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  1. #11
    Senior Member Vortex's Avatar
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    I've always just assumed that we could be explained mechanically. I know I don't base all of my choices on my 'free will' and I've always had some trouble with the concept. Logically, for me, it follows that some other shadow process is in place and only the tiniest surface layer of humanity and civilization set us apart from each other and gives us the ability to make decisions.
    Since I accept this as the way things are, I'm quite indifferent. I'd wish better explanations and scientific approaches were in place, but it doesn't matter much to me.

  2. #12
    @.~*virinaĉo*~.@ Totenkindly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    IMO, we are limiting what this "mechanism" is to a worst case scenario--that of us being automatons, and "losing" our free-wills.

    I don't believe that to be the case. Imagine a scenario where we find out how will works, and knowing how our will works is the essential part of our "mechanism". In addition, imagine that knowing how will works, allows us to make it more "free". I think we need to open our minds to possibilities when we are talking about possibilities.
    Are there actually more than two possibilities? Isn't that a little like saying you're just a "little pregnant?" Either we have some amount of autonomy over ourselves, or we do not. The scenario is binary by nature.

    In the situation you describe, I would still call that "free will" -- if your will can make a decision that is not 100% a reaction to everything that has happened in the past to it and shaped it. That is not mechanistic to me in the sense I was using the term.

    (To me, mechanistic is where actions are predetermined, whereas free will would be the ability to pick something even randomly if so desired. But the latter might still be a paradox... It's a little tedious to extrapolate, though.)

    There is that word just again. Why the word just? Why limit our imaginations?
    You could delete the word "just" and still have it convey the same thought I meant, I suppose.

    (And honestly, what you choose to imagine is fine with me, as long as it has some connection with reality and isn't just spurious confabulation.)

    Reality is just as much in the configuration of elements as it is in the elements themselves.

    I'll use a simple computing example again. A program, or a file, is the same whether it is on a CD, on your hard-drive or on being transfered on the net. They are copies but if the copies didn't get corrupted, they are the same program or file.

    I think who we are is more like software, than hardware (could be my Hindu background that leads me to believe this). It is possible that we will one day be able to preserve ourselves outside our corporeal bodies if we see it to be a good thing to do (I don't believe it is a good thing, though).
    Thank you -- having an example to work with helps me follow you a little easier...

    Still, how would we go about "proving" (or at least making a strong case for) "us" being software sitting on/in a machine, rather than firmware that driven by the machine itself?

    Well, I know eastern thought can promote this, but trust me that many westerners also live as though this were true -- that the "ego" is separate from the body. The sundering came with the Greek philosophers and up through the ages, and only recently (because of science advancement) have we really begun to realize that some of what is "us" is driven heavily if not completely by the body. Holistically, the body is not an attachment or option, it's part of "us." But I can't prove that either.

    Still (and here is a little example), if our hippocampus is damaged, we can form no more long-term memories. Our sense of history stops at the time of damage, and we can no longer evolve/mature. In addition, the memories are stored physically in our brain by actual neurons, not in primarily some metaphysical sense; damage to the brain results in memory loss. Without the physical storage unit of the brain, we seem to no longer exist.

    (The best case I can see you making is that "we exist" elsewhere but can no longer communicate or express that existence via the vehicle of our body-- and this argument is pure speculation. It's not verifiable.)

    But now we are hitting on "life after death" issues. And there was some interesting "cloning" speculations involving Star Trek transporters that I think came up on INTPc a number of months ago. Which deals with the same questions, basically.

    If you want, I may try to give a vivid description of a "mechanism" that preserves "free-will."
    Sure, I'd love to see what you're thinking here.
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

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  3. #13
    insert random title here Randomnity's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by athenian200 View Post
    I recently read about an idea called Anthropic Mechanism, which purports that everything about people can be explained mechanically, in the same sense that natural phenomena like gravity or heat usually can be. However, we don't actually have any way of knowing this for certain one way or the other.

    When I first heard about this, I was a little surprised, and didn't really want to believe such a thing. But after thinking about it for a while, I realized we didn't really think weather, navigation, or many other things could be explained scientifically either before they were. It's possible I would simply be resistant to such an idea because it would at first seem to deprive life of meaning, but I don't think it really would. All it would actually mean is that our behavior/thinking could be explained, not that we had any reason to stop behaving in such ways, just that we would have more control/awareness over such. It would simply show us how we find meaning, and actually make it easier for us to do so.

    It has been becoming a more appealing idea to me, because it's been difficult for me to find meaning in things. If I understood how my mind worked, and thus how it sought meaning, it would be easier to set things up so that I found it.

    What do you think of this idea? Impossible? Interesting? Do you feel opposed to it? Indifferent? Accepting of it as a possibility?
    Unless I am completely misunderstanding what you mean by this, hasn't that always been the most scientific explanation, given current understanding/data? Everything has to have a mechanism--what else would make it function? The only other explanation would be souls/something else mystic...hardly scientific...

    Unless you are talking about having our lives essentially predetermined, which is somewhat different.

  4. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    Are there actually more than two possibilities? Isn't that a little like saying you're just a "little pregnant?" Either we have some amount of autonomy over ourselves, or we do not. The scenario is binary by nature.
    Well, there are weird medical conditions, etc. but that is rather tangential. I guess what I was saying is that it is possible that science will explain our free-will without us loosing it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    In the situation you describe, I would still call that "free will" -- if your will can make a decision that is not 100% a reaction to everything that has happened in the past to it and shaped it. That is not mechanistic to me in the sense I was using the term.

    (To me, mechanistic is where actions are predetermined, whereas free will would be the ability to pick something even randomly if so desired. But the latter might still be a paradox... It's a little tedious to extrapolate, though.)
    I don't know then what interpretation to mechanism to give. I thought Athenian200 just meant a scientific explanations that explains who we are, and why we do things.

    I find it hard to believe that a scientific explanation about such a commonly experienced thing as Consciousness or Will, will defy our common-sense notion of what it is by too much.


    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    You could delete the word "just" and still have it convey the same thought I meant, I suppose.

    (And honestly, what you choose to imagine is fine with me, as long as it has some connection with reality and isn't just spurious confabulation.)
    Just is a loaded word. I am not sure what argument there is without "just." We have a mechanism, and we have free-will (without the just).

    It is clear we are made up of matter. Just as it is clear that speech is made up of sounds. But understanding the mechanism of sounds does not deconstruct the meaning given to speech. In fact, it gives us insight into why some languages and customs come about. Again this is a bit tangential.


    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    Still, how would we go about "proving" (or at least making a strong case for) "us" being software sitting on/in a machine, rather than firmware that driven by the machine itself?
    I think the burden-of-proof is on the person claiming impossibility, not the other way around. But, it is fairly complex even in the computing example.

    If you only have one copy of a program, and it gets corrupted, then that program exists no more. The program creator may recreate/repair it, if he/she deems it fit to do so.

    Our body, our brain, our mind, and our soul are linked. We are not able to copy ourselves in mind and soul, and it is unknown if our creator(s) will ever make another instance of us if we get corrupted.

    There are remarkable similarities between twins, as there are remarkable similarities between siblings, even when reared apart. However, every pair of twins I've known have been distinctly different people. I would never call both the same person, nor two instances of the same person. If it was simply about the material, how are they two different people?

    You could make some case about chaotic systems, etc, and initial conditions, leading to distinct enough people to consider them two different individuals (rather than two instances of the same one). But I think this is just a different labeling for the same thing.

    Consider also that the body keeps changing --we are certainly affected by these changes, but we are still the same person. We are also affected by changes in our bodies as well as the environment, just as self-modifying programs behave differently under different hardware conditions, and when they receives different inputs.

    We don't consider ourselves a different actual person from moment to moment. This is not the common-sense way we think of ourselves, at-least. I think the reason is that we are the same person, identity-wise (again, unless the changes are so bad we get "corrupted").

    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    Well, I know eastern thought can promote this, but trust me that many westerners also live as though this were true -- that the "ego" is separate from the body. The sundering came with the Greek philosophers and up through the ages, and only recently (because of science advancement) have we really begun to realize that some of what is "us" is driven heavily if not completely by the body. Holistically, the body is not an attachment or option, it's part of "us." But I can't prove that either.

    Still (and here is a little example), if our hippocampus is damaged, we can form no more long-term memories. Our sense of history stops at the time of damage, and we can no longer evolve/mature. In addition, the memories are stored physically in our brain by actual neurons, not in primarily some metaphysical sense; damage to the brain results in memory loss. Without the physical storage unit of the brain, we seem to no longer exist.

    (The best case I can see you making is that "we exist" elsewhere but can no longer communicate or express that existence via the vehicle of our body-- and this argument is pure speculation. It's not verifiable.)

    But now we are hitting on "life after death" issues. And there was some interesting "cloning" speculations involving Star Trek transporters that I think came up on INTPc a number of months ago. Which deals with the same questions, basically.
    We are not separate from our bodies. But we are not our bodies (again, this seems to be the common-sense). If our bodies are corrupted we risk ourselves being corrupted. When we get ill, we aim to get better. But most people are able to be themselves even after a sever injury like loosing an arm (unless their identity is severely attached to the arm).

    When we take psychotropic drugs (anti-depressants, etc.), are we changing ourselves? Or simply improving some biological impediments like low-seratonin? If they are bad drugs, they will corrupt us. But most of these seem to do nothing much other than give temporarily relief, and an occasional head-trip.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    Sure, I'd love to see what you're thinking here.
    Possible Mechanism of Will

    Here I am giving a possible mechanism of will, to show that it is possible we have a mechanism as well as will.

    For now, I will use the common-sense notion of making choices as will, and try to mechanize it.

    The Environment, Causality, and Decision Making

    Imagine an archer firing arrows at his enemies. The arrows he has fired, he no longer controls. They are set on their course and may or may not hit their targets. The archer can gauge by how much he has missed and adjust his aim. This is an act of will, though you may say his aim is determined by his environment (where the target is). In fact, the better his readjustment, his act of will, the more his action was determined by the environment.

    It is said that you are actually better able to predict the actions of better poker players.

    Our Natures and Decision Making

    When we fight our own natures, we show poor judgment. This is true whether our natures are genetically rooted or formed by a combination of environment and genetics. If it is the latter, we can choose our new environments and thereby influence our future nature.

    Again, better uses of our will (the common-sense notion of it), are more determined by our natures than worse uses.

    Defying the Odds and Decision Making

    It is actually impossible to defy the odds, but we need to choose which odds make the most sense. On average, we are all C to B students (grade inflation ), and we have an IQ of 100, will likely not make enough money to retire, ... But if you know more about yourself, you can see perhaps that you are actually a B to A student, with an IQ of 145 and are on track for a comfortable retirement.

    Her you can show error in judgment by judging yourself too average, but you can also judge yourself too special (or incorrectly special), and believe you can defy the odds. Again, the best judgment is the one determined to be the best based on the situation.

    Particles and Decision Making

    There has been some notion of particles/photons being able to consistently make the right "choice" (in terms polarization, etc.) consistently despite the fact that there is no known mechanism for it getting the information it needs. Physicists call this phenomenon, quantum entanglement, but provide no mechanism for it.

    Some postulate that what is at work here is an ultra-accurate (Godly?) use of judgment to make the correct decision under impossible odds.

    They further postulate an elementary unit (like matter) that makes this possible. In addition, these elementary units act in resonance (40 Hz, I believe) to create our conscious minds and our ability to make choices judgments instead of simply moving along according the odds specified by our constituent chemical and biological parts.

    Consciousness, in this construct, is considered yet another form of quantum coherence, similar to superfluidity and superconductivity.

    I don't know if it is true, or if it has been debunked. But it hardly violates the sense I have about free-will and it's existence. In fact, it makes me think that I am actually a small bit of quantum coherence in the over all mind of God. Hardly someone lacking will.

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  5. #15
    Protocol Droid Athenian200's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    Consciousness, in this construct, is considered yet another form of quantum coherence, similar to superfluidity and superconductivity.

    I don't know if it is true, or if it has been debunked. But it hardly violates the sense I have about free-will and it's existence. In fact, it makes me think that I am actually a small bit of quantum coherence in the over all mind of God. Hardly someone lacking will.
    That's an interesting idea... and shows how we could understand how a person's will works without necessarily negating it or making it meaningless. It seems to express the general idea I was thinking of. Of course, I don't know if we'll ever be able to actually understand it on that level.

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