I have Free Will (Please read post 1 before voting)

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by Huntn, Jan 20, 2014.

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I have Free Will

Poll closed Jul 19, 2014.
  1. Theism- Yes, free will.

    9 vote(s)
    31.0%
  2. Theism- Kinda, within the limits of individual morality.

    2 vote(s)
    6.9%
  3. Theism- No, morality is a harness that restricts free will.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  4. Theism- No, we are on a path out of our control (puppet on a string).

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  5. Theism- Thinking about it (please describe).

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  6. Theism- No opinion.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  7. Alt Belief- Yes, free will.

    5 vote(s)
    17.2%
  8. Alt Belief- Kinda, within the limits of individual morality.

    8 vote(s)
    27.6%
  9. oAlt Belief- No, morality is a harness that restricts free will.

    3 vote(s)
    10.3%
  10. Alt Belief- No, we are on a path out of our control (puppet on a string).

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  11. Alt Belief- Thinking about it (please describe).

    1 vote(s)
    3.4%
  12. Alt Belief- No opinion.

    1 vote(s)
    3.4%
  1. Huntn, Jan 20, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2014

    Huntn macrumors G5

    Huntn

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    #1
    I thought this might be an interesting discussion. If you express an opinion, I'd assume there is a philosophical or religious overlay involved, so please include if it applies. :)

    For the sake of the argument, I can happily follow the laws of society, or I can steal a pack of gum (which I did once), or I could pick up my gun and shoot myself if I chose to. Does my morality prevent me from doing this, or could a situation become so grim that death appears to be the best choice? Does this constitute free will? Are we saddled with our morality or do we pick and choose what it (morality) will be?

    I believe that within the limits of physical model that I exist in combination with the moral spectrum I acquired/formulated/or was given, that I do have free will to act within those limits, to be responsible or irresponsible I still consider it to be free will although I understand that my morality curbs my choices. My poll choice was "kinda". I believe that while morality limits our free will, morality makes us who we are so for my intents it is free will of sorts. :p

    Poll Choices divided into 2 parts- one believing in traditional religion (theist), not meant as a negative label, or two having an agnostic, atheist, etc (alternate, Alt).

    1. Yes- complete free will.
    2. Kinda- within the limits of individual morality.
    3. No- morality is a harness that restricts free will.
    4. No- we are on a path out of our control (puppet on a string).
    5. Thinking about it.
    6. I don’t want to think about it and don’t have an opinion.

    Explanation of choices: I'd like to distinguish between choice No.2 and 3. They both consider morality a harness, but for a personal perspective, someone who picks number 2, still thinks we have the freedom to chose right from wrong, but the person who picks No.3, feels more strongly that the harness of morality removes anything that could be describes as free choice.

    And the difference between 3 and 4 is the difference between being able to choose within a spectrum versus being a puppet on a string controlled by external forces with basically no say.

    One of the choices has a typo with an "o" at the beginning.
     
  2. VulchR macrumors 68020

    VulchR

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    #2
    I doubt seriously that we have much insight about our choices. There are a lot of neural systems that influence choice that do not have direct access to language centres or higher-order cognitive centres associated with 'thought' and consciousness. Thus, when we are asked about why we did a particular action, in many instances our explanations for our behaviours are post-hoc confabulations.
     
  3. Ugg macrumors 68000

    Ugg

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    #3
    A long while back, skunk had a thread about whether humans have truly evolved or not. I think we are evolving and free will is something we have but it is over-shadowed by our baser instincts.
     
  4. Sydde macrumors 68020

    Sydde

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    #4
    When you look at the spiderweb of causes, influences, needs and expectations, human behavior looks a lot less autonomous than when you just say, "oh, we have free will". I, for instance, cannot choose to like lutefisk or casu marzu, and while I may be able to choose to take a stroll in certain parts of the city at night, I probably will not because it is a bad idea. Our choices are driven and constrained by a lot more than just morality.
     
  5. citizenzen macrumors 65816

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    #5
    I agree. Our choices are highly constrained by our current conditions and past conditioning.

    However, that doesn't free will isn't at play.

    If it's not ultimately you deciding what to do, then who is it that is in control?
     
  6. jkcerda macrumors 6502

    jkcerda

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    #6
    the wife in most cases :p
     
  7. elistan macrumors 6502a

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    #7
    Not who, what. Physics.
     
  8. citizenzen macrumors 65816

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    #8
    Elaborate. Please.

    I can understand physics as an conditioning and influencing force, but I never saw it as the ultimate decider.

    How does that work?
     
  9. localoid macrumors 68020

    localoid

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    #9
    Which flavor of physics are you referring to? Standard theory is deterministic, and excludes randomness. Quantum theory however allows for randomness and the many worlds interruption implies that every conceivable event happens (in some universe).
     
  10. elistan macrumors 6502a

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    #10
    My view is that our behavior is a result of the interactions of all the matter and energy that we're composed of, subject to inputs from outside, and those interactions are governed by the laws of physics - not a who.
     
  11. Huntn thread starter macrumors G5

    Huntn

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    #11
    According to Stephen Hawking in The Grand Design, we are all controlled by nature's laws and quantum physics, ie there is no free will. Because it is impractical to try to measure all of the things going on in a human, it is easier to apply an "effective theory" a model based on observed phenomena without trying to describe all of the underlying processes of a human being. So we use things such as economics or psychology to try to explain human behavior with mixed results. :p

    I think he is saying that we all must eat, sleep, procreate, etc. And if an individual does not want to procreate, is that free will, or is that just a predisposition of how the individual will act, in other words a constraint?

    Based on this definition: free will is making choices with out restraints. Humans tend to define free will as mostly social and moral choices, but a quantum physicist would insist there are tons of constraints working upon us that takes away real free will.



    ----------

    Maybe he can dig it up. :)
     
  12. Sydde macrumors 68020

    Sydde

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    #12
    There actually is a rather obscure discipline that looks into this stuff. Hawking is pretty brainy, but he is not a Behaviorist, the top of that field was one B. F. Skinner, whose Beyond Freedom and Dignity goes pretty deeply into the subject and makes not a few people rather uncomfortable.

    You can basically divide human behavior into two major parts: physiology and calculation. Physiology drives basic needs (survival, comfort, sex, et cetera), but it also holds the secret key to our quirks. Why does one person like Herbie Mann, another Pink Floyd, or Wagner, Sinatra or Brad Paisley (not to say these are necessarily exclusive)? Why does one person naturally excel at cooking, or welding, or programming? This stuff – talents and preferences – seems to be physiology, but it also affects our choices.

    But when you look closely at the things you do, you will be able, if you are persistent and perceptive, to see that a great deal of it involves some measure of calculation. Often, it is pretty low level, all but imperceptible in many cases, but when you dissect the choices you make to try to understand why you make them, it becomes harder and harder to fit some arcane idea like "free will" into the equation.
     
  13. localoid, Jan 21, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2014

    localoid macrumors 68020

    localoid

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    #13
    On the _Illusion_ of Free Will...

    Lots of stuff to look at and listen to follows...

    I find Hawking's take on free will to be interesting, largely because he implies that free will is an illusion (and I believe he actually states this in Grand Design, if I remember correctly.)

    Hawking, in his essay, Is Everything Determined?, from his book, Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays, answers the question (posed in the essay's title) by saying "... Yes, it is. But it might as well not be, because we can never know what is determined."

    Part I
     
  14. citizenzen macrumors 65816

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    #14
    I'd agree that our bodies are "a result of the interactions of all the matter and energy that we're composed of, subject to inputs from outside, and those interactions are governed by the laws of physics."

    I'd agree that there is no soul inhabiting and driving that matter and energy.

    However, once all those interactions of all the matter and energy are combined into a human body a "who" develops. I think you'd agree that within the matter and energy that has coalesced into the body known as "elision" there is a "who" ... even if that "who" is just a manifestation resulting from matter and energy.

    So where is the disagreement?

    I believe that physical laws are limited. They can explain why this body has come together, but they can't explain why in this moment I chose to type "ootootootootootootootootootoot" or "eexeexeexeexeexeexeexeexeex" or whatever. If I do attribute my moment to moment decisions to physical laws—instead of the brain created by those physical laws—then I'm just giving up my free will to some other "godlike" invisible force.

    We know that changing one's brain changes ones behavior, personality and likewise personal choices. Why overlook the obvious—that the brain, our bodies, give us the capability of choice?
     
  15. Huntn thread starter macrumors G5

    Huntn

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    #15
    Thanks for the links! I will view them. I feel that within a limited range determined by our biology, some would call it social biology, we have a limited range to make a decision. I would not call that free will and actually even our choices within that range could be questioned from a free will standpoint.

    Example, let's say Joe is happily married but on a business trip meets an attractive woman at the hotel bar and is tempted to have an affair. Was his choice free will or preordained? In the next example, on 3 business trips, Joe has one night stands, but then he starts feeling guilty and stops. Is this free will, or a natural progression where he arrives at a place where this activity is no longer attractive? In the final example, Joe is caught in an affair, manages to save his marriage, and swears off extramarital affairs. Is this free will, or is the action for Joe a consequence of being caught?

    The same mechanics could be at play with alcoholics. When an alcoholic finally hits their bottom and stops drinking, was this free will or a consequence of a chain of events? It is not clear to me.
     
  16. elistan macrumors 6502a

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    #16
    I don't think there is any disagreement. I certainly feel there's a "who." We're just looking at the same thing from different levels of abstraction. Consider the first exchange:

    citizenzen: "If it's not ultimately you deciding what to do, then who is it that is in control?"
    elistan: "Not who, what. Physics [is in control if it's not ultimately you deciding what to do.]"

    I simply was trying to take it one level of abstraction lower - I wasn't expressing any disagreement that there's a "who", just expressing my view of where the "who" comes from.

    In my view, it's our understanding of physics that's limited, not physics itself. I think that, ultimately, physics CAN explain why in this very moment you're doing whatever it is you're doing. We just don't have enough understanding of all the physical rules, and enough awareness of the current status, to adequately explain everything.

    If you attribute your moment to moment decisions to physical laws, then yes, you're giving up your free will to those physical laws.

    But also, if you attribute your moment to moment decisions to your brain created by those physical laws, you're still giving up your free will to those physical laws, just at a slightly different level of abstraction.

    [By the way - to me, "godlike" implies a will, or consciousness, or the like. We're all subject to gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces, but I wouldn't say those are "godlike" invisible forces.]

    I feel that there is only the illusion of choice - we're not choosing to type "ootootootootootootootootootoot" anymore than a Plinko disk is choosing to land in the far left slot. Our brains are just significantly more complex than the Plinko game, with many more possible outcomes.

    To sum up - I agree that our behavior is due to our brain, but I also say that our brain is due to physics. Therefore, our behavior is due to physics.
     
  17. Huntn thread starter macrumors G5

    Huntn

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    #17
    In the book Hawkin admits that quantum physicists are still trying to fit together how the framework of classical science emerges from quantum physics.

    As far as "choice" and "free will" I think we can eliminate true free will as an option, whatever choice we do have falls within a narrow spectrum. But then is choice really a choice or is it a preordained action? This is not to imply that we are puppets on God's string, but when a situation appears that allows for multiple ways to move forward, was the path executed a chosen one or a preordained one based on an individual's makeup? For society to function we have to believe that we are capable of good or bad choices.
     
  18. VulchR macrumors 68020

    VulchR

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    #18
    Not so sure about that. Morals have functional significance, e.g. 'do not steal' enables trust and cooperation, and in general this enhances the survival of groups, but I am not sure that we need to invoked good vs evil to evaluate decisions as compared to adaptive vs maladaptive.

    I do believe that some people are 'evil', but to me that just means that they find hurting others to be intrinsically rewarding. I doubt for some that will ever change, but I do not perceive that as a spiritual or moral failure. Predators are predators....
     
  19. Huntn thread starter macrumors G5

    Huntn

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    #19
    If one buys into quantum physics, it seems that at the atomic level, anticipating action is simple, but when those atoms clump into large groups to form an animal, then the resultant actions may fall within a spectrum of possible actions, but is not as clear, especially when it comes to consciousness and emotional decisions.

    I forget who it was off hand, but at one point a famous scientist reserved consciousness for the divine, separating it from physics to make allowances for a spiritual existence. (I'll try to look it up if no one beats me to it.) I don't believe we really know what causes consciousness, or do we?
     
  20. Sydde macrumors 68020

    Sydde

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    #20
    I think it is a pretty straightforward result of natural selection. Animals that were more attuned to their environment and more intent upon survival would be selected in favor of animals lacking such characteristics. Hence, awareness and will to survive evolved just as one might expect. These are the basic components of the "spiritual being", there is really nothing mystical about it. My cat has a soul if you or I do, she just lacks the ability to analyze it.

    There is in fact lots of weird stuff that goes on in the universe, stuff that may never be within our ken (which raises the question as to whether ghosts have free will ;) ), but this "soul" thing, I am not buying it.
     
  21. elistan macrumors 6502a

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    #21
    Indeed, I think the emergent behavior of the "who" is influenced by quantum physics, as well as classical mechanics and relativity - plus whatever other physical frameworks exist that we don't yet know about. When I said above that "ultimately, physics CAN explain why in this very moment you're doing whatever it is you're doing" I didn't mean to imply that everything is deterministic - just like physics can explain why the electron behaves it does, while at the same time be restricted in precisely knowing all aspects about it due to Heisenberg's uncertainty principle.

    Before we contemplate the cause of consciousness, can we first answer the following questions?

    1) What is consciousness?
    2) Does it actually exist?

    ;)
     
  22. chown33 macrumors 604

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    #22
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consciousness_Explained

    I thought it was a decent book, but I don't necessarily agree with everything in it. Note even sure I understand everything in it. The parts about perceptual illusions was interesting.

    I really like the title, though; it's chutzpah on crack[1].



    [1] Shrink, "Enough is enough!!!", post #5, 14 Dec 2013.
    [2] I like citations, too.
     
  23. Huntn, Jan 21, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2014

    Huntn thread starter macrumors G5

    Huntn

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    #23
    I'm comfortable saying yes it does exist. It is having the intelligence/characteristic to be self aware. I assume that eventually could be programmed. But is it still just a machine or the equivalent of a biological machine?

    What makes a biological brain have consciousness and a computer not? When they create a computer with the same computational abilities and "positronic" abilities (aka Data) as the human brain, will computers achieve consciousness? I suppose it is possible.

    As I recall there was a Twilight Zone episode like this... a man who did not realize that he was really a robot.

    If you had a robot with the intelligence of a human being and uploaded all of your memories to it, it might even think it was you, but isn't it just a machine with your memories? What makes you you- personality, memories, and a predisposition to react in specific ways in specific situations.

    Then there is also the elusive soul to contemplate. It's the soul that makes us more than a biological machine, but something that can endure and benefit from lessons learned. While I don't claim we have souls, (I'd like us to), I'm also comfortable based on my observation to say that if humans have a soul, so do other mammals, however I would not say all life, but what do I know? ;)

    And finally, comparing a future Data (STNG character) to a human being, what gives human beings personality versus being identical? I assume in the world of science, eventually biological variations could be incorporated into a machine to get something pretty human like. You could even go so far that once they understand the chemical variations that gives us personality, make each human being unique, this could be incorporated into machines ending up with the same outlook similar to biological organisms. And if they can repair and upgrade themselves, they could evolve into better machines as something like portrayed at the end of the movie A.I.

    But this raises more questions, do we all really start out as blank slates? How do we from a sense of self as something unique? It is our predisposition, our personality, how we react to situations, molded by experiences and our memories that holds it all together. If we did not have memories, we'd have no clue who we are. We would still think in terms of "I" but not know who "I" is... The most interesting real examples might be identical twins, identical physically, but they each have their own sense of self, different perspectives and memories.
     
  24. Sydde macrumors 68020

    Sydde

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    #24
    As a matter of conjecture, I would say the biggest difference is that we are holistic beings. Computers are fairly modular, you can swap boards, drives, chips, as long as interfacing can maintain compatibility between the components, the machine still functions as before, although, perhaps, with different performance metrics.

    It has not been shown that a person can be transplanted (e.g., brain and spine) into another person and remain the same person (brain donor). Even if we try to replace other faulty components, our bodies object, and we have to take anti-rejection drugs just to not die because of that. How deeply our being is entwined with our body is not really clear, but from the immune system's behavior, it looks like it really might be pretty deep.

    It is this direct connection we have between our awareness and our physical presence that a machine simply cannot have. It might be possible to simulate it to the Nth degree, but we might never be sure that it is anything more than a really, really good simulation.

    Then we get to art. Why do we paint, sculpt, write, strum and film? What drives us to express our feelings in these ways? My guess is that it has something to do with social behavior and copulation, motivations that we might be able to simulate in machines, but again, they will be just simulations. Expression tends to be heavy with emotional content – the genesis of emotion is primarily biochemical, we might be able to code for that, but I am not convinced that it would be more than, again, an elaborate simulation. When you come up with a robot that is truly creative and breaks new artistic ground, that is when I might start to take AI seriously.

    Ultimately, though, I think it is our very non-modular completeness that gives rise to our awareness. This thing that I am can only be me, any other would be a simulation of me. As long as an AI program is portable and restartable, I do not believe that genuine awareness can be achieved.

    Which treads on another difficult question. When you look at your brain, its mass of interwoven neurons, you see a pretty impressive, massively-parallel computing machine. To get an idea of how much it is doing, go to the grocery store on a Saturday afternoon and spend some time observing what an incredible volume of information you ignore most of the time. Grab a can of clam chowder, and look how quickly you found it, how easily you blocked out all the chicken noodle soup cans, the tomato, the bean with bacon, etc, etc. Now go get your crackers. They are three aisles over, toward the front. Notice how quickly you choose the shorter route (except, there is a small family clustered in that direction, so you go the long way rather than trying to get past them), notice, as you walk over there how very much sensory input you are blocking out. The muzak, all the stuff that wants you to buy it, the smell of the soap aisle ...

    With all this incredible processing power, where do we have room to store information? Yes, some of our memories are tied up in the dynamic structure of the neurons themselves, but there really is not room for all of it. Like that memory you have from ten years old, of going swimming in Silver Lake: a memory so complete that you can even smell the burning marshmallows. The completeness with which we store memories strongly suggests to me that it is a much more complicated process than writing to a hard drive, and that the storage scheme is more elaborate and extensive than we have guessed (dreams are most likely part of the process of sorting and committing memories to storage). If memories are part of who we are, we are also, I suspect, literally, physically composed of memories.

    In this light, drawing a distinction between people and machines would seem like a pretty simple thing. We are whole units of existence, with unusual quirks that may be genetic or developmental. A great deal of what we do is pretty mechanical when you examine the needs, influences and expectations associated with it. And then there are the things that arise from more obscure places, the need to express ourselves, which I doubt could truly be simulated. All of this, wrapped in the singular fragility of our existence, tied up with the desire to continue to exist, describes something that looks to me, for all the world, to be indistinguishable from this "soul" thing.
     
  25. VulchR macrumors 68020

    VulchR

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    #25
    In response to the previous post: there are something like 10^11th neurons, each of which has 10^3rd connections on average. That's much more complicated than the communication system of this planet. There are plenty degrees of freedom to store memories in neurons. Indeed, the idea of storage or memory that is separate from ongoing information processing probably doesn't apply to long-term memories. Computers cannot change the connections of their CPU's on the fly, but we do all the time.
     

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