Trick Slattery’s Blog has a 500 char limit that I only encountered after writing 10,600 characters – so my response is here, and only a link to it there
Call me a “Soft Free Will” advocate.
It seems clear to me that a Quantum understanding of reality rejects the notion of hard determinism, and replaces it with one of “constrained chaos”.
The complex numbers of QM vectors deliver a probability of an event when squared.
The smallest time unit that a human can experience is more than 10^30 of these “quantum” time units, so in the world of our normal experience, these probability distributions are populated by vast numbers of instances, and appear as very solid and predictable things most of the time.
So QM seems to deal to hard determinism.
Reality seems to be a balance between the lawful and the random, at many different levels.
That in and of itself, as you accurately point out, does not give us free will.
I am also an advocate of “soft” free will. Free will in the sense of being able to develop degrees of influence.
Certainly, we have many levels of subconscious processes that allow for the emergence of conscious awareness, and for the most part we have little or no knowledge or influence over those.
And when you think about systems, every new level of system requires a boundary of sorts to both instantiate it, and to give it some degree of independence from the level of system from which it emerged.
It is the nature of those boundaries that is critical to the sorts of behaviours and the sorts of independence that can emerge.
Boundaries need to vary in permeability to different classes of “stuff”, and vary in response (flexibility, rigidity, elasticity, etc) to different sorts of influences.
In the average human we have about 20 levels of such systems, from the atomic to molecular to larger scale structures eventually getting to cellular, multicellular, organs, populations, and levels of behavioural/cultural systems.
By the time we get to the emergence of a software entity existent in a software model of reality within a complex biological brain with all of its many lower levels of chemical, emotional and behavioural systems, the degrees of influences at uncertain boundaries can be very interesting.
The sentence you used in you post above is interesting:
“Of couPrWQse th@t woQSuFld notT be vQSDVery heF1lp9ful.”
and I am sure all of us could read it with a little effort.
And I am sure this version could be read almost instantly:
“Of coruse taht wuold not be vrey hlepful. ”
Our brains are very used to dealing with errors and uncertainty.
To a very large degree, we see what we expect to see.
Sometimes we do it so well that we cannot see errors (as anyone who has tried proof reading their own work will know only too well).
The point here is that humans are not rational or deterministic.
What we are is survival machines.
We are highly evolved to exist in complex and changing and uncertain environments.
We have evolved very complex sets of models and understandings.
We have evolved very complex cooperative systems.
I am very clear that the hard determinism that Dan Dennett and Sam Harris champion is not in accord with our best scientific understandings.
I am also clear, that most of the time, at normal scales of human perception, the world does operate in ways that do very closely approximate determinism – for the reasons outlined above.
And having uncertainty in boundary conditions allows systems to tune and regulate the degrees of influence that exist between levels of systems.
So for me, that leaves the sort of free will that one can develop by active choice, and in the absence of such choice, then what happens will very closely approximate deterministic systems.
This sort of free will is a freedom to develop influence, and if it is to survive, then it needs to acknowledge all the levels of systems that must exist for it to exist – and so must exhibit ecological and cultural responsibility. Anything less than that is freedom to manifest extinction.
I am saying that individual life and individual liberty need to be our highest values, and I am also saying that part of any individual living in reality demands of us responsible action in social and environmental contexts.
None of us lives entirely independently.
We all rely on others for many things.
We are all the inheritors of the work of intellectual giants.
This amazingly complex language and science and art and technology and culture that we have, is the result of vast amounts of work by billions of people.
Our connectedness must be understood and acknowledged.
And something very new – unprecedented – is emerging.
Fully automated systems allow us to do much more with less, and to free individuals to spend most of their time doing whatever they responsibly choose.
And that is something that has never in the past been generally available.
Our current economic systems, of using markets to measure value, fail in the presence of the sort of universal abundance possible from fully automated systems.
So we need to develop other mechanisms of trust and distributed coordination and cognition and governance that were once the domain of free markets, and now need to move to other systems.
We live in very complex times, and understanding the nature of the free will that we very definitely do have, if we choose it, is a big part of us surviving the coming singularities.
Had a long discussion of this topic on my blog recently:
Hi Trick – Yes – saw that after pressing [Submit Comment] and getting the explicit 500 Char limit rejection.
I don’t know how anyone can make a “Deterministic” interpretation of QM – it gives only probabilities, and is capable of instantiating stuff from nothing as a result.
Hard to make that “Deterministic”.
I completed my undergrad biochem studies 43 years ago, and got interested in computers about the same time.
Have been fascinated by systems and relationships ever since.
If you have uncertainty in boundary conditions, then degrees of influence between systems can vary substantially with context.
Once one realises that, then one can manage levels of context (to the degree such is possible).
One is always subject to degrees of influence, and one can develop degrees of freedom.
I assume little.
I understand evolution.
I understand many of our tendencies to simplify.
Evolution only needs to be “close enough”.
Reality seems like it is very probably similar.
QM seems to support that proposition.
It allows for observed degrees of freedom.
Why let deterministic assumptions rule?
It is difficult to call a claim like “Reality seems like it is very probably similar” “dogmatic” 😉
I am very confident that 100% prediction is not an option.
A degree of reliability – that I can accept.
100% – nope – that seem extremely improbable.
[followed by Tricks thought experiment of a computer that could predict with 100% accuracy]
If such a computer were possible, then free will (of any sort) is pure illusion, of that I am confident beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt.
I am almost as confident that such a computer is not possible, and that the question is one of argument from absurd premises (classical premises). It is in violation of quantum mechanical principles.
By the definition I have consistently used, if a computer is able to make a fully deterministic prediction, then the sort of free will that seems to me to exist cannot exist – it is a logically impossible proposition.
The sort of free will that seems to me to exist requires two different sets of conditions, degrees of indeterminism, and degrees of influence. That is what quantum mechanics seems to indicate is the sort of reality we live in.
Have you stopped beating your grandmother yet Trick? Simple yes or no answer please!
Sometimes the assumption sets of one paradigm have no simple translation to another paradigm.
All language is pointers to complex structures.
Common culture can mean common structures, but not always, in this case not much.
QM seems to be telling us that some things are not allowed, and everything else is a matter of probability (many of those so small as to be unlikely to occur in this universe, ever).
It’s hard to haggle in 500 Chars.
The thing that really gets me about QM, is that the arrangement of electrons around atoms, and all the chemical properties that follow, can be derived from an information principle, which says that it is not allowed to know both position and momentum beyond certain limits.
When you spend a few thousand hours contemplating that from a systems perspective, it can fundamentally alter one’s relation to ideas like classical causality.
[followed by Trick’s claim – (500 char keeps things conversational, one point at a time, rather than allowing large blocks of unreadable texts and unwieldy tangents – this is better in the long run (trust me) unless one is looking to obfuscate).]
In 500 characters I cannot constantly restate, on every occasion, that all of my understandings are probabilistic.
Hard to back up a claim like The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (HUP) is causally deterministic in a short space. That seems a very hard position.
Hard to make a soft argument when the other person rejects anything that is not hard – it becomes somewhat tautological.
The strongest claim I will make is one based on balance of probabilities – given my experience set.
[followed by Trick linked to http://breakingthefreewillillusion.com/ontic-probability-doesnt-exist/%5D
Your proposition fails.
A mix of the ontic random and the causal.
Twin slit – fourier transform of square filter delivers outcome.
Real randomness, plus a filter, can give the outcome.
Ontic randomness can exist.
Asserting it cannot is a failure of imagination, not a logical necessity.
I assert that it seems very probable that this universe is based upon such a mix.
It does allow for real degrees of freedom.
[followed by 21 Dec]
I agree that beyond a certain limit, ontic indeterminism degrades complex systems.
I am also saying that to deliver real freedom, there must exist ontic indeterminism to some degree. And it is all about the degree, and the context.
Yes it does seem that what we can do is alter the filters in some contexts, and over time accumulate degrees of independence.
And it isn’t clean, it is messy. Very different from Dennett’s hidden lottery.
You got the last bit right Trick.
I don’t have beliefs.
I develop hypotheses.
I iterate and recurs this process.
I have all the work of many who have gone before to elevate my starting point.
Most of my understanding is based in the logic and strategy of evolutionary biology.
I have working hypotheses that have not yet been falsified.
And a reasonable working knowledge of systems, both from biochemistry and 40 years of working with computers.
Trick’s last comment, before his comments went “down for maintenance”, was close to something, but too hard on the deterministic side to see what was present.
And I get it is hard, it is subtle, it is complex.
Trick is right in several senses, yet missed the recursive depth of the uncertainty and influence present.
And it isn’t clean and neat.
It is messy, deeply, fundamentally, messy.
And in those depths lurks a degree of responsibility that terrifies most who glimpse it.
It lies in the choice, to be responsible, or not.
And what that looks like, for each of us, can be something different.
And provided it shares two basic qualities, of respect for life, and respect for liberty, with all the implicit responsibilities in social and ecological contexts that come with that, then it seems clear to me it can work.
And that seems to be one if too far for Trick.
And yes – in a sense, there are degrees of determinism present, that is evolution, that is survival in contexts, that is all the many levels of messy interconnected systems that is an embodied human being. That is the many different ways in which evolution has harnessed this mix of the determined and the random to give us the degrees of freedom, the degrees of choice, that we have.
And certainly aspects of it are bounded, determined in a sense, complexity demands that, cannot exist without it.
And it is a different form of determinism from the hard form Trick Champions.
It seems clear to me, beyond reasonable doubt, that both exist.
We need both.
It isn’t simple.
It isn’t neat.
It isn’t certain.
It is profoundly, infinitely, recursively, complex and uncertain, even though we can build computers and jet engines.
[to one side in an earlier Sub-thread]
In most contexts, I don’t think retributive morality is appropriate, as the sort of free will involved probably doesn’t justify it, and other more effective alternatives exist, and in an evolutionary context, I can understand its emergence.
And to me, that has little to do with free will.
For me, free will is something one can create, in terms of degrees of influence, not anything absolute.
And in anything other than extremis of passion, there is little excuse for intentional murder.
[latest updates above this last post]