Thursday, October 26, 2006

Free Will

As another followup to tuesday's post, I thought I'd take on the question of free will. It's often asked whether humans have free will, or whether we are just, as Scott Adams likes to say, "moist robots". The answer, of course, is that both are true.

Free will, as the absence of some sort of predetermination, is in the context of humanity because that predetermination is not. If there is predetermination -- be it in a scientific "moist robot" form or something more transcendental -- humanity is entirely within that bubble, and predetermination has only meta-existence in that context.

In a more objective sense, it could be argued that this means that free will is an illusion, but this does not mean that we are not responsible for our (predetermined) actions. Everything you do is within the context of humanity, in which there is free will. On a larger scale, the action may be predetermined, but that predetermination takes into account your choices and the incalculable number of factors that lead to them.

This writing is predetermined and your reading (perception), interpretation, acceptance, and application of the ideas are all predetermined. You have the choice of whether or not to make your choices based on the belief that those decisions don't matter because they are predetermined, or based on the belief that you do have free will and that your decisions matter. These beliefs themselves are predetermined, but because you and your influences are all the creation and the tool of that predetermination, and because you do not know what is predetermined to be, it is useless to speculate as to what it is, or to introduce it into your decision-making process.

If predetermination is scientific, it would theoretically be possible to calculate every occurrence ahead of time given enough processing power and information about the influencing factors. Of course, this would realistically be impossible, since this would require a computer with enough computing power to not only calculate the physics of everything happening in the world, but in addition it would require the combined processing power of the brains of every human being and the ability to recursively precompute its own computations to factor its output into the computation of that output, a feat that's unlikely to be possible even for a quantum computer.

Time travel, then, would be the only possible method of discovering predetermination, but that's a can of worms for a future post.

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