Entropy and Free Will

 
weird buffalo
 
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weird buffalo
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04 June 2021 08:49
 

I’m not well versed in information theory, but one concept I was recently introduced to was the idea that a low entropy situation is also a low information one.  If all your particles are neatly arranged, and there are only a few types, then the amount of information is also low.  An easy way to think of it is video compression.  In order to save on memory/bandwidth, video compression only records information about a pixel when it changes or is different from it’s neighbors.  If all the pixels are one color and don’t change, the file can be very small.  As the pixels change or differ from their neighbor, more memory is required to store that information.

While the universe doesn’t have memory or bandwidth issues, the relative position and speed of every particle is information.  As entropy continues to increase in the universe overall, the amount of information in the universe increases as the relationships between all those particles becomes more complex.  This puts a dagger in the heart of Laplace’s Demon.  The idea that you could know all the starting conditions of the universe and predict everything is prevented by the increase in entropy.  The future is inherently unknowable due to a constant increase in information.  If a being were omniscient, the amount of information it knew would increase with the passage of time, and since it knows more now than it did in the past, there were things it could not predict.

Now, I would still be the argument that humans are probably largely deterministic.  Our biology and individual history makes many of our actions predictable.  Predictions can be flawed by not fully understanding our biology or accounting for our individual history, but when that information is close to perfect our predictions are fairly good.  That said though, living organism are likely part of the actual mechanisms of entropy.  When looking on the small scale of a specific location and a specific period of time it is possible for us to reduce entropy.  We can arrange things in an orderly fashion.  But the energy requirements just to do that arranging contribute to the entropy of the universe.  Since our very existence is increasing the amount of information in the universe, it means that some of what we do is randomly determined as it is new information.  If it were based on old information, it wouldn’t actually be new.  It has to be randomly determined.

I think there’s a question as to whether we could call this free will or not.  If we do an action that is random, and not predetermined, does that mean that we are merely present for this random new information, or did we choose it intentionally?  An intentional random outcome seems contradictory, but at the same time I don’t currently have language to describe non-determinism other than free will when it comes to agency.  Also, just because it seems contradictory when it comes to concepts like this doesn’t mean it isn’t true.  Either the contradiction points out a flaw in our assumptions, or there is some mechanism that prevents the contradictory thing from happening.

A lot of this is new information for me (doing my part to increase entropy), and so preliminary research didn’t turn up much.  I’m hoping someone’s seen something relating to this to either shut me down, or lead further down the rabbit hole.

 
nonverbal
 
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nonverbal
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04 June 2021 10:14
 

I like your analysis style, but it’s really just a matter of how we define our words. And how do our words get defined?—by both traditional use and current use. Both seem out of place against the backdrop of what is real and actual whenever free will enters the conversation, wouldn’t you say?

 
 
weird buffalo
 
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04 June 2021 11:27
 

The primary stumbling block is that I’m partially making a very common mistake in pseudo-scientific circles in how physics gets applied to our understanding of the universe.  I’m taking concepts that we know are true in regards to particles and scaling them up to the human experience.  A lot of times this just isn’t true, and so I’m definitely attempting to reserve mental space to accept the fact that I might be leaping to an unwarranted conclusion.

Per our conversation in the other thread, I don’t think we should necessarily draw conclusions about how we organize society based on the physics that determine whether we have free will or not.  In our moral and legal systems, free will is still a necessary and useful conceit, that even if proven false, I would consider it a “useful fiction”.

The interesting thing to me is that fundamentally, the future is inherently uncertain.  Though there might be a correlation to the uncertainty principle (I’m definitely not an expert on these topics, I’m only mildly aware of them).  Rather, it’s the ever increasing amount of information that guarantees that it is impossible to know all of the future.  Even if many large parts of it are predictable, there is inherently parts that cannot be predicted.  It isn’t even possible to know what future new information will be because it must be the result of random new information.

 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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Antisocialdarwinist
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04 June 2021 17:15
 
weird buffalo - 04 June 2021 08:49 AM

If we do an action that is random, and not predetermined, does that mean that we are merely present for this random new information, or did we choose it intentionally?

Determinism allows for will, but not free. Randomness allows for free, but where’s the will?

 
 
nonverbal
 
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nonverbal
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04 June 2021 18:09
 
weird buffalo - 04 June 2021 11:27 AM

The primary stumbling block is that I’m partially making a very common mistake in pseudo-scientific circles in how physics gets applied to our understanding of the universe.  I’m taking concepts that we know are true in regards to particles and scaling them up to the human experience.  A lot of times this just isn’t true, and so I’m definitely attempting to reserve mental space to accept the fact that I might be leaping to an unwarranted conclusion.

Per our conversation in the other thread, I don’t think we should necessarily draw conclusions about how we organize society based on the physics that determine whether we have free will or not.  In our moral and legal systems, free will is still a necessary and useful conceit, that even if proven false, I would consider it a “useful fiction”.

We see eye-to-eye re above.

weird buffalo - 04 June 2021 11:27 AM

The interesting thing to me is that fundamentally, the future is inherently uncertain.  Though there might be a correlation to the uncertainty principle (I’m definitely not an expert on these topics, I’m only mildly aware of them).  Rather, it’s the ever increasing amount of information that guarantees that it is impossible to know all of the future.  Even if many large parts of it are predictable, there is inherently parts that cannot be predicted.  It isn’t even possible to know what future new information will be because it must be the result of random new information.

The no free-will advocates would probably argue that an individual’s—or a society’s—foreknowledge or lack of foreknowledge of future events doesn’t impact their view of no free will.

 
 
nonverbal
 
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nonverbal
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04 June 2021 18:10
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 04 June 2021 05:15 PM
weird buffalo - 04 June 2021 08:49 AM

If we do an action that is random, and not predetermined, does that mean that we are merely present for this random new information, or did we choose it intentionally?

Determinism allows for will, but not free. Randomness allows for free, but where’s the will?

You’re highly quotable today, ASD.

 
 
Jb8989
 
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Jb8989
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05 June 2021 09:36
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 04 June 2021 05:15 PM
weird buffalo - 04 June 2021 08:49 AM

If we do an action that is random, and not predetermined, does that mean that we are merely present for this random new information, or did we choose it intentionally?

Determinism allows for will, but not free. Randomness allows for free, but where’s the will?

I like that. What do you think of this? I think that being convinced of the self is personhood. Maybe it’s just a conviction to an instinct that feels like there’s an abundance of choice.

 
 
nonverbal
 
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nonverbal
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09 June 2021 07:55
 
Jb8989 - 05 June 2021 09:36 AM
Antisocialdarwinist - 04 June 2021 05:15 PM
weird buffalo - 04 June 2021 08:49 AM

If we do an action that is random, and not predetermined, does that mean that we are merely present for this random new information, or did we choose it intentionally?

Determinism allows for will, but not free. Randomness allows for free, but where’s the will?

I like that. What do you think of this? I think that being convinced of the self is personhood. Maybe it’s just a conviction to an instinct that feels like there’s an abundance of choice.

What about people who are less than convinced of the self? Can they achieve personhood? By the way, I remember jdrnd’s posts about babies not being persons. I’m all for doctors narrating nonsense to themselves if it helps them get through the day, as they need to make extremely difficult life-death decisions at times.

 
 
Jb8989
 
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Jb8989
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09 June 2021 09:10
 
nonverbal - 09 June 2021 07:55 AM
Jb8989 - 05 June 2021 09:36 AM
Antisocialdarwinist - 04 June 2021 05:15 PM
weird buffalo - 04 June 2021 08:49 AM

If we do an action that is random, and not predetermined, does that mean that we are merely present for this random new information, or did we choose it intentionally?

Determinism allows for will, but not free. Randomness allows for free, but where’s the will?

I like that. What do you think of this? I think that being convinced of the self is personhood. Maybe it’s just a conviction to an instinct that feels like there’s an abundance of choice.

What about people who are less than convinced of the self? Can they achieve personhood? By the way, I remember jdrnd’s posts about babies not being persons. I’m all for doctors narrating nonsense to themselves if it helps them get through the day, as they need to make extremely difficult life-death decisions at times.

Maybe we’re just a brain in two boxes. The skull and the universe. Society being the equilizer that helps us pretend were something special. And to say fuck it about not pretending.

I narrate nonsense as a survival feature everyday.

 
 
weird buffalo
 
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09 June 2021 10:54
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 04 June 2021 05:15 PM
weird buffalo - 04 June 2021 08:49 AM

If we do an action that is random, and not predetermined, does that mean that we are merely present for this random new information, or did we choose it intentionally?

Determinism allows for will, but not free. Randomness allows for free, but where’s the will?

I don’t think determinism does allow for will.  If the outcome of a decision is predetermined… then I don’t think we can actually call it a decision.  It is something that appears to be a decision, but appearances can be deceiving.

I’m using “free will” here mostly because it is the agreed upon alternative to determinism.  I do think that we should be open to the possibility that “free will” might turn out to be something other than was considered classically.  The past had a lot of great thinkers, but that doesn’t mean we should be limited to how they thought.  Just because they thought “free will” was going to be something specific doesn’t mean we can’t amend what the concept is.

I’m still of the opinion that the biggest argument against me is one of scale.  The amount of entropy that our existence creates in the universe is so insignificant, and hence the amount of information increase we create is so small, that it means that even if my hypothesis were correct, the amount of actual “free will” that we exercise would be a tiny fraction of all of our thoughts and behaviors.  I don’t know any actual figures, but I would guess that the Sun’s entropy in a single moment would dwarf that of most all of human history.  Reactions with heat have some of the highest rates of entropy period, and the Sun loses more heat every second than we can comfortably conceive.  Combined with the necessity of quantum tunneling for the Sun’s reaction, and you have a high degree of randomness creating new information in orders of magnitude greater than we will ever accomplish.

My argument presents a possible path towards the door of free will, but the door’s still like a mile away, and I can’t even put my foot in the door yet.

 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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13 June 2021 16:24
 
weird buffalo - 09 June 2021 10:54 AM

I’m using “free will” here mostly because it is the agreed upon alternative to determinism.  I do think that we should be open to the possibility that “free will” might turn out to be something other than was considered classically.

I don’t think it’s a matter of “free will” turning out to be something other than was considered classically, it’s a matter of “choosing” (ha ha) a definition to suit whatever purpose one has in mind. What’s the purpose of defining it as an alternative to determinism? To evade moral culpability?

I think it’s more interesting to look at “free will” in terms of choosing or reaching conclusions independent not of determinism, but of our own subconscious choices and conclusions. Lot’s of recent research indicates that this form of “free will” is at best rare, at worst impossible, and that the process of rationalizing subconscious choices and conclusions creates the illusion of having arrived at them consciously.

But even if this form of “free will” is impossible and the best we can do is exercise “free won’t” to override our subconscious choices and conclusions, that’s still something that can be learned, exercised and improved (unlike the agreed upon alternative to determinism, which seems like a dead end). The inability or unwillingness to exercise “free won’t,” smugly succumbing to the illusion of having chosen consciously when all you’ve done is rationalize your subconscious choice or intuitive conclusion, seems to me one of our flawed mind’s greatest flaws.

(Ironically, intelligent people are probably more susceptible to the illusion, by virtue of being better able to rationalize their subconscious conclusions.)

We ought to teach “free won’t” to everyone in school, starting at an early age, then revisiting it periodically.