Jump to content
Mental Support Community

great scientific (but well understandable) article about free will


Recommended Posts

I recommend, at least the introduction:


short quotes:

... we shall present a model of an artificial agent that exhibits a notion of freedom in dealing with its environment, which is part of a physically well-defined scheme of information processing and learning. This model could in principle be realized, with present-day technology, in artificial agents such as robots. This demonstrates, first, that a notion of freedom can indeed exist for entities that operate, without exception and at all scales, under the laws of physics. It also shows that free behavior can be understood as an emergent property of biological systems of sufficient complexity that have evolved a specific form of memory.


What we can provide, however, is an explicit proposal on how we can reconcile our understanding of universal physical law with the idea that higher biological entities can exhibit a notion of freedom. It allows them to detach themselves from a strict dependence on the surrounding world and, at the same time, to truly create behavior on their own that is both spontaneous and meaningful in response to their environment.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree that the article is interesting and well-written. It may help improve our basic understanding of the question of "free will". If it reaches some people and generates some new thinking on the idea, that will be great. I don't think the overall question is impossible to understand, in time.

But I've been in academia in the 1990s and studied questions of consciousness (closely related to the question of free will) and the basic dilemma was to me glossed over. Do you want me to do an academic-style argument here? Some folks might hear it as me being harsh or unkind and I don't want to "spoil the waters" so to speak.

Maybe that last paragraph will serve as a trigger-warning for those who don't like "argument" of any sort? I hope so.

If it needs to be more explicit: TRIGGER WARNING!!

Here's a quote from the article:

Whatever definition one chooses, both notions of freedom, be it in the sense of conscious free choice or in the sense of self-generated action, have to be reconciled with the basic assumption that biological agents - conscious or unconscious - are, without exception and at all scales of their bodies, subject to physical law. The fundamental problem is, in both cases, how freedom can emerge from lawful processes.

My response:

Seems to me that the “basic assumption” is an assumption about a resolution to the mind-body problem. Or maybe it's an assumption that all physical laws are currently known. So I don’t entirely agree with the authors’ basic assumption. That is, I think that it is possible (and, to me, even likely) that . . . for want of better words. . . some aspect of the universe (and thus a possibly legitimate part of physics some day) is not currently known. It has not yet been observed by human beings or their measuring instruments. Most importantly, this aspect’s interaction with more common aspects of the universe – matter, light, etc. – has not yet been observed. But such an aspect of the universe could nevertheless interact with the matter and electric and other physical aspects of the brain (perhaps at very minute levels) and have an overall effect on decision making and behavior.

The principle of Occam’s Razor in philosophy is generally used as an argument against my preferred resolution of the mind-body problem, but it doesn’t change the fact that the authors’ assumption is still just an assumption. I have a slightly different one. So, to me, the article does not go the core of the question of free will.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But the issue of free will isn't affected by how much we know of "the laws of physics". It's that one would logically expect them, as laws, to apply the same to everyone, and to completely determine the outcome given the same situation. In other words, if they're "laws", we're not free to choose. {It is, of course, an assumption that there are such "laws".}

So what they were trying to do (whether they succeeded or not) was to envision a way that a completely deterministic system might give "free" but non-random answers. I don't have a hard time believing that it can, but the issue wasn't whether or not we currently know all the laws of physics.

You are, of course, free to disagree. :-)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It does not seem to me that “ to envision a way that a completely deterministic system might give ‘free’ but non-random answers” contributes much to the core of the puzzle about whether human beings have “free will” or not.

Perhaps that doesn’t matter to the author. At the end of the article he wrote about the potential usefulness of his model in creating ideas that may lead to a better understanding of artificial intelligence and information processing in biological agents (i.e., humans and other animals).

But that’s what I was trying to address – the dilemma of whether people have free will or not is what grabs our attention at the beginning of the article, so it looks like he’s making a contribution to that question when he just designs a different problem and then solves that. I’m old and have seen people doing that for decades, particularly with technology.

If we had robots with “free will” based on Briegel’s model would they really function like what we think our free will does? What about the related questions of ethics, morality, and the role of the emotion of guilt?

So it’s an interesting article but I disagree with LaLa’s evaluation that it is great and about free will.

I guess that is what my trigger warning was really about. It’s not nice to say critical things about other people’s valuations of things. People can take such things personally and feel devalued and hurt. Do I want to hurt LaLa? No. Do I want to tell other members (especially the young ones) that there are different points of view? Yes. Is it somewhat about my ego? Yes. Did I have free will in what I chose to do? Some, I think. Do I know in advance what the outcome of my choice will be? Only very partially.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"I disagree with you" isn't critical. Certainly, it is possible to express disagreement critically and hurtfully, but it didn't seem to me that you did that.

There are always different points of view, and it is important that young people know that.

There are also always egos, and it is important that young people know that, too, and know how we deal with the balance between having them and bludgeoning other people with them. I thought you did that well too.

And the only people who know what the outcome will be beforehand are clairvoyant, and probably wish they weren't.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I like your debate very much!! :) I think that - very simply said - it's good to disagree, because only then there's something to debate about ;)! And a debate like this can bring us new insigts.

Now I have no time, but I'd like to contribute later...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

IJ, would you like to try to learn how to do "T" -- as in, I'm an INTJ and I know Mark said he was, too.

According to Myers-Briggs theory, if I'm an INTJ then extroverted thinking is my temperamentally preferred way of interacting with the world. But all my female relatives, and Southern society's expectations in general, rejected me when I did that! Females aren't "supposed" to think (leave that to the men). And what's wrong with you? Don't you care about people's feelings? About fitting in? (I'm also an introvert, so, no, fitting in isn't the highest priority for me.)

But I'm wondering -- the fact that you were turned off by the language in the article but then made your comment here. Debate is different from interpersonal conflict and argument. That's part of the point! It's IMpersonal. But has value, too. Is there something that attracts you, even if it isn't you temperamentally "preferred" way of interacting with the world?

I would also say, based on the dynamics I understand about (us) debaters, you're welcome to come and offer you analyses and thoughts and if we disagree with them -- well, we'll say so. It doesn't mean that we disagree or reject you as a person.

Obviously, I kind of like the value system of debaters. And, despite everybody's efforts, including my own, to change that -- well, it hasn't changed so I might as well try to see if I can use it, usefully.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi DD. :)

I have always felt that diversity is a beautiful thing. :) I appreciate and value differences.

About my most recent comment...I was reading through the replies here and looking at the activity on the board. It's been buzzing with activity lately and we have new members. Most everyone has made the transition to the new site. Mark was being Mark, DD was being DD...I feel very happy about our community and that I played some role in keeping it going. It means so much to me. I'm so glad we can be here for one another. So I was feeling happy and expressed it.

About my earlier comment...Cool and clinical language is often triggering to me. I'm not saying that I should respond in the way that I do, but it is something that I'm aware of. I appreciate human connection, our humanity, and also closeness with others, so anything that I perceive as distancing can trigger me. I don't identify much with behaviorism and view myself as more of a humanist/existentialist. I also have some strong feelings about the concept of free will.

The "T"/ "F" difference...It's interesting that you felt that the thinking aspect of your personality was rejected by your female relatives. I have felt the same way about the feeling aspect of my personality for much of my life (that is has been rejected). It seemed that not many understood. Most of my interpersonal experiences have been with thinking types (including my H who is ENTJ). Only recently have I made some feeling type friends. I enjoy all of my friendships and find them to be a great source of learning and growth.

I enjoy philosophical and intelligent discussion. I don't have any problems with respectful debating. (My son loves to debate! He is an ENTP). I do still have some trouble with conflict.

I am always happy to learn more. I am very happy that members are expressing themselves here. :) :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 year later...

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...