May 2008

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Comments

cmo

Another article which is somewhat related.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/10/us/10names.html?_r=1&ex=1365480000&en=00e414c74b5f7a0e&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss&pagewanted=all&oref=slogin

Tom

Scott, you need to get out more. You're absolutely obsessed with this topic. Why? Does it make you feel better or intellectually superior? Every time you bring up this topic I see an image of a desperate man thumbing his nose at people with other belief systems. It's as if you need to validate yourself at every possible opportunity. Great...free will doesn't exist. Hooray for you, Scott. Move on.

Gandalf

RE: Today's comic.
Wally to PHB: "Can I sit on you?"
So *that's* how he's gotten away with doing no work for all these years!

Bertram

DUH,
they found out that the user is not part of the computer. Thank you Captain Obvious.

I say this in spite of knowing that you, Scott, posted this only to provoke comments and thus prove again we are robots. This comment is not for you, it's for those who think free will can be measured (that would not be free).

C Alvarez

There was a young boy who said "damm"
I learn with regret that I am
A creature that moves in predestinate grooves
in short not a bus but a tram

Marc

Free will can't even be narrowed down nor described in any way that makes sense. Kind of hard to "prove" it doesn't exist if we can't even describe what it is.

But, more importantly, I see a much greater use for that technology. It's not there yet, as they can't predict complex choices, but that's just a matter of time. I'd like to see this in airports. I'd like to know, 7 seconds before someone boards a plane, if they've decided to take over the cockpit and fly into the Statue of Liberty. You can get rid of all the metal detectors. So what if someone has a knife or gun, if they aren't deciding to wave it around on the plane later, praising Allah? Maybe we could even catch those nasty mothers who might just be deciding that they'll breast-feed their kid in plain view.

Sony

Hi,

I know this is off topic but can any of you send me the comic scott had about the lemon eater? It ends with the pessimist saying "Choke on them and die you stupid lemon eater". If anyone has it then please please send it to me? I just thought of it and now its stuck in my head coz i don't remember exactly how is goes.

Email:saswatjyoti@yahoo.com

Leen Torenvliet

It's much worse than that. From an investigation into logic theories, by Catarina Dutilh Novaes it follows that even God doesn't have free will, assuming that He is both omnipotent and omnibenevolent...

Charley

_____________________________________
As you pointed out ('Proof You Don't Exist') the experimenters and the machine don't exist, so I don't think we need to worry about this one.

Elise

But how does this correlate to the proof that I don't exist?

darkbob

Damn you for being so smart... I'm trying to catch up, but you're not making it easy. Read that in your book (the first and last ebook I've bought) maybe you just have too much free time on your extremities. I'll catch you Adams...

Jason Dumler

I don't know about free will, what these tests seem to mitigate is the amount of conscious decision making we make. If my unconscious mind makes a decision...does that count as free will? I don't think it does by your definition, because the decision is still made by a physical process in my brain.

I don't know if I want decisions being made by some process that is not connected to my brain...it might decide something physically demanding is good for me.

I think the process works more like this:
* Our consciousness feeds information to our unconscious...ness.
* Gradually, decisions are made...first slowly, then faster and faster, eventually becoming reflexes.
* Eventually, our consciousness only feeds in the decision factors for many decisions. Our unconscious...ness feeds back the result it's learned to make.
* Our conscious mind either goes along with it or balks...where the process starts over at the beginning, where we might get a different answer, or we might not.

Consciousness takes a lot of energy, you want it occupied with things like enjoying blog posts, not working out which finger to use to type a response to a blog post.

Chris H

"You're not here to make a choice; you've already made it. You're here to understand why you made it."

Eh. Someone had to quote the Matrix, it might as well be me.

Geeves

This doesn't seem to prove much more than that a brain is involved in a decision. Oh, and that said brain is sometimes a bit quicker than it lets on... don't see how it has any impact what so ever on free will.

Jimmy

How is my brain making decisions not the same as me making decisions?

Mike

I'm not bothered about free will. Anyone got any proof of magic working? Derren Brown is my best candidate so far.

neopolitan

Look at all the people who exercised their free will by not responding ...

(Today it seems I am one of your dancing monkeys, since I felt obliged to point that out.)

Personally I don't think that we have either free will or self awareness - just two related phenomena which are very closely related.

How the heck can we not have self awareness?

Well, I am defining "self awareness" as that knowledge that "I am". Sort of like Descartes and his "I think therefore I am", it all revolves about there being an "I" who thinks and therefore is. And that that "I" is a self.

The conceit of "self awareness" stems from thinking that there is some quintessential me who is, if not controlling everything, at least observing everything. That is hardly the case. We have untold processes going on all the time in the brain and we are not observing the outcome of those processes, we are the result of those processes. To make an analogy with a factory, "I" am not a quality control guy, "I" am the product.

As a product, I don't have any free will.

Who is the quality control guy? Well, that would be our environment. If "I" (meaning me right now) am good enough as a product, "I" get to continue with few necessary adjustments to cope with a slightly changed market. Otherwise, there is a more significant change in the production line (if "I" am just a little bit defective) or the production line gets shut down (if "I" am too defective, for instance if the product that is me makes the decision to overtake a slow car around a blind corner in a heavy rainstorm into the path of a semi-trailer).

In that case, the last product from the factory may be the thought "Oh shit".

cheers,

neopolitan

me

boooooooooooooooooooooooring

Tormod

How was this experiement conducted?

If you were told to choose a button and then press it, then it comes as no surprise. You do select the button before pressing it.

I don't care much one way or another the question of free will. I don't know if I even consider the question to be meaningfull. If you want to make a factual statement, then you provide evidence. I don't see how free will implicates on the evidence, unless you plan on reproducing reality to establish a baseline.

As the proposition of free will puts no burden on what evidence you can observe, you must make yourself needlessly dumb to consider this article relevant.

Martin Stennert

I knew about the older study they cite, and I really never understood how that is supposed to debunk free will. That's like saying: No, my car isn't really running, that's just little explosions in the combustion engine. So, now we know a bit more about HOW we come to a decision... and I'm glad to know that we actually use the brain for it. :) But it's still our brain and it's still a decision. How the decision itself is made is still unclear, and depending if its made on the molecular or on the quantum level it might still be completely deterministic or completely undeterministic, which is the only interesting question about the "freedom" of our wills.

Bob

I'm also constrained to point out (ahah hah) once again that if your theory is correct, it cuts far deeper than you have any intention of accepting. If there is no free will then there is no reason to believe anything, and no choice between beliefs in any case, rendering arguments and the evaluation of arguments moot. Successfully repudiating freewill would be an argument that undermined itself, because it completely undermines the basis of the rational, scientific process.

Urs

WTF?!?
So if my subconscious is making a decision 7 seconds before I am aware of it, what does that have to do with whether or not there is a free will???
So perhaps it is my subconscious that has a free will, and my big selfimportant rational self is a big illusion. What else is bloody new?

Bob

...or maybe this is just what we mean when we refer to self-awareness. I decide something, and then I become aware of it, because I am self-aware. Free will and predictability are hardly incompatible in the first place. An MRI can look into a brain and see clues to what a decision will be for certain choices; big whoopee. Any human can look at a face and see clues to what a decision will be on a bunch of other choices.

I bet if you picked apart expressions and behavior far enough, you could predict based on simple observations what a person's decision would be at the beginning of hours of deliberation. It doesn't mean they didn't have free will, it only means that they weren't ready to make the call yet, or weren't ready to *accept* the call.

Shankar

Free will is something that is very hard to define as such. Does consciousness imply free will? How about self-awareness? Is it even possible to be self-aware without free will (or the illusion of free will)? And what advantage does free will (or its illusion) give humans from an evolutionary perspective?

Craig

Scott,

As a kindergarten teacher for many years it's been obvious for a long time that 'free will' is an illusion. For those that still believe in it I would suggest spending 6 months watching the same group of children during their play time.

As individuals our 'self' is simply a pattern in matter that has been decided by our genetics and our environment. In my line of work children whose character pattern has been poorly altered by bad parenting is very frustrating because I have to constantly remind myself that the child is not to blame for it.

With all the new experiments in neuroscience and what we're learning about in genetics (see epi-genetics) I just don't see how much longer the superstition of free will can last.

The realization that free will is an illusion is also not the bad thing that many think it is. In my experience people cling to this belief so that they can continue to look down on prostitutes and other dregs of society (as if they chose their profession) and also feel superior because they're clever and chose to work hard and get a good job.

The end of freewill is the beginning of humble attitudes and appreciation for being the receiver of a good brain and knowing that it was not a choice. Let's face it, you could have got that prostitutes brain!

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