Free will anyone?

If free will is a measure of what you, as an individual, will choose, then I don’t think it really matters if that “choice” is the result of a deterministic system.

It’s still the output of the entity that is you. It’s still the result of your unique existence, and so it’s as much a choice by you as there could be.

The suggestion that free will could exist beyond this, essentially supposes that there is some entity that is “you” that exists beyond the unique existence of your body and mind. That there some other entity “driving” things, and that every can’t control anything.

But I think that’s kind of silly. You are the sum total of your existence, there’s nothing beyond that. So if every choice you make is the result of that existence, then it’s as much a result of “you” as possible.

… And I talked to many of them during my PhD. ;) (My field was adjacent to this.)

There’s a lot of work in this area but if QM is deterministic then it will also be non-local (information traveling faster than the speed of light) and/or acausal (i.e. time travel), and/or some other stuff that I can’t quite remember but is equally weird. There are reasonable people who think this might be the case, but it’s not like we’re going to get some radical new theory that’s going to do away with QM as we understand it. Remember that any new theory must also explain existing measurements, and QM is probably the best tested theory in the history of humanity.

Yes, iirc QM measurements pass all statistical tests for randomness, and QM measurement distributions are extremely well predicted. But that doesn’t mean that we can predict any one measurement, and (to get slightly back on topic) nor does it do anything for “free will” as QM-sourced decisions would be statistically random, and thus not “free”.

I have a feeling, that if I had asked this question in a literature book club forum, I would get the complete opposite reactions ;) So we all agree, that there is no free will. Good!

Sure, QM isn’t going anywhere, but while it may be the most tested theory ever, it’s also the most empyrical (which also explains why it goes well on tests, since it’s basically built from the results of said tests instead of theoretical models) - so there’s a lot we don’t know about the “underpinnings” of QM. There are questions everywhere and lots of different theoretical models that can’t really be confirmed by experiments, at least not yet. Even the standard model is still somewhat open to revision, with the results of the LHC and all. So there’s a lot of places we can go yet, and lots of things to find.

And that’s true of most things, really. When you consider that you could theoretically calculate the value of PI by randomly throwing a needle on the ground an infinite number of times, you know things will get weird. ;)

As I said above, I believe it’s pointless to think that free will isn’t real just because it doesn’t exist. ;)

I don’t know, man. This sounds like just playing with words…

Sure, I was just pushing back on the idea specifically that QM might be deterministic because there are specific experiments you can do to rule out different kinds of deterministic QM theories, and at this point the only “hidden variable” theories (as they are called) that we’re left with require pretty outlandish assumptions.

It’s not. We’re talking emergent systems here, not the underlying mechanics that enable those systems. And it’s entirely valid to treat emergent systems as having something that doesn’t exist in the underlying mechanics.

So you don’t experience an apple as a collection of atoms. No one can map conciousness to specific synapses because most high-level structures and patterns arise from the very complexity of the system. A butterfly will flip its wings and cause a typhoon somewhere. Emergent systems are about chaos, not order, even if they do have an underlying order. It just isn’t useful or reasonable to think about them in that way.

So, as far as our experience is concerned, being the product of many different complex, emergent systems, there’s no reason to not treat free will as a thing. It’s important to know that free will is definitely much less “free” than we usually think it is, sure, but remember: even very simple deterministic systems like a double pendulum can’t be predicted or modelled correctly.

It can also be argued that believing free will is a thing makes us more conscious of our choices and their consequences, which is useful and beneficial in a lot of ways. But that’s arguing on the philosophical side of things.

So I think it serves little good to say “free will doesn’t exist”, in the same way saying “the Monalisa is a bunch of atoms” is pointless. We can know that the Monalisa is a bunch of atoms, but we don’t experience it that way. And we can know that free will ultimately doesn’t exist, but we don’t experience it that way.

I promise I’m not going to turn this thread into another “Blindsight” thread (or maybe I just did …) but I would like to say, reading that book gave me a much better understanding of what determinism is, and how free will may be an illusion we create for ourselves. I’m oversimplifying, but if (like me) you didn’t really get the concept of free will - I would have said duh, of course I have free will! But it’s much bigger and deeper than I really grasped and, in addition to being a really interesting story, “Blindsight” is a decent primer on the topic.

The problem arises from defining free will as incompatible with determinism (free will as the human mind being able to choose outside of it’s previous experience).

Free will is not that, and most people won’t tell you their choices are not impacted by their previous experiences. Free will is the experience that our thought process is a determinant part of our choices.

Without free will the universe starts to look annoyingly anthropocentric and driven to create complexity.

[edit] Blindsight is great aside from the space vampires. It assumes that computational Chinese Rooms are more efficient than consciousness - if true, Blindsight is incredibly insightful. But it might be that simulating consciousness is less efficient than being conscious. Sort of like in order to perfectly simulate the universe - ie, every photon, subatomic particle, ect., perfectly, it would take… whatever, 8x the information of the universe, ie, 8x the size of the universe and so the “simulator” would have to be larger than the thing its simulating - just to be clear, the simulating universe would need 8 particles to represent every simulated particle state, or whatever the number would be.

Yeah, this is the camp I’m in.

You are the sum of your experiences, and so if the sum of your experiences leads to a choice, then you are the one making that choice.

Except that Blindsight is more interesting than the “free will” discussion because it goes even further. What Blindsight posits is the possibility that consciousness is not part of our decision process, but a consequence of it (a byproduct). That that consequence (conscience) could be excised and the decisions, actions and words still be the same.

That’s a much more interesting discussion, and more dependent on adhering or not to fringe theories of conscience.

“Blindsight” was my introduction to the topic, if you will. It does have a lot more going on, but I do think it’s a decent first step into the concept of free will. That it goes even further to suggest that free will might be a bug and not a feature is, as you say, even more interesting.

if it is not interesting to you, then why even bother. Execute your free will!

It is interesting, but it hinges on the definition of free will, more than in accepting or rejecting determinism (the later being something I suspect few around here will engage in).

Whether consciousness is an active part of our decision process or an unnecessary byproduct is in my opinion a philosophical possibility that would imply much harder questions and bleaker answers. And thus even more interesting.

And probably closer to what most people would instinctively think “free will is an illusion” means.

I’m not a huge fan of the channel - it has a great woody quality about it, lots of wise people in accomplished voices, but it tends to be far more superficial than i would have hoped - but this interview with Roger Penrose pointed out that the concept and reality of “non-computable” problems and that consciousness may be one of those problems. I’m not sure I buy into his proposed solution to that problem, but i think non-computability is a problem about figuring out consciousness that isn’t (yet) widely spread into the public understanding.

(2) Sir Roger Penrose - Why Explore Cosmos and Consciousness? - YouTube

I was going to post this as it was the first thing that came to mind!

I don’t know about “rejecting” determinism, but I also don’t believe the universe has been proven to be deterministic. At the QM level, it has basically been proven to be nondeterministic. It’s not known the extent to which QM nondeterminism affects the macroscopic world, but even if the extent is minimal then there could be macroscopic nondeterministic mechanisms of which we are not aware. If so, then there is room for free will.

So ultimately, I think we lack enough data to decide whether free will exists. Using the behavior of atoms to rule out free will is like using observations of Mars to rule out extraterrestrial intelligence.

I thought about mentioning Penrose and his “The Emperor’s New Mind”, but he doesn’t really go much beyond conjecture in that book, so there’s that. I do share with him (to a degree) the suspicion that there might be more to some phenomena (including the way our minds work) than we think at first, including unknown or little understood processes that we don’t consider yet in our models, though that’s not a certainty.

His arguments regarding non-computability have been tackled by some people, though, with mixed results. I recommend the book, specially for those who would like a quick “primer” on less well-known parts of modern physics, but if you’re afraid of math, you might not like it as much.