Free will vs determinism

 
nikitarogozin
 
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nikitarogozin
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10 January 2018 00:09
 

I’ve listened to Sam’s arguments on the topic of “free will” and I do not find them convincing, particularly due to the lack of practicality. Technically Sam is correct and 100% our actions are dictated by our genetics and prior experiences, and thus are predetermined. And an elaborate AI with all of the data on a person could conceivably predict the actions of a person with very high fidelity and act in a “Minority report” style. But in reality it is not practical or relevant. Similarly, though Newtonian physics models are inferior to post-Einsteinian physics models in terms of correctness of representation, everybody still uses Newtonian in the vast-vast majority of applications, because there are very few practical cases where relativistic or quantum effects are in any way relevant. Newtonian stuff is just good enough.

Similarly, in relations to behavior/free will there are several important practical considerations:
1. Behaviors can be modified both externally, thus making proactive action possible. Game theory clearly demonstrates the mechanisms for that. And the study of how to do that is very relevant, as evidenced by the abundance of Nobel prizes for advancements in the Game Theory over the last decades.
2. Behaviors can be modified internally via a multitude of processes ranging from mindfulness/meditation/reflection/analysis, that are not exactly connected to external stimuli. A part of that could be a reaction to the external stimuli in the form of the personal risk/benefit assessments that are key to the Game Theory. Another relevant issue is the culpability for one’s actions. It is quite obvious that humans have the capacity to rationalise or empathise themselves into the understanding that, in example, hurting others is not a good thing. And this happens really disregarding whatever external factors/experiences one had in life. And those humans that due to genetics or something can’t make such reflections clearly belong in a mental institution. But these internal processes are the best proxy for “free will”.

So given the points above, I venture that treating behaviors as something wholly deterministic is not practical. Thus the “free will” hypothesis has merit.

What do you think?

 
Ashiok
 
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Ashiok
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10 January 2018 04:47
 

I think it is complicated. When talking about free will vs determinism it is more useful to determine the scope of your analysis, precisely because of the issue of practicality that you raised. In other words: I agree with Sam that there is no such thing as free will in the way it is usually defined (an agent does something when he could have done otherwise). I think, ultimately (and that is the key word), there is no moment in which decisions are made in the brain that are not dependant upon previous moments and some quantum effects that are completely random. As an important sidenote: I do not believe the universe is completely deterministic in the way LaPlace qualified, since it appears that some quantum effects happen without apparent cause. This means that if you restart our universe from the big bang it is quite possible that we would end up with a very different universe.

All that said, thinking that ultimately we have no ‘true agency’ of our behavior is impractical for day-to-day conversation. Proximally, it is better to act ‘as if’ people have free will, and that is because even knowing that we probably don’t have, we still can’t predict the future. The future is a mix of random effects and determined causes that is just too great to be computed, so most agents will appear to us as if they’re making independent decisions anyway.

Regarding the issue of blame: proximally speaking we punish people with jail time after a crime as a form of retaliation for what we believe to be their responsibility. Ultimately speaking, nobody has any real ‘responsibility’ in the sense of pure agency over their actions. Responsibility is merely the term we use to circumbscribe the agent who performed certain actions, even though the anget itself had no ‘choice’ on the matter. I do think, however, that you can justify jail time from a perspective that abandons free will. It is quite simple: by inductive reasoning we assume that people who acted as ‘conduits’ of crime are more likely to become such conduits again (it is not a terribly bad assumption to make) and, therefore, we should incarcerate them to prevent this from happening in the future. The punishment is a form of prevention, not retaliation. The more gruesome the crime, the more time the person should spend in jail so we prevent the recurrence of the crime for more time.

[ Edited: 10 January 2018 04:50 by Ashiok]
 
Gamril
 
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Gamril
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10 January 2018 11:27
 
nikitarogozin - 10 January 2018 12:09 AM

And an elaborate AI with all of the data on a person could conceivably predict the actions of a person with very high fidelity and act in a “Minority report” style.

No it won’t.  An elaborate AI will never be able to do this.  This is all fantasy land…

 
GAD
 
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GAD
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10 January 2018 15:52
 
Gamril - 10 January 2018 11:27 AM
nikitarogozin - 10 January 2018 12:09 AM

And an elaborate AI with all of the data on a person could conceivably predict the actions of a person with very high fidelity and act in a “Minority report” style.

No it won’t.  An elaborate AI will never be able to do this.  This is all fantasy land…

Actually it will, even crappy ones today can predict and manipulate pretty well.

 
 
Brick Bungalow
 
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Brick Bungalow
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10 January 2018 23:58
 

I can’t really review your premise because I haven’t encountered a concise definition of free will. I find that I’m not clear on exactly what you are trying to defend.

As I understand it ‘Free Will’ is a claim about how human agency interacts with the rest of nature (there are many posts about it on this forum) Humans possessed of free will are capable of doing ‘other than’ that which has occurred. They have the option of dictating circumstance over and above the normal patterns that govern the behavior of physical systems. You seem to concede that free will in this sense is not or cannot be true. We agree on that much.

I’m content if we want to say that free will is poetic or social or a matter of experience or whatever else we may want to call it but we should be clear and specific about that especially when framing our thoughts as a direct rebuttal.