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Thread: Free Will

  1. #1
    thinBasic MVPs danbaron's Avatar
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    Free Will

    I absolutely feel that I have free will. And, I absolutely want it to be true that humans do in fact have free will. But, I am perplexed about how free will could be possible.

    I'm no expert on this subject. I haven't read any of the books written on it.

    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_no...e+will&x=0&y=0

    There is a debate (I think both philosophical and scientific) about whether or not humans have free will. From what I know, on one side are those who intuitively feel that they have it. They feel that they make decisions all day, every day of their lives. They feel that when they do something, they had a choice, i.e., they could have chosen to do something else. For instance, if they come home from work, and turn on the TV, they feel they decided to do it, they could have chosen not to do it.

    I think that those on the other side of the debate would say, that, for instance, if someone comes home and turns on the TV, then, he could not have not turned it on then. In other words, according to the free will deniers, if time could be replayed over and over infinitely, human history would always be exactly the same, down to the tiniest detail. If at 3:09:47 PM, on 2011-02-09, I was at a particular place, talking to a particular person, and said, "Are those new shoes?", then, no matter how many times history was replayed (let's say) from the day of my birth, then, at 3:09:47 PM, on 2011-02-09, I would always be at the same place, talking to the same person, and in each instance would say, "Are those new shoes?". So, every "choice" I ever made, would always be exactly the same. I think the free will deniers use that speculation as evidence that free will is not more than imaginary. I think that for the free will deniers, the feeling of free will that humans seemingly all have, is only a feeling, and, is not an indicator of fact.

    My speculation is that most of the arguments for free will, are philosophical. I don't know about much scientific evidence to support its possibility. My speculation is that at least some of the arguments against free will are scientific. I have thought about it myself, and I have no idea how free will could be mechanically implemented. As far as I am aware, science knows about two kinds of physical processes, deterministic, and random. For deterministic processes, each event occurs in a chain of causation, and because of the prior event in the chain. It seems that all events at the scale that we normally interact with in life, are deterministic. Additionally, since the early 20th century, science has also known that at the quantum scale, events are random, they do not depend on a chain of causation, and their occurrences are absolutely unpredictable. The most information that it is theoretically possible to know about a future quantum event, is the probability that it will occur at a particular time.

    My assumption is that the human brain is an organic machine (I don't know what else it could possibly be). If it is a machine, then, I think it must function according to the same principles that other machines function according to. Machines are deterministic. Sophisticated machines can be programmed to appear to make decisions, but, they don't really. Instead, they automatically follow instructions, which can vary according to the possible situations which the programmers have anticipated. I'll admit that it is also possible for machines to behave randomly. For instance, it would be possible to have a machine do, "A", when a particular atom of a radioactive isotope, loses an electron, and becomes stable (a quantum event). But, whether a machine is deterministic, random, or a combination of the two, it never decides to do anything at all. It only does what it is programmed to do. Therefore, how could the machine referred to as the human brain, do otherwise?

    Using ideas from my simple mind, I'll try to give an example of how the concept of free will, is a puzzle to me. Let's say that in a room in a building, there is a light switch. When the switch is in the "on" position, the light in the room is on. When it is in the "off" position, the light in the room is off. We know that the switch will stay in its current position, until someone changes it to the other position.

    Let's look at a simplified model of the human brain similarly to the light switch. Let's say that inside the human brain, all there is, is one switch, which can take two positions, one for "yes", and the other for "no". So, when a person with this simplified brain is faced with a choice of either agreeing to do a particular thing, or refusing, the switch either stays in its current position, or moves to the other position. To me, the question is, when the switch moves to the other position, what causes it to do so? The only possibility I can think of, is that the switch automatically functions according to its programming (which would be either deterministically or randomly). Unlike the light switch in the room, there is no one there, to decide to move the switch and then to move it. So, I have no notion of what the mechanism for implementing free will, could possibly be.

    ---------------------------------------------------

    I can think of one way out of the logical box I find myself trapped in concerning free will. I'll use the simplified model of the human brain again, with the single yes-no switch. My idea goes like this. Inside every one of our brains, there lives a tiny man. When a decision is required, he makes it, and either keeps the switch in its current position, or moves it to the other position. Similarly, inside his brain, there lives a tiny man. When a decision is required, he makes it, and either keeps the switch in its current position, or moves it to the other position. Similarly,..

    "You can't cheat an honest man. Never give a sucker an even break, or smarten up a chump." - W.C.Fields

  2. #2
    Some random propositions

    If quantum events have a truly random component then the evolution of the universe cannot be deterministic.

    The space-time architecture of the universe is fractal-like. The parts look similar but they are never identical.

    A pixel may choose to be a certain color but cannot understand how it made that choice.

    Charles

  3. #3
    thinBasic MVPs danbaron's Avatar
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    I agree that because of quantum effects, the evolution of the universe as a whole cannot be absolutely deterministic, Charles.
    But, I wonder if quantum effects affect the macro scale that we inhabit.
    I thought about that when I said that human history would always be exactly the same, if time was replayed again and again.
    I wondered whether I was on solid ground by saying that, because of quantum effects.
    I decided (<-- assuming that I have that ability) that most likely at our scale (or larger), quantum effects cancel each other out, because there are so many of them, and, they are independent of each other.
    But, I am mostly ignorant about the subject, and feel no certainty about my conclusion.

    If I remember correctly, the human body contains approximately 50 trillion cells. So, of course it contains many many more atoms. Quantum effects occur at approximately the atomic scale, right? I think that each of the quantum events which occurs in our bodies' atoms is independent of all of the other ones. Since they are not in any way coherent, and since there are so many of them, I speculate that they cancel each other out, with respect to our bodies (or anything bigger). So, my hypothesis is that quantum events affect every scale, but, the smaller the scale, the larger is the effect, and vice versa. I'm speculating that at the scale in which we live our lives, quantum effects are practically negligible. On the other hand, perhaps if all of the quantum events in a person's body were coherent (in phase?), then, maybe we would observe each other popping into and out of existence.

    I guess you are saying that the parts of space-time are like snowflakes.

    Assuming that it is possible to choose, I agree one could do it without understanding how (and that hopefully, we are like the pixels).

    Dan
    Last edited by danbaron; 10-02-2011 at 23:05.
    "You can't cheat an honest man. Never give a sucker an even break, or smarten up a chump." - W.C.Fields

  4. #4
    Inside every one of our brains, there lives a tiny man. When a decision is required, he makes it, and either keeps the switch in its current position, or moves it to the other position. Similarly, inside his brain, there lives a tiny man. When a decision is ..
    This reminded me of a verse from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali:

    4.21 If one mind were illumined by another, as its master, then there would be an endless and absurd progression of cognitions, as well as confusion.

    (chitta antara drishye buddhi-buddheh atiprasangah smriti sankarah cha)

    chitta = of the mind, of the consciousness of the mind-field
    antara = another
    drishye = seen, perceived
    buddhi-buddheh = knower of knowledge, perceiver of perception
    atiprasangah = endless, abundance, ad infinitum
    smriti = memory, remembering
    sankarah = confusion
    cha = and
    http://www.swamij.com/pdf/yogasutrasinterpretive.pdf


    Charles
    Last edited by Charles Pegge; 10-02-2011 at 18:16.

  5. #5
    this is not exactly on the free will subject, but related.
    the physicist roger penrose suggested that quantum effects (quantum entanglement ) http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_entanglement
    are resposible for the production of the consciousness.
    before reading that i was long ago believing that if the consciousness will exist then there must be an infinite speed inside the brain (ie no light speed limit) connecting something inside it. i feel that it is impossible to be conscious while there is a time lag inside the brain , of course when we want to measure the signals speed inside neurons it will be limited so we must search other ways, penrose suggested microtubules as the containers of the consciousness.
    and again that delicate material which the consciousness rest on is not the consciousness itself , the consciousness is far far away unsolvable entity, this material is just enable the consciousness to be, it is the consciousness chair.
    just for fun: what if the consciousness reside inside the brain in a place with a size of just ( one millimeter ) or much less ???.
    why not ?? all the universe and all the people was compressed in a tennis ball size or less. and how much the consciousness is bizarre everything related to it can extremely bizarre !!.
    a return to the consciousness; if someone wants to investigate it seriously he must visit himself, and this journey will be his last journey since he will reach a point of no return, in practice he will not remain himself or he will ceased to exist.
    i think the consciousness phenomena is the proof that there is a delicate infinite entanglement or connection between everything in the universe, and in this viewpoint, your car, your house can have consciousness but we can't prove; in the same way that we can't prove that my mother or father of my neighbor have a consciousness.
    Charles suggested in a previous thread that Google may have consciousness; i think that may be, but again we can't prove that. so many things in this existence will inevitably remain a complete mystery forever. and this is why we can view this complete mystery as the complete graceful and beautiful.

  6. #6
    But according to Neuroscience this is what your inner homunculi might look like




    http://psychology.wikia.com/wiki/Homunculus

    Charles

  7. #7
    thanks for the info, i may use this new info for more investigations, needs to read more related articles.
    zak

  8. #8
    thinBasic MVPs danbaron's Avatar
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    If one mind were illumined by another, as its master, then there would be an endless and absurd progression of cognitions, as well as confusion.
    *********^
    *********|
    *********|

    Absolutely, right?! The Indians were and are, smart guys. They intuitively or spiritually understood, what we still cannot understand using science.

    (Is that language, like, Hindi?)

    The pictures of the men in the brain (<-- my joke) are pretty good, but, they miss the point, that, there is at least one little man living in every brain, who does all of the actual thinking and deciding, yes or no?!

    I do think that, as humans, again and again, we confront the problem of infinite regress. And, so far, we don't know how to address it.

    ------------------------------------------------------

    I have that book by Penrose, and, I read part of it. Apparently, for us (humans), understanding consciousness is a hard problem.

    I think that, due to quantum entanglement, communication at infinite velocity is true, but, at least so far, it is thought to be useless for transmitting information.

    I have also heard the idea that the brain is not as profound as science believes. That instead, it is like a radio. In that case, each individual brain is "tuned" to a different "station". All of the thinking comes mysteriously from somewhere in the, "aether", and is somehow transmitted into our heads.

    It's interesting. Maybe, like you said, consciousness resides in just a tiny dot inside the brain. And, I like the idea of a person visiting himself, of taking a one-way trip, and then, disappearing forever inside - sort of like being sucked into a black hole.

    It is also true that maybe you or I are the only one who is conscious. Maybe the seeming consciousness of others is a deception. Maybe everyone else is not more than an animated mannequin, put here by some unknown intelligence, to trick us, for some unknown reason.

    But, then, we get back to the problem of, whether or not there is a difference between, "consciousness", and, "imitation consciousness". I guess that the implication from the Turing Test, is that, Alan Turing would argue that there is not.

    I used to think the idea that, for instance, this planet is conscious, was not more than New Age idiocy. But now, I am less certain. I absolutely agree that it is most likely impossible for us to ever prove or disprove, what is or is not conscious, including, individual atoms (whatever they are), rocks, cars, etc. Additonally, I think we have no hope of making the determination, until, we first determine what consciousness is. Otherwise, we would be trying to, "put the cart before the horse", right?

    ------------------------------------------------------

    It seems to me that in the 20th century, science became certain that soon it would solve all of the mysteries of existence.

    Now, at the start of the 21st century, it is beginning to dawn on a lot of thinking people, that we are and probably always will be limited in what we have the ability to know. On the positive side, at least we are smart enough to begin realizing that there are certain specific problems, which we can begin to list, that we may never be able to make any progress in solving.

    ------------------------------------------------------

    I am now signing off from somewhere deep deep inside myself.



    end of transmission



    Last edited by danbaron; 11-02-2011 at 02:15.
    "You can't cheat an honest man. Never give a sucker an even break, or smarten up a chump." - W.C.Fields

  9. #9
    Absolutely, right?! The Indians were and are, smart guys. They intuitively or spiritually understood, what we still cannot understand using science.

    (Is that language, like, Hindi?)
    This is classical Sanskrit - which is easily transliterated into our roman script. It is contemporary with Latin and performed a similar role as a scholarly language.

    It is particularly rich in the semantics of mind and consciousness and goes back thousands of years before phonetic scripts were invented.

    Some concepts we use on the Web today come directly from this Vedic culture such as Guru, Avatar and Karma.

    There is a fascinating article in Wikipedia on Indian Mathematics in Wikipedia.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_mathematics

    One of the earliest recorded uses of mathematics was to calculate the dimensions of sacrificial alters. (Mostly vegetarian sacrifices I am glad to say).

    They worshipped just about anything and everything including numbers

    The religious texts of the Vedic Period provide evidence for the use of large numbers. By the time of the Yajurvedasaṃhitā (1200900 BCE), numbers as high as 10^12 were being included in the texts.[2] For example, the mantra (sacrificial formula) at the end of the annahoma ("food-oblation rite") performed during the aśvamedha, and uttered just before-, during-, and just after sunrise, invokes powers of ten from a hundred to a trillion.

    "Hail to śata (hundred),
    hail to sahasra (thousand),
    hail to ayuta (ten thousand),
    hail to niyuta (hundred thousand),
    hail to prayuta (million),
    hail to arbuda (ten million),
    hail to nyarbuda (hundred million),
    hail to samudra (billion, lit. "ocean"),
    hail to madhya (ten billion,", lit. "middle"),
    hail to anta (hundred billion lit."end"),
    hail to parārdha (one trillion lit., "beyond parts"),
    hail to the dawn (uśas), hail to the twilight (vyuṣṭi),
    hail to the one which is going to rise (udeṣyat),
    hail to the one which is rising (udyat),
    hail to the one which has just risen (udita),
    hail to the heaven (svarga), hail to the world (loka),
    hail to all
    .".
    Charles
    Last edited by Charles Pegge; 13-02-2011 at 08:16.

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