Saturday, August 13, 2011

The concept of choice

This is a discussion of choice and and causality.

Context is a debate and a conversation that you can read (here). Essentially I'm arguing for positivism and the existence of freewill, my opponent strict determinism with no free will.

39 comments:

Andrew S said...

I'm not a doctor (not a philosopher even!), but it seems to me that at no point did you actually make a cause for free will in a casually determined system. A dizzying complex system is not equivalent to one jn which an aware agent (or whatever the operational definition there used) has a degree of freedom over anything.

IMO, it seems like the real challenge is to conclusively establish an ego/self that is not casually determined. Without that, I don't know to what you could be attributing free will.

CD-Host said...

Hi Andrew. Interesting you choose this thread and not the 1/2 dozen Mormon ones to comment on.

Assume person A were casually determined.
Assume person B had free will.

Define carefully what is different between them.

Andrew S said...

The half dozen Mormon ones were way over my head (and I mean, this one is too, but it's over my head and a breath of fresh air.)

The only difference that need exist between person A and person B is that person B has (or is) a "system of awareness" that has any degree of freedom over his/her actions. That's why I'm arguing that what really needs to happen is we need to define what it would be like for such a system of awareness to exist.

I'm supposing that what that would look like is that the "system of awareness" would be a self or a mind or something like that that has thoughts, inclinations, etc., that are *not* causally determined, either in an "ergodic" sense (whatever that means) or otherwise. Pointing to an "ergodic" system still points to causal determination, unless I just do not understand (which is probably quite likely.)

Heck, even randomness doesn't equate to choice.

...anyway, as you can probably tell from my previous paragraphs, I'm not quite sure how I'm supposed to "define carefully" what the difference would be, considering that I only have one universe with which to work (and one "self", for that matter). I mean, how would you distinguish between the incredibly complex causally deterministic (yet perhaps "ergodic") illusion of free will and free will...you really couldn't only using your own experience to judge it. You couldn't say, "Well, I would know it if I were causally determined because things would look like x, and I would know it if I had choice because things would look like y." We can't even begin to define x or y.

Chamaeleon said...

The difference between person A and person B would be that the impetus for B's actions start within B. B is a prime mover; a creator.

Some have tried to make an argument for soft-determinism, using basically the same definition that I just used, but also claiming that human actions do start within the human, and therefore that humans have free agency. However, empirically there is no evidence for this. By observation, all impetus; all motion started with the beginning of the universe, if there was a beginning, and any motion that we observe today is just the conserved, mutable energy of the Big Bang. The beginning of existence is what moves us. We do not move ourselves.

CD-Host said...

that has thoughts, inclinations, etc., that are *not* causally determined

OK keep going, you just went one level deeper. How would you know that A's thoughts and inclinations are casually determined and B's aren't? How are they different?

We can't even begin to define x or y.

If you mean that any finite system can't differentiate between x and y then why not say there is no distinction between x and y?

CD-Host said...

Hey Chamaeleon welcome over to Church Discipline!

The difference between person A and person B would be that the impetus for B's actions start within B. B is a prime mover; a creator.

Same question I keep asking. How would I tell that B is a prime mover and not just a secondary mover? How can I tell them apart? How do I differentiate?

Andrew S said...

CD Host,

OK keep going, you just went one level deeper. How would you know that A's thoughts and inclinations are casually determined and B's aren't? How are they different?

How do *you* know? *You* probably don't. But an "infinite observer" would point out that B's thoughts and inclinations have no source or impact other than B himself, as Chamaeleon pointed out. But my real point here is that you have to establish: what IS B himself. I'm saying that B must be (or have) a "mind" or some other locus of awareness independent of other things (say, genetics, neurology, etc.,) I can't say for sure what that would look like, but I do know that the empirical data doesn't have a lot to say about that locus.

So in other words, we can't talk about whether B is free because we don't have anything *about* B *to be free*.

If you mean that any finite system can't differentiate between x and y then why not say there is no distinction between x and y?

But why would this lead us to believe that choice is available?

P.S. the big sticking point here is "any finite system." In one of your posts, you referred to an infinite observer God, and while you wanted to assert that you can have free will while being predictable, you didn't establish that you had free will with which to begin. You don't establish that an infinite system or an infinite observer wouldn't be able to perfectly tease out A or B's actions and find nothing that can be sourced to A or B (as "systems of awareness" or "souls" or "minds" or "egos") alone.

CD-Host said...

How do *you* know? *You* probably don't. But an "infinite observer" would point out that B's thoughts and inclinations have no source or impact other than B himself, as Chamaeleon pointed out.

So what I would say at that point is there is distinction between A and B.
Saying A's actions are determined doesn't actually mean anything, because you can't differentiate from someone who has freewill. Its just a religious claim like "A has a spark of the infinite spirit" or "A is infused with Krishna consciousness". When I make a statement like "A has spark of infinite spirit" I'm not actually saying anything about A at all, even though it sounds like it, I'm actually making a statement about untestable paradigms that I happen to believe in.

In other words if "casually determined" isn't different than "freewill" then neither one means anything. But from the standpoint of finite observers I have a heck of a lot of anecdotal evidence for freewill. The universe appears / seems to operate as if intelligent agents are sitting around making choices (however biased) and those choices are creating material effects. Why would I doubt that the appearance is true?

At least what Chamaeleon was arguing in the debate is that his statement that people don't have freewill is actually statement about people, about the universe and not a statement about his own beliefs. Since you've known me for a few years you know I can certainly discuss the various invisible unicorns quite well. But I just want to stop here and make sure that everyone understands we are about to shift from physics to theology. And that's why I'm stopping the debate from going to the realm of infinite observers for now.

But lets cross that line. My first comment is you are an atheist talking about what an infinite observer would say is very similar to talking about what kinds of pizza invisible unicorns like to eat. But I'll ignore that for now.

Once we talk theology, then the nature of the infinite observer becomes important. So an infinite observer could tell the difference between A and B but that doesn't answer the question of which we are. Do we have infinite observers that are willing to communicate with us? If so are they willing to, or have they answered that question? And of course are they being truthful in their answers?

So lets survey people who get information from infinite observers:

Your x-faith with an unequivocal yes.
Protestants have an equivocal "sort of"
Catholics have a "mostly"
Buddhists have an unequivocal "no"

So infinite observers even if they existed don't seem to help because on this issue they've communicate in ways that appear indecipherable to humans.

Andrew S said...

In other words if "casually determined" isn't different than "freewill" then neither one means anything. But from the standpoint of finite observers I have a heck of a lot of anecdotal evidence for freewill. The universe appears / seems to operate as if intelligent agents are sitting around making choices (however biased) and those choices are creating material effects. Why would I doubt that the appearance is true?

Why doubt that the appearance is true? Because we have data otherwise showing that appearances can deceive. We *know* that our senses are flawed. The issue is that the very notion of "self" is on the chopping block too.

At least what Chamaeleon was arguing in the debate is that his statement that people don't have freewill is actually statement about people, about the universe and not a statement about his own beliefs.

And I have no problem with this. The very supposed locus for free will is on shaky grounds.

But I just want to stop here and make sure that everyone understands we are about to shift from physics to theology.

...because physics can only talk about causal determinism at "worst" or still unchosen "randomness" at best.

My first comment is you are an atheist talking about what an infinite observer would say is very similar to talking about what kinds of pizza invisible unicorns like to eat.

I disagree. That's just being uncreative. I'm talking about the classes of knowledge that an infinite observer would have access to, even if a finite observer would not have access too. It's not so much a determination of the conclusion the supposed infinite observer would in fact say as to what it *could* say, because it has the *capacity* to discern such. I'm simply pointing out that an infinite observer would have the capacity to determine whether "ergodics" drills down all the way to causal determinism.

Do we have infinite observers that are willing to communicate with us? If so are they willing to, or have they answered that question? And of course are they being truthful in their answers?

These questions miss the point I am asserting. So, I don't care that *people*, in their quests to ascribe things to their brand of infinite observers, come to different answers. Those aren't problems with the infinite observers or the infinite observers' capabilities. Those are problems with people, who are finite observers. The diversity of opinion is to be expected from finite observers.

Chamaeleon said...

We can't prove the difference between A and B, but that won't stop us from wondering. For that matter, we can't prove anything other than our own existence, which we can only prove to ourselves. So there's really nothing we could talk about under the strict requisite of absolute proof.

In the past when I have discussed this topic, I have often tried to start out with no assumptions, not even that the universe is causal or deterministic. Instead I'll frame my discussion as a dichotomy. For examples: either stuff exists or it doesn't. If not, end of branch, if so then either one thing exists or many. If one, then end of branch, but if many then things either interract or they dont. If they don't, end of branch, but if they do, etc etc. That's not the exact approach I take, but its an example of the format.

The thing I discovered is that when I do that is that "choice" is a paradoxical notion in all logical universes, and that in illogical universes knowledge can't exist to provide the awareness factor of choice. So it really doesn't matter if we can tell the difference between A or B since B is an impossible state. And it's not just a matter of me defining choice in a way that makes it impossible. The definitino I used was arrived at by asking people how they define choice. The notion I defined is the notion most people have in their head when they consider themselves to be making a choice. And yet, it can't exist.

CD-Host said...

Andrew you are starting to argue pure skepticism towards knowledge at all. I've been to Philadelphia, though I'm not currently there. Why should I believe in the existence of Philadelphia?

I would argue I have sense data and memory of Philadelphia. I also have sense data and memory of making choices. It's entirely possible Philadelphia doesn't exist and my memories of it were implanted, I just don't find that very likely. There are also tautologically reasons I'd asset in such a case that Philadelphia does exist. Of course my senses can be fooled. But mostly they are a pretty accurate guide. I'm only going to doubt my senses if there is contrary evidence that's fairly strong.

How is the "very supposed locus for free will on shaky grounds" in any way than the "very supposed locus of Philadelphia"? If anything I have stronger sense impressions and more frequent sense impressions of exercising freewill than of being in Philadelphia. I haven't been to Philadelphia in almost a month.

I'm talking about the classes of knowledge that an infinite observer would have access to, even if a finite observer would not have access too.

OK but what makes you believe you would know anything about that? How would you know what an infinite observer has access to unless they told you?

What you seem to be saying is:
a) I believe X
b) I can't verify X nor provide any evidence for X
c) If there were a God that god would be able to verify X because, they are a God.
d) This God has never said anything about X.
e) But regardless of (d) because of (c) my lack of verification should not be held against X.

Can you see why I wouldn't find that a terribly convincing argument? If your argument is you would rather not believe in freewill, in spite of evidence that's fine. But if we start talking evidence I have yet to see any evidence that freewill doesn't exist.

Maybe I am uncreative but I don't see how this argument proves much of anything.

CD-Host said...

We can't prove the difference between A and B, but that won't stop us from wondering. For that matter, we can't prove anything other than our own existence, which we can only prove to ourselves. So there's really nothing we could talk about under the strict requisite of absolute proof.

I'm not asking for absolute proof I'm asking for a shred of evidence.

I think about whether I want to grab my cell phone and lift it.
If I decide "yes" the cell phone ends up off the table.
If I decide "no" the cell phone ends sits on the table.

I have a constant sense impression of that choice, in the exact same way I have an impression of the cell phone. You are arguing that the choice impression is misleading and the cell phone one is not.

And when I say how do you know... you assert there is a logical contradiction. OK where is the contradiction? I agreed with your definition of choice (for lurkers his definition was Choice is the notion that a system of awareness could have any degree of freedom over its actions in a causal and deterministic reality)

I appear to be self ware
I appear to get to decide where that cell phone goes

The cell phone does not appear to be inducing when I pick it up and when I leave it on the table. Nothing else in the room other than me appears to be doing that.

I see no evidence for the assertion that observation is sole cause of thought.

Andrew S said...

I have not heretofore argued pure skepticism toward knowledge at all. What the hell are you reading?

When I point out to the fallibility of sense data, I'm referring to things like optical illusions. We *know* that we are hardwired to make certain connections with sense data that belie the sense data. That's why we have magic shows. This is entirely separate from arguing some kind of absolute skepticism.

What I'm saying is that "you" haven't established "yourself" to be a coherent entity. Certainly "we" use this kind of discourse, and "we" feel this way. But that's the entire issue...just because we feel those things doesn't make them so, especially in the face of research that actually suggests our thoughts are far more connected to our neurological states than anything (to the point that if we tamper with the brain in any way, we can produce very reliable and drastic changes in temperament, desire, feeling, sense, etc.,)

OK but what makes you believe you would know anything about that? How would you know what an infinite observer has access to unless they told you?

Would an infinite observer have to tell me what "infinite observation" entails for me to figure out what the freaking words mean?

What you seem to be saying is:
[argument snipped]


No, my argument is

a) You believe Y
b) You have not verified Y nor provided any evidence for Y, and the evidence that you attempt to raise for Y could count for X as well.
b1) You also ignore neurological evidence that casts into doubt critical assumptions about X.
c) If there were an infinite observer (call it whatever the hell you want; I'm not the one who needs to call it god) that infinite observer would be able to distinguish between X & Y. It's not my job because I'm not the one making the claim (I have ONLY come into this discussion to point out that YOU did not make YOUR case for Y) and I'm not even claiming to be an infinite observer. I'm pointing out that your argument that I'm a finite observer (and thus unable to provide the distinction) does NOT mean that there is no distinction that an un-limited (in this issue) observer would be able to discern.
d) This infinite observer need not tell us anything, because I'm not relying upon the words of the infinite observer to make any case.
e) Regardless of (d) and (c), even from a finite observer perspective, your case Y isn't compelling from a perspective from physics. As you yourself admit, people come to different perspectives about X or Y from theological differences.

Can you see why I wouldn't find that a terribly convincing argument?

Good thing I'm not making that argument. I'm making the argument that you haven't made a case (physics-wise or otherwise) for free will. But tangentially, I'm pointing out that neurological research counters whatever case you *thought* you made. If you want to dispute that, please do, because...

I'm not a physicist. I'm not a neurologist. I came into this topic pointing out that and more ("I'm not a doctor. not a philosopher even.")

But no, you haven't done that.

I came here simply asking for you to clarify your position, because it didn't seem that what you wrote made your case (for choice) AT ALL. It seemed to me that everything you said could be true, yet still point to causal determinism.

You have not ONCE said anything to dispute that. Because instead you've been reading things into my comments that I really don't have any fucking clue how you're reading those things into them (e.g., pure skepticism, theology-that-an-atheist-shouldn't-have, that I should be more interested in commenting on the Mormon discussions, whatever), trying to drag me into this stupid fight (and succeeding, ugh.)

This conversation is going literally nowhere, so I'm out of here.

CD-Host said...

Andrew --

Calm down. You decided to join in on a debate on a dedicated thread crossing from another board. You are welcome to do, but I wasn't the one who drew you in, you drew you in. That is to say, quite ironically, you choose to show up and post on this thread, not me. And I was genuinely curious why you would pick this thread, that's it.

The case for choice is not complicated. I'm material. I think with my brain. Of course if you alter the brain you alter choices, that doesn't prove that choice doesn't exist at all. The brain is the mechanism by which humans make choices. Neurology is the study of brains. Its entirely impossible that with technology we could create systems to implant desires directly into brains. The question is not whether brains are amenable to some level of control. The question is whether they under complete control.

I've written tons of computer programs that make choices all the time. Choice does not require perfect freedom.

You want to leave that's fine. You want to try and participate like an adult feel free. But your the one who has asserted you know what infinite observers can do, and what they are or not aware of.

Chamaeleon said...

I'm not asking for absolute proof I'm asking for a shred of evidence.

I think about whether I want to grab my cell phone and lift it.
If I decide "yes" the cell phone ends up off the table.
If I decide "no" the cell phone ends sits on the table.


There are quite a few experiments now along these lines, where subjects are given some arbitrary choice, like press button A or button B, and technicians observing their bio-electric activity can predict their "choice" before it happens. In one recent study, subjects were given a lesson about the uses and benefits of sunscreen lotion, and from their bio-feedback researchers were able to predict more accurately than the subjects themselves whether they would use sunscreen in the neear future. What do you make of evidence like that? If choice is something that originates with the chooser, then how can their choices be predicted before they are aware of making them?

Another study, which I linked to you already in our original discussion, demonstrates an ability to manipulate motor-functions from outside the body. Also a study involving several dozen open-brain surgery patients, in which technicians were able to stimulate inner brain function directly and create sensations as well as movement. Subjects reported the sensations as their own.

I could go on forever mentioning research that leads me to believe that humans are nothing more than complex machines, with parts that perform specific functions yet arrive, in combination, at the apparently random complexity that we observe.

You say "The universe appears / seems to operate as if intelligent agents are sitting around making choices..." But I say it doesn't. I say it appears to me as if everything is happening mechanistically, in a determined way, whose determination originated long (possibly infinitely) before you or I came to exist as a thing that called itself "me." Now, you happen to be in the majority right now on this planet, along with people who believe in god, ironically (because humans would have to be like gods to have the ability of choice, IMO), but majority is not authority, and there's no reason either belief trumps the other.

So we come back, again, to 'what's the point in arguing it?' Well, the point is that if there are people, like me, who honestly believe they don't have this magical thing that people call "choice," then they should not be held responsible for their actions. In fact, something like this has already come up in court several times. There are at least two cases in the US where someone killed someone else and used the defense that they are convinvced that they're in the Matrix, and that everyone else is a computer program trying to kill them. And guess what?....they won their cases.

Chamaeleon said...

You would call people like that insane, and indeed they won their cases with an insanity plea. But if both our points of view are justifiably believed and equally unfalsifiable, why should my point of view be labeled insane? The answer, of course, is that I am the minority; most people believe they are responsible for their actions, and I'm an oddball. But that means you are operating under the principal that might makes right; that majority makes authority, which is the principal that drives evolution - the strongest survive. In the end, you are acting as nature compels you to, which is just more evidence for my side.

Chrysostom said...

I'm a compatibilist for the most part.

Today, at least.

It's hard to argue for a strict determinism whether one is a theist or an atheist today, due to the advances made in quantum theory (especially field theory, and to a lesser degree electrodynamics, and quantum effects in chemistry and general physics as well), especially the kinds that hypothesise that consciousness causes wave function collapse, or quantum mechanical "extension theories" such as string theory, membrane theory, etc.

In the past, it was quite impossible to preach free will with a materialistic view of nature, as it was thought that everything was "mechanical", in a sense, and therefore strictly deterministic, just as mathematics is deterministic (garbage in, garbage out: the output depends on the input as a necessary and sufficient condition).

I still subscribe, mostly, to Descartes' view of the mind (or, specifically, mind-body dualism) - but not his theory of vortices! - and am a theist.

Chrysostom said...

Where you're at in the debate right now, you should be able to bring in the theory of qualia, but, again, you must move away from the physic in to the metaphysic.

CD-Host said...

Chamaeleon --

There are quite a few experiments now along these lines, where subjects are given some arbitrary choice, like press button A or button B, and technicians observing their bio-electric activity can predict their "choice" before it happens.

A lot of chess programs offer a view of a computer's decision tree as it is evaluating its options. If the computer is making a move and taking a minute to decide, say 80% of the time plus the "lead move" it considers after about 3 seconds is the one it makes.

Human decisions similarly when they are long have a level of predictability. Are people leaning towards buying a car but haven't yet made up their mind.

It wouldn't shock me if something similar happened on button pressing. Now what would obviously disprove choice is if you could measure something else and determine which button the person chooses to press. Or if a person was unable to "control" when the pressed the button in the sense of wanting to press it and being unable to.

If choice is something that originates with the chooser, then how can their choices be predicted before they are aware of making them?

Think about an order for a choice:

stimulus -> stimulus processing -> decision making -> activity organization -> response

A person might only be aware of "making a choice" in the 5th step. But it the "choice" might be fairly predictable for an individual by just examining the 2nd step.

We know for example reflex movements happen before the brain is even aware of the stimulus. There are automated decision making system in the brain and these operate faster than the higher level functions. We don't have choice with respect to lower level functions initially only later.

For example if I accidentally touch something hot my hand with be pulling away before I know I've burned myself. If I intentionally reach out to grab something hot, that automated response needs to be shutdown and a higher brain center does so.

Also a study involving several dozen open-brain surgery patients, in which technicians were able to stimulate inner brain function directly and create sensations as well as movement. Subjects reported the sensations as their own.

Sure what does sensation mean other than signals to the brain? I think with my brain. If someone were to press the "tickle" signal in the brain that shouldn't be meaningfully different than tickling me. I have a thread on here where I talk about the window server which is what processes input on a mac. Injecting a fake mouse movement into "core services" is the same as moving your actual physical mouse.

If I'm going to have a mental life there has to be a bridge where the physical becomes mental.
(to be continued)

CD-Host said...

(chameleon reply part 2 of 2)

But if both our points of view are justifiably believed and equally unfalsifiable, why should my point of view be labeled insane?

I don't think I called your point of view insane. I don't think it is helpful. It's very hard to live within the framework you are arguing for. The world seems to make more sense within mine.

Lets take an example. Andrew was arguing for your point of view. During the argument he got upset with me for comments I'd made when I believe myself to be catching him in contradictions. If he actually believed your point of view he:

a) Shouldn't be upset because I'm not meaningfully culpable for having made those comments

b) Shouldn't feel defensive because he's not meaningfully culpable for those contradictions

c) Shouldn't make comments like "this conversation is going nowhere so I'm out of here" which implies he is the one responding to stimulus rather than he is just an observer of stimulus.

etc....

I should mention in the matrix the people are still rational agents making choices they are just fed false stimulus. I'd still call what's going on in the Matrix choice.

CD-Host said...

Chrysostom --

I had considered the question of qualia so broadly. Its interesting because I'm actually using Minsky's book in my book. Great point.

Chamaeleon said...

Host, it seems to me that you're only arguing against strict determinism, but not actually arguing for choice. Or your definition of choice is different than mine. You keep pointing out that there are random (or effectively random) components involved in decision making processes, and that the randomness means its not strictly determined, as in pre-determined. I can buy that, but I don't agree that randomness equals degrees of freedom. I'll explain:

Consider two robots. The first robot acts according to strictly determined programs. Any stimuli it receives has a programmed response and the robot can respond only exactly as programmed. The second robot has programs that involve randomizing components. For any stimuli it receives, the second robot has a range of possible responses which are ultimately decided between by this randomized component of its programming. Does robot 2 have any more control over its response than robot 1? I say no, but you seem to be saying yes. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Chrys, I am actually working on an analysis of existence that involved a deeper examination of qualia. I want to post it here and see what you guys think, but it's not quite developed enough to do anything with it, so check back in a few days and I might have it ready.

CD-Host said...

Chamaeleon --

Well I'd say there is 3 things

choice, freewill and determinism.

On the determinism aspect:
robot 1 is predetermined assuming his environment is predetermined while robot 2 is not.

Assuming the stimulus is complex I'd argue robots 1 and 2 both are making choices. Your definition of choice involved a degree of freedom so under the definition you were using only robot 2 would qualify.
The randomness (since robot 2 is generating his random numbers) is the degree of freedom. As the stimulus / response gets more simple then its possible only robot 2 or neither would qualify.

Let me add a 3rd robot:
1) Robot3 has a set of paramaters of what is desirable and adjusts the constants in the program to alter the underlying probabilities of events.
2) Robot3 is generic it can do many jobs not just one function and chooses between them (the same way robot2).

Then I'd say robot3 has freewill. Because at that point every action is chosen in the sense above

Chamaeleon said...

Ok, but none of the robots has control. Randomness cannot be controlled any more than that which is already determined. Randomness does not equal freedom. Control is freedom. Randomness is just as binding as pure determinism, and a mixture of the two doesn't do anything to fix that issue.

If its possible for me to sit, stand or lie down, but what I actually do is randomly or deterministically decided, then I have no control, and no freedom.

Now, if I do have randomizing components and I can perceive some of the multiple possibilities that could result from them, then I might have the illusion of control if my actions end up coinciding with my desires. And I think that's precisely the situation humans are in. We are such good computers that our system ends up arriving at the same conclusions as reality often enough to fool us. But we are also bad computers in that we can't analyze interactions before we become aware of them, so we end up thinking that our thoughts originate when we become aware of them, and that those thoughts are the causes of our actions.

I would say that all three robots are deciding - as in performing computation, but they are not 'choosing' because they have no control over what happens.

CD-Host said...

Ok, but none of the robots has control.

Actually the robot does have control. The robot sees stimulus X responds with action Y and causes Z to happen exactly as intended. That's control of what happens. All the robots are exercising control. Robots3 is even adjusting the tie between stimulus and response in very abstract ways.

If you mean that the 3 robots don't have some sort of absolute control, an existential "coming from a place of nothingness" sort of control. You're right. But those are two very different questions.

So lets assume we have George the Ghost. George has no passion, no preprogrammed desires, no will. George has immense powers but nothing naturally drawing him towards any particular action. He could do anything but really has no desire nor will to do anything.


Why would George have any more free will from Robot3? I'd argue in many ways George has less. Robot3 is a computer running a complex web of software. George is like a computer that fails to load an OS and flashes the "invalid operation system" light.

Clearly as we move from Robot1 to Robot2 to Robot3 the level of choice goes up, as I said IMHO Robot3 has freewill. And we could perhaps add more layers for Robots4, Robots5 and Robots6... But ultimately those layers are what creates the freedom. George with 0 layers has no freedom.

Chamaeleon said...

Well boot me up and call me 'George' then, for I am losing my will to act. As I research and find more and more evidence suggesting pre-determinism or suggesting randomness, I find my will slipping away. I have often thought to turn back from my pursuits to save what desires I have left, but my machine is tendentious toward discovery and will not be swayed by me or any other, it seems. It's an interesting effect, to say the least; a bit like learning the secret of a magic trick, and how it afterward loses its magic. Once I cognized a fairly coherent model that explained the illusion of free will, I didn't feel free anymore. My machine is still somewhat under the spell, on occasion, and probably cannot be entirely free of it, but it is a facade that hangs by threads.

Chamaeleon said...

And it is an existential question of something coming from nothing. Think about it: where did existence come from? It is either eternal or it is temporal, and both possibilities cause big problems for a working model of "choice." If it is eternal, then everything that exists, including our thoughts and actions, has always been around in one form or another. Meaning "I" am just a temporary construct that might claim responsibility over "my" actions for as long as "me" lasts. But when exactly did the eternal become "me," and when is it no longer? If it was ever "me," then it was always me. It didn't go anywhere if its eternal. Only my awareness of it arrived and will pass. And, alternatively, if existence is temporal, then it's possible for things to come into and go out of existence. Which could allow for the concept of "choice" to work if we had any suggestion that humans were able to make things come into existence. If we could cause existence and get a non-random result, I would say we were responsible for what we cause to exist, but I see nothing suggesting that we have such a power. Either way... problems.

I can't agree that robots are excersizing control. Who is in control of a remote controled car? The car? The weilder of the remote? Sounds like you would say both, while I would say neither, in which case it may only be a difference of semantics. But consider a simpler machine: who is in control of an electron's valence? Are protons and electrons making 'choices' when they exchange bosons? If QED and QCD are correct, then fundamental particles use simple, mechanical processes comparable to those that underpin computers and robots. So is every particle making choices just by executing its 'programming?' Where does it end? I don't expect that you'll say everything in existence is 'choosing' every time it has an interaction, so then what makes us different? Why are our interactions special? Being aware of some of our mechanical processes, even before they happen, doesn't change their mechanics unless we can somehow introduce new impetus into the machine while it is running. Unless there's some plausible reasoning for distinguishing ourselves, I can't accept a theory that we operate any differently than the rest of reality. I understand you aren't necessarily in this to convince me, but if you're gonna be able to convince anyone it may as well be me.

Unfortunately for our debate, few people on your side of the argument have ever had to convince anyone else of its validity because everyone simply takes it for granted that we have choice. It feels like we do, so we do. End of discussion. But when it stops feeling like it, as it has with me, then further examination becomes prevalent, and by my examination, there simply is no logic to the concept of choice any way you look at it. It doesn't matter if the universe is causal, deterministic, random or apparently random, there just isn't any room for a human to knowingly manipulate the machinery of reality. We already are the machinery. Anything we do is already the result of programming, even changes that we make to our programming. Or, if the universe is random and there's no programming, then anything we do is unpredictable, and equally out of our hands.

Chamaeleon said...

Riddle me this, Host:

I stand before a counter with several choices of food. I am not currently eating. Thermodynamics dictates that I will continue not eating until acted on by a force or forces. How do I generate the force to choose a specific item and eat it? I'll give you a hint - it's a trick question.

CD-Host said...

for I am losing my will to act. As I research and find more and more evidence suggesting pre-determinism or suggesting randomness, I find my will slipping away

Yes philosophies can impact the world.

alternatively, if existence is temporal, then it's possible for things to come into and go out of existence. Which could allow for the concept of "choice" to work if we had any suggestion that humans were able to make things come into existence. If we could cause existence and get a non-random result, I would say we were responsible for what we cause to exist, but I see nothing suggesting that we have such a power.

Like I said I think that's because you've defined choice in such a strong way that only a god could qualify for it. I have no problem saying I cause things to come into existence. My decision to respond to this thread before bed is causing this post to come into existence.

I can't agree that robots are excersizing control. Who is in control of a remote controled car? The car? The weilder of the remote?

A remote controlled car I'd likely say the wielder of the remote. Make it a bit more complex and... yes both.

I don't expect that you'll say everything in existence is 'choosing' every time it has an interaction, so then what makes us different? Why are our interactions special?

Degree of complexity. Choice requires intent. Some degree of consideration. I need to have something that could either of done or not done something. I'm sure a proton isn't making a choice, I'm less sure about a insect, and I'm sure a rat is making a choice.

Can they have done the opposite observationally? We go back to the computation. Is the outcome knowable?

I understand you aren't necessarily in this to convince me, but if you're gonna be able to convince anyone it may as well be me.

Again my problem is you want to set the bar too high on choice. And to some extent we had a core debate on the very nature of truth. It comes down to the core issue of does a computation requiring 1000x the energy of the universe have an answer?

Thermodynamics dictates that I will continue not eating until acted on by a force or forces.

Thermodynamics says nothing of the kind. Therodynamics says you will dissipate your energy as heat. Those dissipation reactions can and will frequently result in actions. You can act, because you previous ate.

Chrysostom said...

CD, tie that very last sentence of yours in with our mini-debate on Thomism and see where it leads you.

Chamaeleon said...

Host, thermodynamics gives rise to the concept of conservation of energy, which includes conservation of momenta - the Law of Motion, so while my claim is not explicitly stated in those laws, it is stated implicitly. If we accept the laws of thermodynamics, then we agree that my system will not act spontaneously, but rather that each of its actions is caused by a force already in existence. Thus, the answer to my riddle is that my body does not generate or create energy. It is merely a conduit through which existing energy is converted. So the energy that causes me to pick a certain food and eat it is already existant before it causes my eating. I did not create that energy, so I am not making myself eat. The energy that already existed is making me eat.

I haven't really asked you yet how you would define choice. We accepted my definition for the sake of the debate, but you have criticized it several times, saying it is too narrow a definition and that I am forcing it to be wrong. But I can't think of another way to define it, so how would you define it? You say that you cause your responses here, but I would argue that the ATP in your muscles causes the actual movement of your typing, and that the stimulation of various area of your brain causes the content of your words. Each of which can be traced back further to more causes, and on and on. Where was the part where you stepped in and took control of the proceedings, I wonder? Research can show that your keystrokes were already decided before you were consciously aware of pressing them. So when do they become your words?

Degrees of complexity cannot turn a causal system into an a-causal one. Complexity can turn an ordered system into an apparently chaotic one, but as we've discussed already, there is no more control over randomness than there is over pre-destination. You say choice requires intent, so what of the research that shows a person's "choices" before they are even aware of their intentions? Plenty of things can be showed to be determined, yet still feel like choice. And the outcome being unknowable does not affect anything. No outcome is 100% knowable, ever, but that doesn't make everything a choice. Humans often think that multiple outcomes could have occured in a given situation, but only one ever does, so we cannot say for sure that any other outcome was possible because there's no proof for it happening, and there's also no proof that the future follows like the past either, so we cannot infer the existence of other possibilities based on memory.

CD-Host said...

Chrysostom --

CD, tie that very last sentence of yours in with our mini-debate on Thomism and see where it leads you.

Not sure if I follow. "You can act, because you previously ate" seems consistent with what I was saying in our debate that animals self generate motion from energy, energy imparted from food.

CD-Host said...

Chamaeleon --

Host, thermodynamics gives rise to the concept of conservation of energy, which includes conservation of momenta - the Law of Motion, so while my claim is not explicitly stated in those laws, it is stated implicitly.

No, it says the opposite. That systems convert energy into work and heat. The tendency for you with regard to the energy you already possess is to dissipate it not to conserve it.

Conservation of energy is the idea that
the energy you posses before you release in the form of work and heat = heat + work + residual energy

conservation of momentum is just a rule that helps define energy from work.

Thus, the answer to my riddle is that my body does not generate or create energy. It is merely a conduit through which existing energy is converted.

I would agree with that. But that doesn't imply anything about you not eating. You have energy, which enables you to eat to acquire more energy. Your ability to act is dependent on the regular availability of environmental energy. But that doesn't mean you don't have an ability to act.

I haven't really asked you yet how you would define choice. We accepted my definition for the sake of the debate, but you have criticized it several times, saying it is too narrow a definition and that I am forcing it to be wrong.

I'd go with something as simple as "Choice consists of the mental process of judging the merits of multiple options and selecting one of them". I am actually OK with your definition, "a degree of freedom". What I was disagreeing with was your demand that the freedom be absolute. The robots being a good example.

Research can show that your keystrokes were already decided before you were consciously aware of pressing them. So when do they become your words?

Probably a few moments before I pressed the keystrokes. I touch type, I would hope that specific keystrokes are being handled by lower brain centers and not impacting my thought processes.

I think the structure is something like:
idea gets translated into a pre-linguistic form which contains elements of language which gets translated into linguistic output (my keystrokes) which contain information from the pre-linguistic form as well as error. They are my ideas then my expression of my ideas and then my words.

For example when I typed that last sentence I initially typed "containts" for "contains" I was verbalizing the word contains while I was typing out my response and imperfectly executed the creations of the linguistic form.

so what of the research that shows a person's "choices" before they are even aware of their intentions?

I think there are lower and higher brain centers. Like the typing analogy. I don't have a higher order / conscious intent regarding the muscle movements involved in typing. I don't even have one regarding individual characters. I may not even have one regarding the individual words. All of those systems are to some extent lower brain centers.

But that training came from learning and biology. Damage my spine and I can no longer move my fingers. Damage my medial temporal lobe and my ability to construct linguistic output from the pre-linguistic ideas disappears. I can still have the ideas and can still press the buttons. I am a material being I think and I choose with my brain.

Plenty of things can be showed to be determined, yet still feel like choice.

I'm not sure I agree there. Generally there are ways of influencing behavior, not necessarily controlling it. The problems middle east dictators are having this year being a good example of the difference.

Chrysostom said...

But what imparted the energy of the plant?

Of course the plant must observe the laws of conservation?

CD-Host said...

Chrysostom --

But what imparted the energy of the plant?

The sun via. photosynthesis.

Chrysostom said...

But what caused the hydrogen in the sun to fuse and release energy?

It can't be the gravitic force/the extremely-compressed hydrogen (itself circular) - a tautology: "it fuses because it is fusion".

Natural laws? (This is getting dangerously close to an argument fro design, so I digress.)

Always take one more step back, remove one more abstraction-layer. Everything has an or material and efficient cause and also a formal and final cause (with the exception of a universe in which occasionalism is true).

CD-Host said...

Chrysostom -

But what caused the hydrogen in the sun to fuse and release energy? It can't be the gravitic force/the extremely-compressed hydrogen (itself circular) - a tautology: "it fuses because it is fusion".

Here is where energy and first mover diverge.

If it is energy. Mass is just a highly concentrated form of energy and the Sun is releasing energy via. entropic reaction.

If it is motion remember that mass induces gravity induces motion. And sufficient mass does in fact create fusion. That isn't circular.

Lots of mass = high gravitational attraction -> lots of pressure -> fusion.


Always take one more step back, remove one more abstraction-layer.

This is where we diverged before. I think you can
a) Get caught in infinite loops on the mover side
b) Run into an initial energy source like a quantum bubble on the energy side. And this is where you want to jump as just "another layer" and things get iffy.

Everything has an or material and efficient cause and also a formal and final cause (with the exception of a universe in which occasionalism is true).

That's Aquinas' claim I'm not sure it holds up for the reasons we discussed before. Once you get to things like the quantum bubble the chain of reasoning breaks down. Its a distinguished step in the induction and thus needs a separate proof.

Debra Baker said...

Hope you don't mind me butting in.

Randomness is theorized to actually be an evolutionary advancement that is wired into an organism.

Think about the bunny being chased by the wolf.Said bunny darts about if it took the most logical advantageous path, the wolf would figure out such a path and have better luck anticipating the bunny's next move.

With randomness, the bunny is unpredictable which gives it a greater chance of evading predation.

Subconcious actiities such as the phhysical act of typing this response frees the mind to more abstract thinking. It, too, is an autonomy free-will issue.

CD-Host said...

Debra --

Great point! I hadn't thought of that but that makes a lot of sense, substantial advantages to randomness. Same thing applies with genetics, perfect replication + natural selection can lead to a lack of diversity which can lead to extinction.