"I think therefore I am." Descarte's most basic tenet of free will. But how "free" is it?The more I study this and make observations of the people around me, the more I am convinced that free will is nothing more than an illusion.
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke.
Now let me rephrase Clarke's third law in context of this discussion:
"Any sufficiently complex memoryplex is indistinguishable from free will."
Note the phrase memoryplex, not memeplex. I'm referring here to our collective memories from the earliest retained memory right up to this instant. That instant has now passed (a few milliseconds ago) and as you continue to read, those instants are similarly passing into your collective memoryplex.
If our decisions are based on what we know (assuming that we're not mentally ill) and what we know is the memories we have formed, then free will simply isn't.
I've thought about this for some time now and I'm only summarising here, but if this is correct, it has frightening implications. For instance, what you've just read, based on what you already know, has influenced you - and you have no choice in what you're about to do: reply, ignore, digest, etc... everything is based on your experience to date plus this last few dozen words of argument.
So how "free" is your will?
I like delving into this idea. In a literary theory and criticism course I had in college, we discussed ontology, the study of being. There is the idea that we are our surroundings and all that we have at some point been in contact with. The way I'd apply that to society is seeing how people in certain geographical areas act compared to those in other areas, or how people act given their upbringing, etc. It's usually true that the average person makes decisions based on those experiences. On a biological level, we are what we eat, we react to the world based on what we already know, and , from a macroscopic view, people of a particular group act according to the environment in which they are, were, or have been cultivated. So, free will just goes out the door.However, I will say that we can think to chose what to surround ourselves with based on past experiences, but our actions inevitably reflect those surroundings and experiences. I guess even the choice to change is already set in stone.lol
What you are talking about is how our choices affect our future. I don't disagree that choices affect our future. If someone comes from the future to warn us, or if we learn from past experiences, we typically do Choose differently. However, this doesn't change the fact that the choices we make are based on surroundings and experiences.
Also, It's funny reading your post because you are basically saying that our choices can positively affect our future if someone comes from the future to warn us of the harm our choices will cause.lol
Otherwise, how do you know whether or not your choice has been different from what was already predetermined?
Park, Wanderer and I have spent a lot of time trying to patiently explain this and every once in a while, someone comes along and says, "Ah, but..." a bit like a creationist who is convinced they have found the "black sheep" in Darwin's Theory.
This whole idea is part of larger hypothesis on memoryplexes which I suspect is as rock-solid as Darwin's original evolution - we don't have all the answers to HOW this works, but there's little doubt that it does. Free will isn't the only thing that's affected: our entire "self" is encapsulated in this. It's both depressing and fascinating.
I've been monitoring how I create memories recently - and discovered that in many instances, making new (particularly complex) memories is actually exceptionally tiring. "Power naps" and meditation may in fact work by allowing our brains time to process the information they have recently acquired by excluding complex sensory inputs (sound & vision) and putting the others into a passive state.
Understanding this more completely may help us learn better and faster - but crucially, I think it may help to teach less able children more effectively.
On memoryplexes, I actually use them to retain much more information about the world that most people. The way I configure my memories, I hypothesize, is what lets me recount numbers and facts about so many things~ I can't remember much about what happens in my life, that memory is very short~ but history and just about everything else is easily retained because of the way I format my view of the world~ information is attached to places and things, not abstract ideas like memories of personal experiences and interactions. Its much like when you drive by the mcdonalds you went to as a kid, it pulls up those memories~ well, when I drive by, not only does it pull up those few memories but info about the corporation, distrobution, sales, marketing, and it just ties in from there. does anyone understand what I'm saying? lol
I agree that there is some satisfaction for me, as well, in seemingly cruel reality.
Marc and Park,
I get what you're saying. It's an awesome discovery and feat. How is it coming along?
Promising - but let's not forget the third part of the Nexus Triangle, Wanderer! ;0)
He's left this discussion but is active in Park's Apologetic's group - the "thesis" is coming together nicely - what it needs, of course, is some proper experimental data. It can make predictions, etc. but a lot depends on getting correlated data.
One thing I've noted (not discussed with the other two, as yet) is that this suggests that many animals may have a sense of self - not dissimilar to ours. What makes us different is our ability to mirror and learn from others. The only creature I am aware that can do this are crows - other apes, apparently, cannt. To some extent, other birds also exhibit a similar behavior - blue tits were observed raiding milk bottles when I was a kid - something they learned and have since no use for as milk delivery has all-but stopped here in the UK.
hmm. I'd think that canines were in that category as well. Maybe not.
It's been a terrific thread - in fact, it's generated some very important new ideas on this thesis - Jim, I think, has the closest answer, but everyone has contributed in some way.
The bios is instinct, yes, but instinct itself evolves with a species - so why a turtle knows how to be a turtle, it does not know how to be a tortoise (or vice versa).
We have instincts but they are weak in comparison to what we learn (are taught) and the ones I can think of are actually a hinderance. In fact, mammalians are restricted by our lack of instinct: and that's why I think we're the ones most likely to have a sense of self.
I suffer with a condition (which Park and I had a hearty chuckle at) that causes me to jump at the slightest provocation. It's a overloaded "fight or flight" response related to hyper-vigilance. In otherwise normal humans this stress response can cause anxiety attacks that, while not life-threatening, can be severely debilitating.
Breeding (the sexual imperative) is an instinct - you call it "lust" but that's a loaded word that religion imposes on it. In fact, religion imposes a whole lot of misappropriate contexts on our instincts. As does society - but we need a balanced society to survive in this world.
May I take this opportunity to invite all still following this, to Park's group "Reforming Counter Apologetics" where this sort of stuff is a key (and where we've discussed it in even more frightening detail by taking the memoryplex to a technological conclusion - one that could be plausible, at some future time.
I'm really interested in what you've been talking about here. I'd like to read more when I get time. I've thought similar things, especially about the way that our ability with language and communication and abstract thought, has really put a spanner in the works of our being able to follow our instincts, especially things like judgement, right and wrong and moralistic views. I'd really like the opportunity to discuss this idea more with you at some point. Alice :)
Free Will is God given - seems silly to even contemplate it as an atheist!
You say 'assuming we are not mentally ill' - although people who have so called 'mental illness' are acting just the same according to their experience - mental illness just means that they are getting different information to make their rational decisions about - the input has been distorted in a way that it isn't with people who are consider mental healthy.