I change my mind, rejecting free will is idiotic and anti-utilitarian

 
Serculis
 
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Serculis
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21 April 2018 16:27
 

I was the poster who asked “how are we gonna change society like sam proposed”.

I have now completely changed my mind on the usefulness of rejecting free will.

I still know that free will doesn’t exist, it cannot be mapped onto physical reality, it attempts to go against the laws of causality, etc etc. but trying to spread awareness of it and change society will not work. and even if it did miraculously work, it would not change for the better.

Sam Harris proposed that if we rejected free will as a society, we would focus more on love and compassion, and our hatred for one another would evaporate after realising it makes no sense. He said that our criminal justice system could have the opportunity to reform by focusing on rehabilitating criminals instead of uselessly punishing them. millions and millions of dysfunctional unhealthy emotional arguments would cease to exist when we stop blaming others and try to understand them better.

Wrong. I think this is an extremely idealistic fantasy that brings about a lot of problems.

First of all, this claim assumes that everyone is logical and intelligent and can challenge their own emotions. This is obviously not true. Most people are average in intelligence and emotional capacities, they have no interest in psychology or philosophy, and are too scared or unmotivated to challenge their insecurities and engage in personal development.

After telling my best friend about there not being free will, I thought it would change his life forever, because then he would realise that anyone who has ever treated him badly was not in control of their actions, and he would stop feeling guilty for his own weaknesses, he would focus on understanding people and show compassion, etc. Instead, the opposite happened.

He said to me:

“you act like this no free will stuff is some fundamental truth that everyone needs to hear, but it hasn’t made a damn difference for me. I still have horrible road rage, I still want revenge on the people I hate, I still get pissed off at you, I still feel guilty for my own mistakes, and even though I know nobody is in control of anything, it hasn’t had an effect on me whatsoever. now I feel like I can’t even get angry at people in front of you because you might judge me, thinking they had no choice in their actions, which even though is true, is still fucking annoying and now I feel a shit load of mental conflict every time I complain about someone. This free will bullshit is useless. logic doesn’t automatically trump emotions.”

My friend also now feels depressed because now he feels fatalistic, thinking he’ll never change and improve his weaknesses because of the way his brain is wired. I tried to assure him that he is mistaking determinism for fatalism, and tried to say how rejecting free will actually makes you more free to improve because you’ll realise there’s so many biopsychosocial factors that control your behaviour. unfortunately, even though this made sense to me, it didn’t give him any inspiration to improve whatsoever.

He also is now mildly suffering an existential crisis upon realising that there’s no rational reason behind liking/loving people as it’s only the result of chemicals in the brain, how your life is actually like a film, etc.

This is a completely average person, neither dysfunctional nor super mentally healthy and perfect, just like most other people in society, and it seems that telling him the so-called fundamental truth of the universe made his life worse.

I’ve received lots of benefits for rejecting free will, but that’s only because I’m interested in psychology and have recently been reading up on philosophy. the most of society are not intellects who study this sort of stuff.

So no, unless you are seriously well equipped with knowledge of psychology, philosophy, neuroscience, etc. then trying to tell people that free will doesn’t exist is a useless, anti-utilitarian idea that will cause society more damage than good.

Not to mention that trying to radically change society is extremely extremely difficult. Think of the many societies which still promote homophobia like russia, despite the fact that being accepting of homosexuals is an easy logical moral behaviour to adopt that doesn’t cause a tonne of philosophical problems.

Sam harris is a neuroscientist and philosopher who studied his literature of interest for many many years, and experimented with lots of mind-altering drugs to become as profound as he is now. That’s why rejecting free will has made his life better. but for the rest of society, full of average people not particularly interested in intellectual stuff, rejecting free will does nothing but harm.

Being ethically obliged to not go apeshit on my friends when they do something disastrously wrong is horribly hard and counterproductive. I tell them in an angry voice that they are wrong for doing XYZ behaviour, but because I don’t say stuff like “you should feel ashamed of yourself” or “what were you thinking” or other judgemental phrases, they feel less motivation to change.

But the times where I have “pretended” that free will does exist and started getting mad at my friends and harshfully judged them for the issues they have sometimes caused, the fake anger I have for them has actually pushed us towards solving our problems and making our lives better. But when I act truthful, realising they were not in control of their actions, I have less passion and emotion in the words I say and they barely engage with me. They apologise and say they’ll improve, but because there was no emotional impact, no judgement that shocked them into getting their act together, they forget to improve their act.

when I act as rational and literal as sam harris, the lack of emotional oomph misleads my friends into thinking that what they did wasn’t that bad, no matter how many stern adjectives I use.

When I act as fiery and passionate as an influential guy like jordan peterson, it pushes all my friends to improve and we all end up growing from our problems, leading to better friendships.

So it now seems obvious to me that sam harris’s proposal for changing society by rejecting free will is anti-utilitarian and unpragmatic. It’s so damn obvious it will never work and I don’t understand why it’s one of his core topics. His lectures on criticising religion have lots of implications and are very useful, but rejecting free will? in what world does that affect society? it affects a small minority of intellects at the most. Sure, you can have an interest in the topic and discuss it, but there’s no reason why it should be a core topic that you aim to spread to other people. Highlighting the problems of religion provides useful truths. Highlighting that free will doesn’t exist provides a useless truth. Seeing sam harris debate someone like ben shapiro on free will seems utterly useless to me. It’s fine if he debated it with other philosophers just for the sake of philosophical conversation, like when philosophers uselessly but enjoyingly argue about brains in a vat, but he debated a political commentator on it as if he had useful societal implications to share.

So yes, even though free will cannot possibly exist, rejecting it is useless. I think you should honestly try to live as if you do have free will. It brings lots of problems itself, and there are people who have had their lives ruined due to blame and shame, but I feel that society can only stand on its own two foot with free will. unfortunately there is no evidence that a society can function under the notion of determinism.

the only problem is, if you have already come to the realisation that free will does not exist, you are stuck in a state of major cognitive dissonance. you know that every time you harshly shout at someone and make them feel bad for an action they’ve done, they technically weren’t in control of their actions. That’s horrible. Necessary to motivate people to change, but horrible nonetheless. That’s how I feel right now. I fucking wish I never knew about this shit.

last, last, laaaast point. It seems that you can actually gain lots of the hypothetical benefits of determinism (e.g. non judgement, more compassion, less hatred etc.) by simply popularising psychology. Instead of saying someone wasn’t in control of their actions, it’s better to say how and why they did such an action, and it’s self-evident that people easily become more understanding when you explain -why- a person said or did something bad. Every improvement in friendship or relationship I’ve ever seen came from communication that sought to understand why someone did what they did. Aaaand this is exactly what psychology is about. Think about the many times someone has said “sure, he was wrong to do that, but I definitely understand he was only trying to XYZ”.

Popularising psychology would lead to much better results in improving society compared to spouting the truth of determinism, and preserves the usefulness of free will.

P.S. there is a great laughable contradiction in someone who has deterministic views, yet talks rudely to others on this forum as if the other person was blameworthy for their actions. More evidence that rejecting free will doesn’t automatically make your life better.

P.S.S. please no hateful comments! I’m only looking to have a friendly, stimulating conversation where we can all challenge each other’s claims and assumptions to become less wrong and more knowledgeable!

[ Edited: 22 April 2018 02:50 by Serculis]
 
nonverbal
 
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nonverbal
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21 April 2018 16:37
 

I suspect that GAD will not be happy to hear about your change of heart, Serculis.

 

 
 
Chaz
 
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21 April 2018 17:16
 

I was never convinced that free will isn’t real. The best argument in my opinion was about choosing that which didn’t occur to you and my answer is yes, you are free to choose that which didn’t occur to you, because if you had desired to choose it then it would have occurred to you to choose it.

Any takers?

 
Jan_CAN
 
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21 April 2018 17:49
 

Serculis,

Although I believe that the universe on the whole is deterministic and that there is a causal chain of factors that influences our lives and choices, I also believe that as individuals we do have choices, that sane people are responsible for their actions, and that what we say and do has meaning.

We must all find our own way in this world; there is a danger in placing too much weight on another’s views.  We can learn from others such as Sam Harris, but must decide for ourselves how to incorporate this knowledge in how we live our lives.  Sam Harris certainly appears to live his life as if he can make decisions, and has expressed anger at others for their decisions and actions.

Regardless of our views on Free Will, we can all try our best to be compassionate to our friends and family and to do our best to understand causes, etc.  To do this, it is important to listen carefully.  Even with good intentions, solutions or ideas that have helped us may not be what another needs.  A documentary I saw a while ago comes to mind – a woman was talking about her problems, her visit to psychiatrists, the medications given, etc., and she ended with saying that “All I needed was a fucking hug”.  (Of course, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t a genuine need by some people for psychiatry and medications.)

For your interest, there is discussion of others’ difficulty with the concept of Free Will on other threads (including help me understand).

 
 
nonverbal
 
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21 April 2018 17:52
 
Chaz - 21 April 2018 05:16 PM

I was never convinced that free will isn’t real. The best argument in my opinion was about choosing that which didn’t occur to you and my answer is yes, you are free to choose that which didn’t occur to you, because if you had desired to choose it then it would have occurred to you to choose it.

Any takers?

I think you may like what Sean Carroll has to say about free-will here, Chaz:
https://samharris.org/podcasts/124-search-reality/

If I get a chance tonight, I’ll write a short critique of Carroll’s approach to the question of free-will as it was posed by Sam Harris, and I’ll post my comments to the podcast thread Nhoj started. Here’s a thumbnail preview, for what it’s worth: Dr. Carroll’s description of the free-will controversy is terrific, simply put. It admits to the sort of free will espoused by Harris yet fully maintains the human connection. This approach makes sense because different people feel differently about the notion of free will, and have for quite a few centuries now. Carroll’s take provides a means for any free-will opinion holder to pile on whatever notions about the subject they might be carrying with no worries about overloading their baggage!

 
 
GAD
 
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21 April 2018 18:35
 

You have arrived, welcome brother.

Things to think about; Sam Harris talks a lot of bullshit, understanding there is no free will does change people ( you, your friend are examples) but it’s mostly subtle over time, because even through there is no free will it feels like there is and it’s how we work, even deciding that people are not responsible for their choices feels like a choice.

 
 
Chaz
 
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21 April 2018 20:04
 
nonverbal - 21 April 2018 05:52 PM
Chaz - 21 April 2018 05:16 PM

I was never convinced that free will isn’t real. The best argument in my opinion was about choosing that which didn’t occur to you and my answer is yes, you are free to choose that which didn’t occur to you, because if you had desired to choose it then it would have occurred to you to choose it.

Any takers?

I think you may like what Sean Carroll has to say about free-will here, Chaz:
https://samharris.org/podcasts/124-search-reality/

If I get a chance tonight, I’ll write a short critique of Carroll’s approach to the question of free-will as it was posed by Sam Harris, and I’ll post my comments to the podcast thread Nhoj started. Here’s a thumbnail preview, for what it’s worth: Dr. Carroll’s description of the free-will controversy is terrific, simply put. It admits to the sort of free will espoused by Harris yet fully maintains the human connection. This approach makes sense because different people feel differently about the notion of free will, and have for quite a few centuries now. Carroll’s take provides a means for any free-will opinion holder to pile on whatever notions about the subject they might be carrying with no worries about overloading their baggage!

I love you. I completely forgot about that one but I will be going through it again in the morning. Try not to forget about me when you finish your critique.

 
Serculis
 
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22 April 2018 02:30
 
Chaz - 21 April 2018 05:16 PM

I was never convinced that free will isn’t real. The best argument in my opinion was about choosing that which didn’t occur to you and my answer is yes, you are free to choose that which didn’t occur to you, because if you had desired to choose it then it would have occurred to you to choose it.

Any takers?

and where do your desires come from? they are a product of biological, psychological and social factors. If we take sam harris’s city example, you don’t actually know what cities will pop in your head, and you don’t know which one you will pick until you pick them. how can you be in control of thoughts you don’t know what will appear and don’t know which ones you will desire?

Free will can be destroyed by its own flawed definition: to be able to “freely” and “intentionally” choose one option over the other.

If you have an intention to do something, it is not a free choice. It is a choice determined by your intention.

If you were inclined by the laws of physics, the wiring of your brain and environmental shaping of your personality to pick option A, but you somehow managed to override all of that and break the law of causality, you would STILL not have free will. Because any intention to magically break the laws of causality and pick option B ends up as another intention. Trying to step out of the decision-making process by overriding an inclined choice and choosing another, is in itself yet another decision-making process that involves intention. It is an infinite regression that ends in darkness.

If you said “my intention to choose B instead of A came out of nowhere so it is a free choice” then it again shows that free will doesn’t exist, because your desire appeared out of randomness!

That’s what I mean by free will’s definition contradicting itself, and why it can immediately be defeated.

Anyway… getting off the topic. I’m a very technical person, I will still refute any argument that free will exists, but my point is specifically that spreading its idea to society like Sam proposes will do damage to society and should just be left to philosophers to discuss in their own space. I’ve read Sam’s book on lying, and I think lying about free will to laypeople is one major exception I would make while being truthful in every other area.

 

[ Edited: 22 April 2018 02:37 by Serculis]
 
brazen4
 
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22 April 2018 09:45
 

I could be way off base here but: don’t we need to flesh out a hell of a lot more on what we mean by consciousness before we come to any final decisions re free will?

 
nonverbal
 
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22 April 2018 10:32
 
brazen4 - 22 April 2018 09:45 AM

I could be way off base here but: don’t we need to flesh out a hell of a lot more on what we mean by consciousness before we come to any final decisions re free will?

It’s not as though courts, prosecutors and defense attorneys eagerly await a verdict on the matter of free will, but a poorly shaped idea about some important aspect of the mind can have a most unfortunate way of integrating into society’s mores if it has sufficient staying power among even a few Ph.D. cognition researchers and authors.

I agree with you if you’re advising against scientists making loud claims about free will.

 
 
bbearren
 
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29 April 2018 12:06
 
brazen4 - 22 April 2018 09:45 AM

I could be way off base here but: don’t we need to flesh out a hell of a lot more on what we mean by consciousness before we come to any final decisions re free will?

We don’t have a consensus on what consciousness is.

The human recognized internally and externally as “me” is an individual distinct from other humans within a social/working/environmental grouping, and group interactions notwithstanding, how is the brain between my ears not agent of the activities and decisions affecting the rest of this me?

Respiration, circulation, digestion, balance, temperature regulation, reflexive muscle action etc. are considered autonomically controlled, nevertheless the agent of such control mechanisms is the brain between my ears and the interconnected nervous system throughout the rest of the body recognized as “me”.

“I” am the confluence of genetics and experience, as are we all.  Given that “choice” can be defined as the selection among two or more options, choices can be made at very many levels of control within the nervous system and the brain between my ears.  While swimming, for example, I determine to take a deep breath before diving into the pool, my conciousness is overriding the autonomic control of my breathing to inhale more deeply and acquire more oxygen.  For a competitive swimmer after years of practice, that deep breath may well be quite like reflexive action.

If I am doing some casual window shopping while waiting to meet a friend downtown, I may stroll around a bit within the area of our agreed meeting place.  Whether I turn left or right, stop in front of a particular store front to gaze at a window display, or just sit on a bench along the sidewalk are all choices.  Whatever I do will be the option that has the higher “selection value” than any of the other options at that particular moment.

Yes, I’m getting to a point.  Being the confluence of genetics and experience, every moment of my experience is laid down along a timeline adjacent to the previous moment of experience.  The options of choice that present at any given moment arise from that timeline of the confluence of genetics and experience, which is to some extent resident in various regions of the brain between my ears.

The agency of selection is the brain between my ears.  Outside events (a truck just jumped the curb and is heading in my general direction) may become an overriding experience that displaces other options, may well place that selection process directly into the level of autonomic control, but the agency of selection is always the brain between my ears and the interconnected nervous system throughout the rest of the body recognized as “me”.

There are no options available for selection that do not arise from the confluence of genetics and experience, the unique (as are we all) me.  Whether that selection is at a concious level or some level below concious awareness, “I” am the only one capable of making that selection, “I” being the brain between my ears and the interconnected nervous system.  That sections of the brain between my ears may be performing permutations, combinations, weighted averages, memory contrasting and other such activities below my concious awareness, still, no one else is involved.

In the halcyon days of my youth, many a Sunday afternoon was spent with two or three friends riding around back country roads following mutually considered whims as to which road to take (there were lots and lots and lots of dirt roads in the immediate vicinity of my home town) at an intersection.  Making concious decisions are to me much like those conversations.  We all knew where any given road would lead and the intersections we would encounter along the way, and the upcoming turn was decided upon based on not the turn itself, but the outcome of (the route followed after) that turn.  For me, personal decisions of consequence, that is to say, taking such a fork in the road from which there is no return, are much like those Sunday afternoon rides.

There is an ongoing discussion within the brain between my ears that is not unlike my two or three friends making suggestions and predicting outcomes of which fork to take in the road ahead on a Sunday afternoon.  By the time “we” get to the place to actually make the turn, “we” have reached a decision.  That “we” is the timeline of the confluence of genetics and experience from which various probabilities and projections can be cast, and from that collection of probabilities and projections (the conversation between two or three friends) a decision will be made for the option with the higher “selection value”.

For me free will has a lot in common with (not to be confused with being explained by) quantum mechanics; no one understands it, but we put it to use constantly.  Do you use a flash/thumb drive?  It works in part via quantum tunneling.  Strawberry or Chocolate Chip ice cream?  Which has the higher selection value at this particular moment in your timeline of experience?  Or you can choose to tell the vendor, “You decide; surprise me!”

[ Edited: 29 April 2018 17:05 by bbearren]
 
 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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30 April 2018 16:06
 
brazen4 - 22 April 2018 09:45 AM

I could be way off base here but: don’t we need to flesh out a hell of a lot more on what we mean by consciousness before we come to any final decisions re free will?

Depends on what we mean by free will. If free will is something which is incompatible with a deterministic universe, then consciousness is irrelevant.

 
 
bbearren
 
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05 May 2018 14:30
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 30 April 2018 04:06 PM
brazen4 - 22 April 2018 09:45 AM

I could be way off base here but: don’t we need to flesh out a hell of a lot more on what we mean by consciousness before we come to any final decisions re free will?

Depends on what we mean by free will. If free will is something which is incompatible with a deterministic universe, then consciousness is irrelevant.

Depends on what we mean by a deterministic universe.

“We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.” — Pierre Simon Laplace, A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities

It has since become clearer, however, that the uncertainty principle is inherent in the properties of all wave-like systems, and that it arises in quantum mechanics simply due to the matter wave nature of all quantum objects.  Thus, the uncertainty principle actually states a fundamental property of quantum systems, and is not a statement about the observational success of current technology.  It must be emphasized that measurement does not mean only a process in which a physicist-observer takes part, but rather any interaction between classical and quantum objects regardless of any observer.”

LaPlace’s Demon is philisophical conjecture; quantum fields and the uncertainty principle can be (and have been, repeatedly) measured objectively.

[ Edited: 09 May 2018 06:36 by bbearren]
 
 
goedselhoeg
 
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11 May 2018 07:51
 

Deal Serculis,
There once was a time, when everybody knew that the earth was flat and the stars where pinned to the sky. Only some natural philosophers claimed that it is different. It took some time until what we now know about the earth and the universe became common sense. Imagine Keppler or Galilei had a friend like you, and therefore threw their ideas away. Not too good for mankind, I think.
Telling the truth is a long hard job and only because some are not ready for it should not quiet us.
I am quite shure that in 500 years the non existance of free will is common sense and the people who still believe in it are the flat earthers of today. But this doesn‘t happen if noone tells and that‘s what Sam is doing. Maybe in 500 years Sam is known as one of the prophets of „non-free-will“ or maybe he is forgotten because our society was not ready.

 
SamStone
 
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11 May 2018 12:32
 

The combination of quantum indeterminacy coupled with complexity and sensitivity to initial conditions means that the universe is NOT deterministic in the the Laplacian sense.

Now, Sean Carroll would argue that since the Shroedinger equation is deterministic,  that means that the universe IS deterministic.  But Carroll also believes in the multiverse,  which you almost need to believe in if you take the Shroedinger equation to be a literal statement of deterministic truth.  It means that universes are constantly splitting into sub-universes at the quantum level every time there is an interaction that causes the waveform to collapse and reveal its state.  So everything that can happen does happen, just not in our universe.  In his view,  every time a ‘measurement’ is taken it just tells us which branch of the multiverse we just took,  and says nothing about the future branches we might take.  So from our perspective,  the collapse of the wave function looks probabilistic,  but in the overall multiverse it’s just many branches.

That’s very unsatisfying to me as an explanation,  even if it is a direct extrapolation of the math.  Here’s another way to look at it - if we could start all over again with the exact same set of conditions at the big bang, with the positions of every particle identical as far as Laplace’s demon can tell (to the limit of quantum uncertainty),  would we still get an identical universe as we see it today?  Not even close.  From our standpoint quantum indeterminacy still exists,  and it was that indeterminacy that caused the originally undifferentiated universe to collapse into the patterns of stars and galaxies we see today.  You could re-run the universe a billion times,  and get a completely different structure every time.  Laplace’s demon is hopelessly lost in our universe,  although he’d have no problem with the overall multiverse.  We wouldn’t even be in the same branch of of the multiverse,  since our path through the branching multiverse is a random walk.

As for our decisions just being a deterministic result of a program running in our heads,  we have no way of knowing that.  For example,  it could be possible that a ‘decision’ in the brain has a random element.  Our brains might set up two possibilities for evaluation and as preferences build there could be a cascade of neural firing that makes the ‘decision’, and that cascade could be utterly unpredictable yet based on our knowledge.  Or perhaps in our brains both alternatives are tested internally,  and some sort of evaluation function examines both and determines a winner through a number of factors, some of which could be truly random.

Sam puts a lot of stock in the evidence that the motor functions for an action appear to start slightly before the decision center in the brain indicates that an answer has been found.  But there could be other interpretations of that.  Even if the decision was made at a lower level and the conscious ‘decision’ is basically after-the-fact reporting of the decision,  that doesn’t remove free will.  It just means that part of your decision-making system is not conscious.  But if the same evaluation is going on based on your own feelings, knowledge, morals, and experience,  we’re just talking semantics.  It’s still a choice that you uniquely made.  It’s a choice that wasn’t inevitable or wholly dictated by some built-in deterministic program.  And of course our choices are influenced by past choices, our own experiences and knowledge, etc.  That’s BIAS, not derteminism.  And bias is not necessarily a bad thing.  It’s individual bias that creates diversity.  Or if you like,  local knowledge you have that others don’t, which influence your decisions.  Complex adaptive systems require independent, autonomous agents that exhibit a certain amount of randomness in their actions along with deliberative choices, so our default assumption should be that humans are in fact independent agents that make choices that for all intents and purposes can be called ‘free will’, even if they are constrained by personal experience.  Or maybe especially because they are constrained by personal experience.  That provides the diversity that a complex adaptive system needs to compute results.

If we look at other complex systems,  randomness (Stochastic processing) seems to be a major part.  That combined with feedback creates unknowable future states.  For example,  when ants run out of food,  they swarm out of a hive and begin milling around randomly, but under a set of rules (“Keep yourself equidistant from other ants, and move away from the hive”).  But within those constraints the ants seem to move in truly random fashion.  Evolution itself is stochastic, as genetic mutations occur in random fashion.  And yet,  out of all that randomness emerges ant hills and complete ant societies that seem to act together in intelligent ways.  Or even evolved, high technology societies.  And there’s nothing fully deterministic about it.

A final thought experiment:  You are Laplace’s demon, in a single universe,  and you’re looking at a box with a alive/dead/superimposed cat in it.  When you look in the box,  depending on your interpretation of QM you will either discover which branch you took in the multiverse,  or which of the superimposed states the cat actually collapsed into, either alive or dead.

Now,  if the universe is deterministic, the Demon should be able to tell you if this universe will have a live cat in it after he looks.  After all, he has all the information about the positions and movement of every particle in the universe, right down to the level of quantum indeterminacy.  But he has NO way of knowing whether the cat will be alive or dead.

Now imagine that a live cat eventually runs out into the road, which causes a traffic accident which kills the person who would have led the world to a global war.  So now Laplace’s Demon can’t even tell us if a major event like a world war is coming in the future,  simply because of quantum indeterminacy. 

 
Quadrewple
 
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11 June 2018 23:39
 

OP you raise some good points.

The belief in free will is us as humans attempting to conceptualize that which we do not yet understand.  Until we have perfect information about the human brain, and can adequately gauge what output is determined for a given input into someone’s brain, free will as a concept has an (IMO) obvious utilitarian benefit, and like any concept which has utilitarian benefits, it can probably also be invoked in anti-utilitarian ways.

I think the most obvious utilitarian benefit of free will is in child-rearing.  I would be fascinated to see how a parent would go about raising a child without invoking the concept of choice, and if it would be the disaster I suspect it would be.  The paradox of free will is that it is a program that once internalized, determines that there is a gap between input and output wherein the person conceptualizes a higher self which is free from determinism.  As a program, it has its limits, but that’s my understand of it.  Adam and Eve were punished from eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil - free will is essentially knowledge of good and evil.  My view (right now, subject to change) is that if you do not believe free will is utilitarian then you probably don’t believe the concepts of good and evil are utilitarian either.  It’s an interesting discussion.


We are nowhere near knowledgeable enough about the human brain for us to put determinism into practice.  If we DID have perfect information, then it could have interesting repercussions for eugenics and for the responsibility of parents to provide their child’s brain with certain inputs and exclude others, so that the environmental programming of that specific brain wouldn’t determine anti-social or violent behavior.

All that being said, there are obviously deterministic elements to the brain and physical reality.  The line of thinking I worry about for determinists (especially those with emotional problems) is as follows:

1.  Everything is determined.
2.  Since I cannot possibly be aware of every input, and how that input is processed in my brain, I may as well accept my fate based on my programming.

So the problem really comes when determinists use their view on determinism to avoid scientific knowledge, and neglect to acknowledge or act on the fact that one’s programming can be changed in many ways.  So belief in determinism + lack of curiosity = a near guarantee that one’s programming will not change (except due to environmental influences beyond one’s control such as trauma or superbly good fortune).

#1.  It is a scientific fact that significant events (good and bad) change one’s programming.
#2.  It is a scientific fact that you can influence your sympathetic nervous system using the Wim Hof breathing method.
#3.  It is empirically true that some people have the desire to change their programming and others don’t, or at least, some people seek changes in their programming and some don’t.

If one is unsatisfied with their emotional programming AND not trying to change their programming or understand what separates the former group in #3 from the latter, then I feel sorry for them indeed. 

I would recommend your friend dig into mindfulness.
Mindfulness with Jon Kabat-Zinn