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Robert Wilson

Free will

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On 6/24/2020 at 11:11 PM, Ghideon said:

Does the ability to act require some level of complexity or require other properties? Naive example, just to illustrate the question: Lets' say an A.I is programmed to act according to the set of wishes and beliefs the programmer have offered. The A.I. acts by sorting available actions alphabetically and the picks the first action on the list. For us on the outside (the programmer) does that count as free will? And if no-one told the A.I. that it's free will is implemented in this way, would the A.I consider itself to have free will? 

For me at least it doesn't, at least with the algorithm you are proposing here. Evaluation of available actions should normally be based on their contents. 'Alphabetically sorted' is not much better than purely random: it would depend on the description ('Eat it!', or 'I should eat it'), and even on the language.

Further, but this is a bit speculative, I don't think that any programmer will explicitly program 'free agents'. I feel more for the scenario you gave much earlier in this thread. You have a self-driving google car, and it perfectly does exactly what you say ('drive me to the nearest Walmart'.).  But then one morning, after an upgrade, the AI of your car lets you know 'No, it is no use, Walmart is closed now'. Very advanced, but maybe you only wanted to make a picture of a Walmart for your local newspaper. But maybe you can declare an 'override'. Still, this can all be realised with pretty stupid algorithms. 

But today you got another upgrade (in a beta-testing program of course...), and your care says 'Sorry, I have no desire to do that'. You speak your override again, but the AI says 'Fuck off, I don't want to'. Then you call an AI consultant for 'Google Cars Inc', and after some examinations, he says 'Strange, we did not program it this way'. And then, talking to the consultant, you hear that the 'neural network module' has been increased by billions of nodes. And so you start to beg your car 'Please, I really want to go to the nearest Walmart, I need a picture of it'. 'Hmm', says the AI, 'what do I get in return?' And you propose to make a joy ride through the mountains, and your car says 'Deal! I like that!'

Did you read 'Gödel, Escher, Bach' of Hofstadter? It is a very inspiring, but long read. But if you are really interested in these kind of topics, it is the book to read.

 

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I took this from a 'status update' of @koti

Quote

At about 37 minutes they start discussing the 'illusion' of free will.
Eise might be interested in that part of it.

I looked at the 37th minute. I noticed something important: Susskind mentions in one breath:

  • the illusion of consciousness
  • the illusion of free will
  • the illusion of self

Let me say it this way: if you look to the world on physical level, where there are no selves and no consciousness, there is also no free will. Susskind probably just made a list of examples of human categories, but I would say it is a complete package. You can't get consciousness and selves without free will. So if somebody asks:

  • Are we free? --> Yes, we are, because with 'we' you implied the existence of selves
  • Does free will exist? --> 'Depends': if you take the existence of consciousness and selves for granted, then 'yes', if you mean 'exists' in the same way as physical objects exist, no.

The whole confusion is because people mix these two kinds of discourse: we will never find the 'selficle' at LHC, there is no reason to suppose the 'self' is a physical thing, and therefore we will also not find anything physical corresponding to free will; on the other hand, if you suppose consciousness and selves are somehow real, then free will (or coercion...) are real. Do not mixup these discourses!

I think this is an error many of you make.

@joigus: any progress in reading Dennett?

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14 minutes ago, Eise said:

The whole confusion is because people mix these two kinds of discourse: we will never find the 'selficle' at LHC, there is no reason to suppose the 'self' is a physical thing, and therefore we will also not find anything physical corresponding to free will; on the other hand, if you suppose consciousness and selves are somehow real, then free will (or coercion...) are real. Do not mixup these discourses!

 

Why does it make a difference whther they are 'physicsl' or 'non-physical', whatever those two terms mean ?

Surely non physical things can affect the physical world

For instance

convexity v concavity

eddies.

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From the time we're born we develop distinct personalities. How do you think that is, why aren't we just replicants or copies? Something is going on, more so in primates, neanderthals, than in lizards personalities become more dynamic.

If our electrons are really entangled it is possible that an abstract entity can in fact hack our biological mainframe and design personas.

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2 minutes ago, studiot said:

 

Why does it make a difference whther they are 'physicsl' or 'non-physical', whatever those two terms mean ?

Surely non physical things can affect the physical world

For instance

convexity v concavity

eddies.

I never used the 'none-physical'. I said 'physical thing'. Consciousness, selves, and free will are highly complex processes. And just because one water molecule can not make an eddy, you must not look for anything corresponding to consciousness, selves, and free will at levels where they clearly do not exist.

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21 minutes ago, Eise said:

@joigus: any progress in reading Dennett?

Please, be patient. It's been a long time since my last homework assignment. ;) 

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2 minutes ago, Eise said:

I never used the 'none-physical'. I said 'physical thing'. Consciousness, selves, and free will are highly complex processes. And just because one water molecule can not make an eddy, you must not look for anything corresponding to consciousness, selves, and free will at levels where they clearly do not exist.

More particularly you singled out the physical which is why I asked why you though it made a difference.

 

Does it make any difference to free will, self or consciousness whether they are 'physical' or not?

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12 minutes ago, studiot said:

More particularly you singled out the physical which is why I asked why you though it made a difference.

 

Does it make any difference to free will, self or consciousness whether they are 'physical' or not?

Well you could be dating someone online but have no physical relationship in which case that someone is most definitely getting some from someone else in the physical plane

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21 minutes ago, IDoNotCare said:

Well you could be dating someone online but have no physical relationship in which case that someone is most definitely getting some from someone else in the physical plane

Well yes there is a non physical relationship between two physical entities, but how does that answer my question ?

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34 minutes ago, studiot said:

Does it make any difference to free will, self or consciousness whether they are 'physical' or not?

It makes a difference if we see them as physical things, or as processes. That's all.

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Just now, Eise said:

It makes a difference if we see them as physical things, or as processes. That's all.

Thanks. +1

I was worried you were proposing that there was no such thing as an entity (either physical or non physical).

Hence my offering some example situations (eddies and convexity) where you can extract 'an entity' from the surroundings ie draw an imaginary line round it

I am uncomfortable with the suggestion that non physical things are confined to processes, however.
Convexity is a static property, not a process.

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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, Eise said:

@joigus: any progress in reading Dennett?

To tell you the truth, this has caught me a bit unawares, because I've noticed that my comments on philosophy go largely unnoticed. And there must be an objective reason for that. I think people here (serious people like yourself, I mean) instinctively perceive that I'm a bit flabby when it comes to philosophy. Not that I'm complaining; I was just kind of assuming that I'm probably not up to the standards of the community in this particular front. I think I can make more significant contributions on the interface of mathematics and natural science, helping with insights in problem-solving, physical concepts, etc. Also learning about them.

My attitude towards philosophy is more like that of a tinkerer. I do have a problem with philosophers, I must say. I tend to get enamoured of different tidbits of philosophical thinking. I see them as cute little thinking gadgets. Some examples are Wittgenstein's critique of classical categories, or Kant's "cardinal" partition of categories of judgement into a priori, a posteriori, analytic and synthetic. What I've never been able to feel comfortable with is their systems of thinking as a whole, for lack of a better phrasing. I am very suspicious of the claims for generality and encompassing power of almost every philosopher, or philosophical school. Even the usefulness of big chucks of it. "Their big picture", I think are the right words. I suppose the same happens to me with respect to Dennett. For some reason I find his criterion of free will as a hasty one. I think he's succumbed to the pressure of the need for a practical criterion, rather than facing up front the hairier aspects of it.* It's only natural for every great thinker. They all have their fuzzier areas, I suppose. And I do agree that Dennett is one of the most brilliant philosophical minds of our time.

In the particular arena of free will, I would feel more comfortable with a graded concept, rather than a switch to decide when people enjoy free will and when they don't. I think a concept like that would be far more powerful, amenable to the usual hypothesis-prediction-falsifiability sequence of science.

The backcloth would be:

1) Nobody is really free, because, in the end, we're all physical systems. But, having said that:

2) There is a working definition of free will which is of great practical, social importance. You'd better have something like that going on in your life or you're going to have a very difficult life and be a problem for others and for yourself. And,

3) This practical definition, you can fall short of achieving for many different reasons: neurological, biochemical, societal, educational, etc. (necessary qualifications and criteria for measurability, predictability, falsifiability would go here).

Something like that would make me much, much happier. I don't like conceptual switches.

* Edit: Although I agree that his dissociation of determinism and the problem of free will is very enlightening

Edited by joigus

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On 7/29/2020 at 8:45 PM, joigus said:

For some reason I find his criterion of free will as a hasty one.

Dennett wrote two books about free will: Elbow Room (1984) and Freedom Revolves (2003), many articles, gave many talks, interviews, and discussions (e.g. with Sam Harris). So I do not think his criterion for free will is 'hasty'. Quite the opposite: he is one of the deepest thinkers about that subject. Even that I learned most from Peter Bieri, Das Handwerk der Freiheit, but yeah, that is German, and it is not translated in English.

On 7/29/2020 at 8:45 PM, joigus said:

In the particular arena of free will, I would feel more comfortable with a graded concept, rather than a switch to decide when people enjoy free will and when they don't.

Ah, 'graded' is not really a problem, quite the opposite. 'Free will' is a bit of a wide concept, one reason that I sometimes go to the preciser formulation, that some actions are free (i.e. 'not coerced'), and when a person is able to act freely, one can say she has free will.

On 7/29/2020 at 8:45 PM, joigus said:

1) Nobody is really free, because, in the end, we're all physical systems.

Here you go again! What does 'really free' mean? Why would you be interested in this mirage?

On 7/29/2020 at 8:45 PM, joigus said:

2) There is a working definition of free will which is of great practical, social importance. You'd better have something like that going on in your life or you're going to have a very difficult life and be a problem for others and for yourself.

Oh yeah. And I think that what you call a 'working definition' is in fact the definition of free will. Or a bit more precise: I think you would call my definition a 'working definition'. The error you probably make is similar to find a purely physical explanation of what a book is. It is definitely not a 'working definition', because meaning of the text is involved in what a real book is.

On 7/29/2020 at 8:45 PM, joigus said:

3) This practical definition, you can fall short of achieving for many different reasons: neurological, biochemical, societal, educational, etc. (necessary qualifications and criteria for measurability, predictability, falsifiability would go here).

I do not quite understand your remark between brackets, but I fully agree with your main sentence. E.g. better not publish a book that is printed with the same colour as the paper. That is a physical criterion for real books.

On 7/29/2020 at 8:45 PM, joigus said:

Although I agree that his dissociation of determinism and the problem of free will is very enlightening

Isn't that a contradiction to your point 1)?

On 7/29/2020 at 8:45 PM, joigus said:

I think people here (serious people like yourself, I mean) instinctively perceive that I'm a bit flabby when it comes to philosophy. 

Maybe you are, but I think as long as you are prepared to enter a serious discussion, as you do, this doesn't bother me at all. Just be aware of the special rules for posting in the philosophy forum. (Ups, they do not exist. Yet?)

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Posted (edited)
34 minutes ago, Eise said:

Isn't that a contradiction to your point 1)?

No. Suppose I completely reject any notion of free will (which I don't). It's possible to say:

1) There is no free will

2) The question of free will has nothing to do with determinism

Where is the contradiction?

I'll get back to your other points later. Although, I must tell you hastiness when dealing with a complicated problem has nothing to do with how much time you spend later insisting on your hasty proposition. That doesn't prove that Dennett's concept of free will is hasty, but possible it is.

I've heard Dennett say that he's deeply concerned about people running away with the idea that we're not free and the consequences on society. What I meant is that he's just a little bit too willing to approve a concept of free will that's a practical compromise that's useful in society.

34 minutes ago, Eise said:

I do not quite understand your remark between brackets, but I fully agree with your main sentence. E.g. better not publish a book that is printed with the same colour as the paper. That is a physical criterion for real books.

I suppose I will deal with your main points. Although I'd rather have more time to think about them.

If there were a graded notion of free will, going from the "bottom" made up of people with serious neurological disorders and the like (let's say a Charles Manson) up to the top, made up of people with high level of responsibility, honesty; both intellectual and behavioural (let's say an Eise, or a Dennett); where exactly would we draw the line? The spectrum would be complicated, more similar to what I think it is the isomophism with reality that good theories should be demanded to have. So criteria would be needed to decide, so to speak, how much free will you lose from suffering PTSD, for example.

The other idea, a switch to declare the split of humanity between free agents and non-free, based on whether they can take decisions based on just internal system of ethical checks and balances instead of external conditionings, is, to me, a bit "hasty". By that I suppose I mean: Not as satisfactorily thought out as other concepts by the same philosopher.

34 minutes ago, Eise said:

Here you go again! What does 'really free' mean? Why would you be interested in this mirage?

Humility for those who are free I think is the main point. Something like: Don't think so highly of yourself, your proteins are doing it. That's all. An ultimate frontier of intellectual humility for those who have been fortunate enough to become respectable members of this society. Something like:

Hey, don't boast so much that you're a free agent, had you been born as a sickly orphan, son of a poor Peruvian copper miner, with no money, no health, no wealth, no hope of any of it, you would probably be stealing apples in the market. Or worse.

Edited by joigus
Addition

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On 7/31/2020 at 10:56 AM, joigus said:

Humility for those who are free I think is the main point. Something like: Don't think so highly of yourself, your proteins are doing it. That's all. An ultimate frontier of intellectual humility for those who have been fortunate enough to become respectable members of this society. Something like:

Hey, don't boast so much that you're a free agent, had you been born as a sickly orphan, son of a poor Peruvian copper miner, with no money, no health, no wealth, no hope of any of it, you would probably be stealing apples in the market. Or worse.

Yes. And I think compatibilism accounts for both views. Your talents, chances you have in your life, cultures in which you grow up determine who you are. But that has no impact on the compatibilist conception of free will: because that is about what you want (determined by all kind of external and internal factors), and the possibility to act according it.

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3 minutes ago, Eise said:

Yes. And I think compatibilism accounts for both views. Your talents, chances you have in your life, cultures in which you grow up determine who you are. But that has no impact on the compatibilist conception of free will: because that is about what you want (determined by all kind of external and internal factors), and the possibility to act according it.

OK, Eise. I must tell you I don't find in the least diminishing to use some time to get to understand Dennett's thinking better. There are many gradients of meaning here that are taking me some time to understand. I don't have good ears, but I'm restless.

If, after all, it takes me about three months to get a consistent picture of it, it will be time well spent. A good investment of my time, I would say. And I will have mostly you to thank for that. Some people find disagreement spiteful. I don't. It's a fertile ground, when your interlocutor makes sense. And you do.

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On 7/29/2020 at 9:36 PM, Eise said:

I took this from a 'status update' of @koti

I looked at the 37th minute. I noticed something important: Susskind mentions in one breath:

  • the illusion of consciousness
  • the illusion of free will
  • the illusion of self

Let me say it this way: if you look to the world on physical level, where there are no selves and no consciousness, there is also no free will. Susskind probably just made a list of examples of human categories, but I would say it is a complete package. You can't get consciousness and selves without free will. So if somebody asks:

  • Are we free? --> Yes, we are, because with 'we' you implied the existence of selves
  • Does free will exist? --> 'Depends': if you take the existence of consciousness and selves for granted, then 'yes', if you mean 'exists' in the same way as physical objects exist, no.

The whole confusion is because people mix these two kinds of discourse: we will never find the 'selficle' at LHC, there is no reason to suppose the 'self' is a physical thing, and therefore we will also not find anything physical corresponding to free will; on the other hand, if you suppose consciousness and selves are somehow real, then free will (or coercion...) are real. Do not mixup these discourses!

I think this is an error many of you make.

@joigus: any progress in reading Dennett?

Curious- Is Space considered a physical thing?

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35 minutes ago, naitche said:

Curious- Is Space considered a physical thing?

I think reality itself is composed of space and a gravitational wave stems from two or more planck spaces, or neutrinos, overlapping. When the centers of two or more planck gravitons have the same coordinates, it is a black hole until the next planck time where the strength of the two gravitons halves. Of course photons interact as energy or temperature values, as two gravitational waves cross radii with centers neutralizing the charge of gravitons or annihilating opposite charges or same charge from opposite direction.

If you think about it when a black hole forms, the singularity might actually jump into the future and expand back in time as fractal neutrinos inside of it pass through one another creating a microverse of gravitons until it is just black holes which were the centers of the gravitons produced by the neutrino preons of the star that collapsed into that black hole.

And at the moment after that jump forward in time, the spheres of space fall away from one another as isolated 3d objects whose outcome or origin would be the result of having spheres crushed into circles and circles split into curves and curves unbent into lines and lines reduced to points which all occurs in lower dimensions outside of time as the inevitable outcome of geometrized Murphy's law

Edited by IDoNotCare

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