministic principle holds. The one hope that free will has (as far as physics is concerned) is whether or not human observation has something to do with a quantum wavefunction collapsing into an observable state. I suppose this is possible but I am not going to leap at it just because I want free will to exist (which I do).

Anyway if you are going to talk about events and our influence over them, you might want to look at the bigger picture. It may seem that you have control over the outcomes of certain events, but the only event that matters (the universe) seems to be indifferent to what you or I think.
 
  • #77
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In classical physics everything is determined.
"As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality." --A. Einstein.

How does the mathematical model of something being deterministic prove that what we are observing is deterministic?

My major problem with science is the assumption that what has been observed up to this point is what we would observe anywhere in the universe at any time. In short, the use of inductive reasoning. What constitutes proof is vastly different for you and me and I have yet to see what to me would constitute a proof of no free will. As you may know, under the thread "destiny", I believe that we have limited free will; not no free will and not total free will.
 
  • #78
"As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality." --A. Einstein.
"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one."--A. Einstein

"For we convinced physicists, the distinction between past, present, and future is only an illusion, however persistent."--A. Einstein

Fortunately the greatest genius ever still has his faults as with this statement, "I am convinced that He (God) does not play dice." and the refutation of the EPR paradox by John Bell.

I did not know that was you stance (limited freewill) but I still believe the limited aspect of freewill is a left over of some human yearning for control. Do you believe this because it pains you to think we have no control. Intuition won't allow many of us to even consider this idea. My distrust of intuition is one of the reasons my opinion is what it is.
 
  • #79
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The reason why I believe what I believe is irrelevant. My arguments stand on their own. I secretly believe that we don't have free will but shh don't tell anyone. It's just not for the reasons a scientist might suggest. My brain tells me that we have limited free will but my intuiton tells me that we don't have free will.
 
  • #80
Alright, you people are physicists and you are approaching the subject from what I feel is the wrong direction.

I'm a computer scientists, so my intuition tells me to compare the human mind to a computer.

Imagine that the brain functions this way:
[input: sensory input, past experiences, instincts] -> [decision making process] -> [output: decisions, actions]

This is a greatly simplified view of the brain and it leaves out two essential components. One is the "logic" department, which calculates causality based on what it knows. (I have an urge to write a really big rant with examples here, but it seems that noone has even bothered reading my last 3 huge posts in this thread, which show that there is no free will, so I'll keep this short)

The logic department is used by the decision making process to choose the most valuable outcome.

The other is the "I" department. The thing that makes it unique is that it's like a tiny copy of the decision making part and acts as a sort of fail-safe. It is aware of some of the input, some of the output and it has its own logic unit, which is used to see if the output was caused by the decisions made or how the input could have caused the output. It basically sits there and analyses the work of the decision making process without being fully aware of all the input and while taking into account the feedback that decisions have generated. (Thus optimizing the decision making process for the future.)

The "I" department offers "second guesses" -- thoughts like "what if I had instead chosen action X -- would it have been more beneficial to me?" and "the current input is Y and logic would dictate that Y is usually followed by Z, so the future must hold Z." And, of course, the "I" department can synthesize input to the decision making process -- things like "Z should come in the future, do THIS to prepare for it."

Whether the world is fully deterministic or not is VERY irrelevant when it comes to "free will". The truth is that your brain is simply an organic machine. The notion of "free will" is absurd, since it only emerges from a set of logical processes that are tied to each other and that are trying to predict the future by reflecting on past events and experiences.

The key to understanding it all is to "dissect" your brain -- a simple neural network wired in complicated ways -- and to step back and to look at all the input that might have caused some decision to be made. Step on the metalevel and look down.

Coming back to "non-deterministic free will"... So what if it was proven that the universe is not deterministic and that there are "random" quantum effects? What then? How the hell do you suppose that proves you have free will? The ONLY thing it does is offer a random element to the decision making process. It does not wire your mind to some "cosmic pool of free will for sentient beings". Hell, "randomized algorithms" are used in computing, even. Mostly for NP-* problems like the travelling salesman one. They can be very effective.
 
  • #81
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kernelpenguin said:
Alright, you people are physicists and you are approaching the subject from what I feel is the wrong direction.

I'm a computer scientists, so my intuition tells me to compare the human mind to a computer.
The human brain (note, brain, not mind) is comparable to a computer. A computer has no free will. Therefore, we don't have free will. Is that your argument?

Whether the world is fully deterministic or not is VERY irrelevant when it comes to "free will". The truth is that your brain is simply an organic machine. The notion of "free will" is absurd, since it only emerges from a set of logical processes that are tied to each other and that are trying to predict the future by reflecting on past events and experiences.
I'm not sure I understand this: Free will emerges from a set of logical processes or thought emerges from a set of logical processes? If this is the case, can you write down what those logical processes are?

The key to understanding it all is to "dissect" your brain -- a simple neural network wired in complicated ways -- and to step back and to look at all the input that might have caused some decision to be made. Step on the metalevel and look down.
That the brain operates like neural networks seems plausible but has not been proven. The brain is not fully understood so when you step on the metalevel and look down, you see a dense fog.

Coming back to "non-deterministic free will"... So what if it was proven that the universe is not deterministic and that there are "random" quantum effects? What then? How the hell do you suppose that proves you have free will? The ONLY thing it does is offer a random element to the decision making process. It does not wire your mind to some "cosmic pool of free will for sentient beings". Hell, "randomized algorithms" are used in computing, even. Mostly for NP-* problems like the travelling salesman one. They can be very effective.
I don't think random behavior at the quantum level suggests that we have free will; so I agree with that. I don't think science can decide either way whether we have free will. By the way, no computer on earth thus far has ever used a random algorithm; they are just using chaotic but 100% deterministic functions that upon iteration simulate randomness. That's neither here nor there though as as you said, it has nothing to do with free will.
 
  • #82
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AlanPartr said:
some physicists believe that the wave function of matter/light collapses when a living thing is conscious of it, could this be a sign of free will?
I'm not sure I exactly understand your meaning in that sentence, do you care to explain? how does the collapse of matter/light determine the presence of free will?

I don't think free will is something that can be studied or captured by observation and experimentation. It's effects cannot be identified by the means of something else. Free will is what we believe to be "choice". People have "free will" as long as they believe and recognise that what they are doing, and what happens in their life is determined only by the choices that they make, rather than depending on some higher spiritual/universal force. Free will is more a conceptual idea within a person rather than a thing that possibly may/or not exist. How are we to determine whether free will actually exists or not? It cannot be tested, or calculated with formulae. I think Fate and Free Will exist in a state of harmony, where our ability to choose what we want to do determines the outcome of our fate. That is, Fate is actually dependent of Free Will.
 
  • #83
phoenixthoth said:
The human brain (note, brain, not mind) is comparable to a computer. A computer has no free will. Therefore, we don't have free will. Is that your argument?
That's pretty much my argument.

I'm not sure I understand this: Free will emerges from a set of logical processes or thought emerges from a set of logical processes? If this is the case, can you write down what those logical processes are?
Thought emerges from these logical processes. "Free will" is a notion which arises because a logical process cannot be aware of the inputs of any other logical process.

Consider the following model of the brain. There is one central logic process, which takes input from the senses and from instincts, then processes these and looks for the most beneficial solution and then reaches a "decision", which manifests itself as output. Meanwhile there are other similar logic processes, that have access to some of the input (not all) and can see some of the output (decisions). These also look at feedback to previous decisions in the input and then try to optimize the decision making process accordingly. (Learning from your past.)

(Um, yes, that sounds a bit incoherent... I'm rather tired right now and my previous posts in this thread have explained this idea already.)

That the brain operates like neural networks seems plausible but has not been proven. The brain is not fully understood so when you step on the metalevel and look down, you see a dense fog.
Well, I have a challenge for you. Can you define free will and come up with an example of free will, that could not be explained as several logic processes working in your brain?

Something original besides the lame old "I am faced with two doors, I choose to open the left one, but then go and open the right one, thus I have free will" crap would be nice. Things like that are just mind-numbingly boring.

I don't think random behavior at the quantum level suggests that we have free will; so I agree with that. I don't think science can decide either way whether we have free will. By the way, no computer on earth thus far has ever used a random algorithm; they are just using chaotic but 100% deterministic functions that upon iteration simulate randomness. That's neither here nor there though as as you said, it has nothing to do with free will.
Good point. Although, I'd like to point out that the level at which these "random" numbers are generated is outside the scope of the program which needs them. What I mean is that an "intelligent" program could do all kinds of analysis on the "random" numbers, but if these "random" numbers are generated properly (hardware interrupts, electric noise, keypresses, some algorithms, scrambled disk I/O, etc) then they will be truly random to the program and it would take an outside observer operating on a "higher level" to know that these numbers really are not random.

In the same sense that we could observe "random" quantum effects and consider them to be completely random, while in reality they could be created by some deterministic mechanism that follows laws we cannot comprehend.
 
  • #84
kernelpenguin
Alright, you people are physicists and you are approaching the subject from what I feel is the wrong direction.I'm a computer scientists, so my intuition tells me to compare the human mind to a computer.
I think I understand your reasoning, but wouldn't the human mind and computer be subject to fundamental physical laws?
 
  • #85
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kcballer21 said:
"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one."--A. Einstein

"For we convinced physicists, the distinction between past, present, and future is only an illusion, however persistent."--A. Einstein

Fortunately the greatest genius ever still has his faults as with this statement, "I am convinced that He (God) does not play dice." and the refutation of the EPR paradox by John Bell.

I did not know that was you stance (limited freewill) but I still believe the limited aspect of freewill is a left over of some human yearning for control. Do you believe this because it pains you to think we have no control. Intuition won't allow many of us to even consider this idea. My distrust of intuition is one of the reasons my opinion is what it is.
now, what if both ideas are correct??

i submit that ALL probable futures exist as potential and are valid. from that perspective you can argue that an event or future is predetermined.

i am saying that we have the freedom of choice to select that probable future or event that we wish to 'experience'. yes, they are all out there, but which do you want to physicalize?

again, the present is a product of a selected past and an expected future.

love&peace,
olde drunk
 
  • #86
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kernelpenguin said:
That's pretty much my argument.
I understand that reasoning but I just disagree. We have on one hand observables and on the other a mathematical model. In this case, the brain and neural networks. I just don't buy into the idea that every single property that mathematical model has must also be possessed by the observable.

Thought emerges from these logical processes. "Free will" is a notion which arises because a logical process cannot be aware of the inputs of any other logical process.
I suspect that you might be right but I think that's an unproven hypothesis. Just my opinion.

Consider the following model of the brain. There is one central logic process, which takes input from the senses and from instincts, then processes these and looks for the most beneficial solution and then reaches a "decision", which manifests itself as output. Meanwhile there are other similar logic processes, that have access to some of the input (not all) and can see some of the output (decisions). These also look at feedback to previous decisions in the input and then try to optimize the decision making process accordingly. (Learning from your past.)
Again, I'm not disagreeing that this is a model for the brain but I'm just not buying into the notion that all properties of the model must be possessed by the brain.


Well, I have a challenge for you. Can you define free will and come up with an example of free will, that could not be explained as several logic processes working in your brain?
There is strong determinism, in which everything is predetermined, weak predeterminsim, in which some things are predetermined, and no determinsim, in which no things are predetermined. I would define free will as either of the cases besides strong predeterminsim. I think that we can't be in strong predetermination (ie no free will) because of the following. If everything is predetermined, then I can't predict any act that I'm about to do for if I could, then I could change what I'm about to do, going against predetermination. I phrase it better under my thread "destiny," which has a similar theme. (Sorry if that didn't make any sense--I'm drunk right now :surprise: )

Something original besides the lame old "I am faced with two doors, I choose to open the left one, but then go and open the right one, thus I have free will" crap would be nice. Things like that are just mind-numbingly boring.
The idea is that if I have no free will, then I CANNOT know what door I'm going to choose which is absurd. Boring or not, lame or not, you cannot refute it by calling it lame and boring.

In the same sense that we could observe "random" quantum effects and consider them to be completely random, while in reality they could be created by some deterministic mechanism that follows laws we cannot comprehend.
I totally agree.
 
  • #87
phoenixthoth said:
I understand that reasoning but I just disagree. We have on one hand observables and on the other a mathematical model. In this case, the brain and neural networks. I just don't buy into the idea that every single property that mathematical model has must also be possessed by the observable.
That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying the brain, whether it's an exact copy of a mathematical neural network or not (I'd say it's not), acts like a machine, or to be more exact, like a network of machines all debugging eachother. If you have a single machine like this with a simple 'neural network' (if you will), you end up with simple behaviour. For example, primitive creatures that swim towards light and don't do much more. But if the brain acts as a self-balancing network of processes where each process mirrors, in a sense, others and tries to optimize others for the survival of the person, intelligent behaviour emerges.

I postulate that intelligent behaviour can emerge from any self-modifying system that is sophisticated enough.

And my model of the brain is just one such possible model of a system from where intelligent behaviour will emerge.

Now, if you look at the brain from outside, you see 'intelligence' and 'free will'. If you look at different neurons, you see them getting input, processing that and putting out output. My model of the brain just shows one possible (and highly likely) model of how 'intelligent behaviour' and the notion of 'free will' can emerge from such a deterministic system.

I suspect that you might be right but I think that's an unproven hypothesis. Just my opinion.
It is, at best, a good model that could be applied to AI research, but Hofstadter already proposed a similar system in his book "Godel, Escher, Bach -- An Eternal Golden Braid" which he described as consciousness, which mirrors itself and the world around it. My theory of the brain derives largely from that.

Again, I'm not disagreeing that this is a model for the brain but I'm just not buying into the notion that all properties of the model must be possessed by the brain.
I don't quite follow you here. What do you mean? That consciousness is located outside the brain?

There is strong determinism, in which everything is predetermined, weak predeterminsim, in which some things are predetermined, and no determinsim, in which no things are predetermined. I would define free will as either of the cases besides strong predeterminsim. I think that we can't be in strong predetermination (ie no free will) because of the following. If everything is predetermined, then I can't predict any act that I'm about to do for if I could, then I could change what I'm about to do, going against predetermination. I phrase it better under my thread "destiny," which has a similar theme. (Sorry if that didn't make any sense--I'm drunk right now :surprise: )
I think I have, in this very same thread, debunked a version of the above 'proof' at least three times. Let this be the fourth, then :P

You have two doors.
You have three choices: open left, open right, don't open either.
You choose to open the left one.
You consciously choose to ignore the left one and go for the right one.
You open the right one.
Hence, free will.

That last step is a leap of faith. What exactly is a 'conscious choice' anyway? There was a thought in your head saying 'I must prove that I have free will and I will do this by choosing the one the door that I don't want to enter'. Indeed, we have two inputs.

One input to your decision making process is a past decision saying 'I will open the left one' and the other input is 'if I have free will, I should be able to open the right one instead.' In your mind, the second input would hold more weight, so you go for the right one instead.

Now, how did you come to choose the right one eventually? Simple. Something affected you. Something in your past contributed to you choosing the right one. You might have chosen the left one at first because of the human instinct to feel that 'left is safer' (there are studies on this) or because you liked the door more, but you ended up going for the right one, because the thing that made you choose the right one had more weight in your mind.

Choices are reached based on input. Input does not have to be context-sensitive. Hell, even your childhood could contribute to which door you choose.

The idea is that if I have no free will, then I CANNOT know what door I'm going to choose which is absurd. Boring or not, lame or not, you cannot refute it by calling it lame and boring.
I've refuted such examples in three... wait... four posts already. And those have been point-by-point refutations based on logical reasoning.
 
  • #88
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So are you then saying that the brain is like a complicated machine, machines don't have free will, and therefore the brain does not have free will?


Again, I'm not disagreeing that this is a model for the brain but I'm just not buying into the notion that all properties of the model must be possessed by the brain.
I don't quite follow you here. What do you mean? That consciousness is located outside the brain?
That's not what I'm saying although it may be true anyway. I can see that you're armed with Occam's Razor, ready to cut away at any 'consciousness is located outside the brain' statements. And of course Occam's Razor is a perfect tool that is always correct. Irrelevant because I'm not asserting at this time that consciousness is outside the brain. Just saying that the brain need not possess every property of a model for the brain, whether the model be a neural network or a complicated machine. The principle property that I doubt transfers from the model back to the observable [brain] is lack of free will.


I think I have, in this very same thread, debunked a version of the above 'proof' at least three times. Let this be the fourth, then :P

You have two doors.
You have three choices: open left, open right, don't open either.
You choose to open the left one.
You consciously choose to ignore the left one and go for the right one.
You open the right one.
Hence, free will.
No that's not the argument; this is a straw man characterization of my proof. The kernel of the proof lies in one's flat out inability to know which door one is about to choose for if one did know what was going to happen in 3 seconds, one would have no reason not to change the supposed future. The argument is based on the absurdity of not being able to know which door one is about to choose.
 
  • #89
phoenixthoth said:
So are you then saying that the brain is like a complicated machine, machines don't have free will, and therefore the brain does not have free will?
Yes, I'm saying that the brain is a complicated, self-modifying, but deterministic machine.

No that's not the argument; this is a straw man characterization of my proof. The kernel of the proof lies in one's flat out inability to know which door one is about to choose for if one did know what was going to happen in 3 seconds, one would have no reason not to change the supposed future. The argument is based on the absurdity of not being able to know which door one is about to choose.
Do you consciously know everything that goes on inside your head? No.
Do you consciously know everything that affects your decision making? No.

If you do "change your decision", then how do you know it wasn't "meant to be"? In the sense that, how do you know that your brain was not working up to this moment, this new choice on an unconscious level? Once you become consciously aware of your decision, you can also do the opposite, but choosing that very same opposite is STILL something that is decided in your brain.

But since we don't know exactly what is going on in our brains and everything might just be predetermined with no randomness in the universe, we might just as well go around telling ourselves that there is free will even though the notion of 'free will' itself is pretty absurd.
 
  • #90
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kernelpenguin said:
Yes, I'm saying that the brain is a complicated, self-modifying, but deterministic machine.
How do you know that one essential property of the model, a complicated deterministic machine, namely that it is deterministic, transfers over to the brain? IOW, since the model is deterministic therefore the brain is deterministic?

Do you consciously know everything that goes on inside your head? No.
Do you consciously know everything that affects your decision making? No.

If you do "change your decision", then how do you know it wasn't "meant to be"? In the sense that, how do you know that your brain was not working up to this moment, this new choice on an unconscious level? Once you become consciously aware of your decision, you can also do the opposite, but choosing that very same opposite is STILL something that is decided in your brain.
How do you know it was "meant to be?" That's right, it's because what we use to model the brain is deterministic; still doesn't convince me that the brain itself is necessarily deterministic.

All I'm saying is that if we have no free will then that entails that we can not know what door we're about to pick. If you can accept that, then there's no problem with no free will. I myself cannot accept that and I view it as absurd.

But since we don't know exactly what is going on in our brains and everything might just be predetermined with no randomness in the universe, we might just as well go around telling ourselves that there is free will even though the notion of 'free will' itself is pretty absurd.
If we don't know what's going on in our brains, how can you possibly claim it must be a deterministic process?
 
  • #91
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.................

Does A machine have emotion or something other that it's normal programing afecting it's ations?This force is NOT CAUSED BY ANY EXTERNAL FORCE WHATESOEVER as in the force in question must be completly inside the machine the anwser is no a machine does NOT have anything like emotion therfore you arguing the "Brain is like a machine" is invalid A MACHINE DOES NOT HAVE EMOTION OR ANYTHING SIMILAR THE BRAIN DOES, LARGE DIFERENCE
 
  • #92
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What if fate exists and everything that has been made on this earth (be it trees, humans, birds, wasps) has a set purpose in life, and everything anyone or anything does or takes part in is premeditated?
Imagine sitting in the middle of the field. You pick one blade of grass. That was the blade of grass' destiny to be picked by you. Why? because thats how they want it.
What if we are all just like characters in a play, following the script, the stage directions, everything the director tells you to do.
What if you have no choice in the matter?
What if you can not be in control of your own life?
Everthing any one or anything does however large or small sets off a domino effect.
If fate exists then it may not be concentrating on running your life, but the greater meaning to the world.
What is the greater meaning?
Why are we here if we have no control over what we do?
Why are we here if it is already done?
If fate exists does this mean we are in a loop?
could we be living the same destiny over and over?
Or do they update the program make a few changes to get the outcome they want?
What is it they want?
Who are they?
God?
 
  • #93
InfPerf000
"fate" is simply a matter of geometry, speed and forces.
It does not exist
 
  • #94
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michelle, i believe we are here because nature is figuring things out.
once again i divide into objective and subjective..

the scientific world is nothing but a means to an end, and the end being giving us the illusion of free will.

the solution to free will lies in quantum mechanics i believe.
if it so happens to be that the quantum world is truly undeterministic, it owuld have huge impact on how chemistry and biology would work.
so if it was undeterministic, we couldnt foresee who would do what.
 
  • #95
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Yes, we only have the illusion of choice. it keeps us happy and makes us think that we have a chance to change our future.
 
  • #96
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ahhh yes.. another one of THOSE posts. Doesn't anyone ever get tired of these?

It's a stalemate, as it's been proven time and time again. For every point that can be presented to support the case, a counterpoint can be made for the other side. If determinism is true, then free will is a carefully constructed illusion. If free will is true, you cannot prove that you would have made a different choice, given that all events are known. Blah blah blah...

sorry, this is like the 20th thread I've seen in 2 years.

However, if free will were true, I'd will there not to be another one of these threads again :tongue2:
 
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