Is freedom a choice?

Is Freedom a Choice

“We are not merely atoms in motion. We are not merely matter. We are not merely pre-programmed responses to stimuli.
Which is a way of saying: we can choose, we can decide, we are free, each one of us.
The princes of Pavlov would have us accept that there is no “you” or “I.” Instead, there is the just the unceasing flow of particles in the universe. That’s all.
But again, you are here, right now. You, beyond particles, are reading these words and you understand them.
This is what has happened to the human race, through unceasing tons of propaganda and false science: people have come to believe that the arena of stimulus-response is gigantic. But the opposite is true:
It is individual freedom that is gigantic.
Which leads to the question every individual must ask himself: what is my freedom for?
For what action?
Is it for bowing down to the Reality that has been artificially constructed for me and everyone else?
Or is it for imagining and creating and inventing the reality and the future I most profoundly desire?
Now we are getting to the pivot of this civilization. Which way will it ultimately swing? Toward the stimulus-response empire, or toward individual power?”
This post originated from Peggy Joyce Starr’s post on Facebook. A former member of Gaia.

what is my freedom for?
For what action?
Is it for bowing down to the Reality that has been artificially constructed for me and everyone else?
Or is it for imagining and creating and inventing the reality and the future I most profoundly desire?
Which way will it ultimately swing? Toward the stimulus-response empire, or toward individual power?”

Thanks Jeff

Great Question
Great musical response Tai, and enjoyed the responses from Deb and Jeff and FOS.

So many levels to this.

Being human is not a simple thing.

We are so complex, at so many levels.

Interesting that Joyce’s link to the Stimulus response empire above writes of leaders wanting to control others; which is a possible response and a very simplistic one.

What is far more powerful is to empower all, self and others.

In one sense empowerment involves control, as it involves altering some aspect of reality; yet in another sense empowerment involves giving up control, as it empowers every individual to make their own choices in new domains. To me it is another level of the old saying “nature to be commanded must first be obeyed”.

Yes we have many levels of stimulus response within us, we depend upon them, we emerge from them.

And we are more than simple stimulus response.

We, as conscious entities, are the products of the massive sets of stimulus response systems that is the vast colony of human cells that make up our bodies, immersed in the culture that comes from the accumulated interaction of vast numbers of human minds over vast times. And within the milieu of genes and culture we each find ourselves present, aware.

We finally have the conceptual tools to understand how it is that these vast numbers of interacting systems can give rise to these entities that are us – software systems experiencing a software model of reality created by the hardware that is the human brain immerse in the software that is human culture.

The numbers involved in each and every one of us are just huge, beyond any hope of conscious understanding in detail, yet there, and giving rise to us.

I’ve had 50 years of intense interest in biology, in evolution, in observing nature, and understanding its systems at every level I can find – and the more I know, the more I know I don’t know – we are just so, so complex in detail, yet the specifics of each of the systems is relatively simple, but replicated so many times, and with so many mechanisms of interaction, with other systems at their level, and up and down the levels of systems, that it is a profoundly beautiful picture.

Just to see each of our cells, looking at 3 per second would take a million years, and every cell has about 5 times as many molecules within it as we have cells in our bodies. About 1 in 20 of those cells is part of our brain, and each of them has about 1,000 electrical connections to other brain cells, and about 60 different chemical connections to all of them. Such profound computational complexity of levels of simultaneously operating systems.

So yes – most profoundly yes – we are stimulus response systems.

And one of the responses to the stimulus of culture that our brains produced, was to bootstrap our awareness of self into being.

That awareness, that software entity, seems to have choice, freedom, to the degree that it is willing to claim it.

Certainly it sits atop a vast array of stimulus response systems, and it is impossible to consciously control each of them, and we can consciously influence each of them.

We can consciously develop skills and habits and responses, that we hold under higher level guidance.

We can each choose, the highest level of choice possible.

We can choose cooperation at the highest level.

We can choose empathy.

We can choose acceptance and forgiveness.

We can choose love.

We have those choices available, and we have a lot of other stuff, chemical stuff, biological stuff, cultural stuff, that will from time to time do its thing, and catch us “off guard”.

We are intentional beings.

Intention is so much a part of what we are that it seems natural to ask, what are we for, what is this reality for?

Yet it now seems clear beyond any reasonable doubt, that those questions have no real meaning outside of a sapient entity.

It seems beyond any reasonable doubt, that the universe simply is – essentially devoid of meaning or intention.

We are each certainly capable of bringing meaning and intention to reality.

We each certainly get a default set of meanings from the culture we happen to be born into.

And it seems clear that we are each capable of choosing our own meaning, of creating context at ever more abstract levels, and using those contexts to guide the sorts of responses to stimuli that our bodies produce in reality.

Certainly there are artificial constructs present, in the physical reality, and in the cultural reality; and there are other constructs present too, and an infinite set of classes of other constructs that are possible, but have not yet been given form in reality.

The idea of control is a construct of a relatively low level entity.

The idea of control makes no logical sense in any sort of infinity, it simply is not a logical possibility.

Once any entity reaches a level that it can start to appreciate the complexity available in the infinite set of possible strategies, then the logic is inescapable, that personal security, and personal empowerment more generally, is best served by a cooperative approach.

Once one can view evolution from the space of an exploration of the space of all possible strategies, then it is clear that all increases in the complexity of evolved systems are characterised by the emergence of new levels of cooperation. And games theory tells us that raw cooperation is always vulnerable to exploitation by cheating, so requires attendant strategies to remove the incentive to cheat (and it appears that there is an infinite class of sets of such strategies, and the simplest set is the retaliator set, and there are infinitely more beyond retaliator in the sense of complexity).

So for me, it is no longer a battle between stimulus response and individual choice. It is an acceptance of stimulus response, and a creation of choice atop that. Both are real.

And it is clear to me, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that the greatest security for any individual lies in cooperating with all, and accepting the diversity that must be the logical outcome of exploring any higher level infinity.

One needs to use stimulus response at the lower levels, to empower choice at the higher levels.

We each need to do this, in similar fashion to how social systems do it at a cultural level.

And if enough of us do so, we can alter the fabric of the cultural systems, and create structures that empower everyone – no exceptions.

All simple and logical – in a sense, once one can get back to the simplicity on the other side of complexity.

And it is also clear, that a market based system of values (money) is not compatible with universal empowerment – as all market based measures of value are based in scarcity and thus any universal abundance has no market value.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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