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Modern philosophy (at least most of it), following neural
science and recent developments in psychology, has it that
there cannot be "free will" or any decision whatsoever.
If the world is predestined mechanistic and physical, then
are just rocks rolling down our least energy path. If
other hand the physical world is run by statistics, and there
always an element of randomness in every pattern, then we
are just dice rolling down our random path of chance.
Here comes the multi-source causation and decision theory
the rescue. The bottom line is that with multiple amounts
causing elements there is a nonzero amount of weight to
part that each causing element has in an outcome. As the
amount of causing elements grow, the chances of
simultaneous co-causation grows, and with it the possibility
decision, even in primitive cells, or evolving physical and
We don't usually think of a boiling pot of water as "deciding"
to spill some of the water out of the pot, and when it does,
we would attribute it to chance, but we do lower the fire
heat) to avoid it happening. If we don't we are "leaving it to
But not really. In science we can speak about heat, and
transfer, and heat dissipation, and heat insulation, all
to a statistical state. We talk about mass or electrons as a
well-explained and very real phenomenon.
In biology chemistry and physics we discuss light and color.
The evolutionary created camouflage of a stick insect, or
changing camouflage of a chameleon or octopus, and the
evolved green color of chloroplasts in tree leaves are all a
very real phenomenon, just as the eye and color receptor
cells are in insects, and the landing lines in flowers set out
those receptors to receive. So too we can discuss the
phenomena of decisions, simple and complex, and the
of their causes and causers when more than one cause is
It is more than a question of language, when we
differentiate between determining WHAT decided
something's fate, and determining WHO decided something.
There are different levels of decision making, of course. At
lowest we may not call it a decision at all. But high up, we
might all agree that a cat can sometimes decide and even
plan ahead where the most irritating spot to stand can be
what it should do in order to deceive the snake and then
For this reason, humans, or at least some of them, with the
ability of reasoning, calculating and writing, have a higher
level of decision than say a nematode or an ant hill, but
basically it is not all that different from the decision of a
to reinforce itself with a stalagtite and stalagmite pillar in
I call the units of decision making Decidemes and the units
There are several types of decideme types. A basic
relies on the number of independent co-causations
as well as the number of options (degrees of freedom), and
the number of major consequences, with a lower number
being more of a decision, with the lowest at two.
There are awareness decidemes that define the levels of
awareness to the causes, to the options, to the
and to the decision making process itself.
The level of decision depends on both the number of
originally-independent co-causations (the causemes, not
always easy to discern, because by the time the action has
occured, many of them are usually tied together) and the
number of originally-independent co-options (the
or sub-options) which would lead to the chosen action or
There is also another level of decision, one may think that
is a new type of level altogether - the consciouss decision.
But this too will be shown in the co-causation theory to be
mere question of quantity, with the above described cave
having no conciousness at all and deciding directly through
action, but an ant hill or a human parliament showing some
level of organized consciouss decision making, while a child
playing with a toy fire-truck would be, perhaps, on an even
And then we have the consequencial possibilities and the
awareness to them. And that's not all. We should not forget
the follow-up effect. Awareness to the follow-up effect
creates another level of decision altogether.
And even further down we can fathom what we expect the
result to be, reinforcing the behavior accordingly without
ever even running our behavior in the real world. So that's
Back to the tea kettle - it is, at some level, deciding to
boil over or not, with several low-level causemes such as
the height and heat of the fire (so the flow of gas, the stove
shape, the proportion of oxygen in the air), the shape and
material of the pot and its sealing top if there is one, the
hardness and temperature of the water during the process,
the length of time its on the fire.
If a human is aware of what's happening and is standing
near the stove, we will attribute that decision which has
been taken to the
human's conciouss or unconciouss actions decided in most
parts in the human's brain (and when discussing decisions
scientifically, we do not ignore the details of the human
parts, cells, biochemistry and neuronal activity that are
involved in the decision.
OK, I hope I wrote enough for the beginning of a discussion
Whats Expected Of Us
Ted Chiang, 2005 [a1, Jul 11 2021]
- why this problem might not need solving [pertinax, Jul 12 2021]
Prior art by Aristotle
[pertinax, Jul 12 2021]
Forget those other silly excuses, THIS is the real reason nothing really matters. [Voice, Jul 25 2021]
||Please explain in full detail the biochemical processes that preceeded & accompanied your decision to post this idea.
||// explain in full detail the biochemical processes
||I suspect mushrooms were involved.
||What made you decide that mushrooms were involved? In fact
I just had nibbled a portobello from the fridge with some
salt. But I have no idea how that could have had any
significant part in my decision to post.
||If I follow, this sounds like the 'Emergence' theory of
consciousness: that a mind able to make decisions emerges
from the right configuration of non-self-aware parts/atoms.
Then this idea takes it a step further to theorize that the
non-self-aware parts (such as the fire below a teapot) have
some amount of mind: decision-making ability; as well as a
co-causation ability that is a lesser amount of decision-
making ability that does not rise to the level of a mind.
||This is a tricky question of deep importance. Unfortunately I
don't know of a good scientific answer to the hard problem
of consciousness. Without this most basic information, my
life is basically 'winging it' without a good idea of what is
really going on.
||Humans are the product of ~4 million years of the universe leveraging
complexity into re-configuring itself into ever more interesting and
entropy denying areas of possibility space. Humans use their
creativity to increase complexity in the universe, further pushing the
boundaries of what arrangements of matter are possible.
||If any decision is the product of 4 billion years of accumulated
information, and if every human is at the leaf of a huge accumulated
information tree, then practically speaking, is there any difference
between saying a given act of creativity is predestined or random, or
willed into existence? They all look the same, all feel the same and
all add to the exploration of the possible that the universe appears to
||The important thing is this immense store of accumulated
information and complexity that exists here on earth, and which is
generating technological artefacts and other configurations of matter
that among other things are aware of their own existence - then if
free will, or consciousness are illusory, it probably doesn't matter.
||I suppose the thing I'm failing to express very well here is :
||i) creative decisions that result in change, or new configurations of
matter (artefacts, computers, medicines, infrastructure) - especially
if that change becomes viral and moves the environment on, such
that ever more complex and interesting things can be built on top.
||ii) that humans now perform this function is no different from how
the same function is/was performed by animal/bacterial and
chemical agents, reconfiguring themselves into more complex
arrangements, the more successful of which went on to carry the
accumulated history of all the changes and creation that happened
before them - which is what we, and our technology now represent. A
simple coffee cup encodes ~4 billion years of evolution on this
||iii) Since all those changes are emergent properties of the system at
that time, they could never have been pre-determined (so you can
rule determinism out of the question), and yet neither are they
random, since in hindsight, you can always find a causal pathway.
That leaves a kind of weird surprise determinism that can't be
predicted, but that can often be explained. We might as well call this
"free will", but "emergence", or the naturally unpredictable output of
non-dynamic, complex systems are probably more accurate ways of talking about this process.
||Read Ted Chiangs Whats Expected Of Us <link>.
||tl;dr of link: short scifi story about a machine that blinks
a light one second before a button is pressed, presumably
using particles that travel backward in time, then
speculates that this machine used to send messages back
in time makes people realize they don't have free will
then stop caring about life.
||not sure the physics is settled on this one. some virtual
particles used in calculations travel back in time but as
far as i know no one has built such a device.
||also it seems impossible to rule out determinism or free
will existing outside the system, i.e. on a narrative level
compatible with the physics.
||If all possibilities exist simultaneously, then both free will and fate are true.
||Existential crisis averted.
||"Be careful. Should you omit or add one single word you may
destroy the world."
||Yes. What [zen_tom] said.
||Humans have properties that look and feel like
free will and the ability to make decisions, with
such high fidelity that we might as well call them
actual free will and the ability to make decisions.
||If in fact those properties have emerged in a lump
of grey biological cells as a result of billions of
years of physical, chemical, biological and social
interactions, all of which are ultimately
deterministic, then the near-infinite number and
complexity of those causative events makes it
irrelevant: we have something that is so close to
actual free will as to make no difference
||"Free will" is like those "free from" sticky buns in the "healthy aisle" of the supermarket. They don't ever tell you what they are free from.
||Maybe, free will is the limit. Obtaining and using free will allow Humanity to be a celestial species.
||Here's to making a large discontinuous spike, in the fair curve of the natural order, to out grow the Earth.
||I added another level of complexity, testing the results in
our imagination, and having virtual reinforcement. This
perhaps is crucial to the definition of aware choices which
can be attributed to a person's doing.
||I disagree with Tom Harris that having rid of the false
notion of free will, Professor Jared Diamond's father in law
who caught the Nazi that rounded up and murdered his
family, but turned him over to the police who released him
almost immediately, would be able to and actually should
have thought of him (and the police) in the same way as if
his family was killed by cholera, with no feelings of
||Alternatively, this is all a dream that I am having & you are all figments of my imagination. I mean, come on! The halfbakery is a dead giveaway isn't it!? It would never exist in the real world.
||[pashute] //no feelings of vengeance//
but theres a difference between determinism
and moral relativism-