Free will with Trick continues

Free will again.

Things got heated, and it looked like the debate on Trick’s site would be effectively closed.

Anyone interested can follow the links below, and see which comments Trick has chosen to publish, and which he withheld, and can see his and rom’s comments in detail.

For me this discussion has been extremely difficult.

When I write, I try always to write for as wide an audience as possible.
As soon as one approaches any non-trivial topic, the cone of possible interpretations widens and deepens, and trying to localise to any particular interpretation within that very deep (and potentially infinite) set, becomes extremely difficult.

The task is essentially impossible within a 500 character message limit.
So that is one very real issue, and it is the lesser of the two major issues.

The most important issue, for me, is the entire thesis present, that Trick is championing – that free will is illusion.

If free will is illusion, then the very idea of making an effort to be responsible, is illusion; which seems to lead inexorably (in the simplest interpretation that most are likely to take from that) to taking the easiest path at the easiest level.

And that, to me, imposes existential level risk upon all of us.

The idea of morality, the idea that we have choice, and that our individual choices matter, at some level, is predicated on the notion that choice exists.

To me, as a systems geek, morality is one of those necessary sets of attendant strategy sets required to bring stability to higher level cooperative structures, and the notion that it is illusion, is fundamentally destructive of social cooperation.

The idea that we can make choices, that making those necessary choices can be difficult, and can have very high short term costs, does seem to be fundamental to our social structure; fundamental to maintaining any sort of real diversity. That seems to be a concept firmly entrenched in international jurisprudence by the Nuremberg Trials, as well as being fundamental to that stability of higher order complex cooperative systems (which in some interpretations is just saying the same thing in different words – though many can and do argue that point).

And it seems to me that I can see the logic of where Trick and rom are coming from, but it appears to me that the premises of their argument are not well aligned with the best current understanding of reality.

And it seems clear to me that Trick has not understood any of the analogies I have used to try and make that understanding available to him; and given the clear strength of his conviction, that is quite understandable.

He seems to be very confident that he is right.

It seems to me very likely that the heuristic structures he is using are not reliable in the context he is applying them (ie – he is probably wrong in a way he does not yet seem to distinguish).

One of the deep issues present is that he does not seem to distinguish knowledge generally as heuristic structures – they occur as truths. And I do get that for most people, truths are real.

I do get, that in rejecting all truth in favour of heuristic approximations (even this one), that I am unusual.
And it is a fundamental aspect of my understanding of free will.
For me, it does seem to link to a non-deterministic interpretation of QM – of the sort that Feynman championed.

For me, it seems that this reality we find ourselves in is balanced between determinism and indeterminism at every level – at every level there seems to be a necessary balance between order and chaos (using the word chaos in the ordinary mythic – non-mathematical sense).

For me, it seems clear that the freedom I experience is the result of about 20 levels of complex adaptive systems, with every level having many instances of complex systems. Everyone one having some degree of influence on every other one. In the reality of such complexity, there must be aspects of our own motivational substructures that are deeply mysterious even unto ourselves.

And acknowledging all of that reality, there really does seem to be a very real systemic sense in which we have choice if we claim it as such.
That “act of will”, the bringing into being something real, in the instant, does seem to be very “real” and not at all “illusion” as Trick claims.

And the existence of that reality seems to this individual to be the most important single factor in our continuing to exist as a species.

And as Jordan Peterson so clearly points out, we often need to embody wisdom long before we consciously distinguish it as such. And that is a very deeply dimenisional journey, for those willing to repeatedly make the very uncomfortable and dangerous journeys in the unknown.

One can find links to the earlier parts of this discussion here

from 1 May 2018 –
Tricks Determinism debate continued and now seems effectively over, in that even if it continues, it is likely to be years before it gets to anything I consider “interesting”.

Trick asked – Given the “complex” system you propose, could the “willer” (the person willing) have willed, thought, or done otherwise – of the willer’s own accord (meaning the otherwise output would have been ultimately “up to willer” and not due to some event out of the willer’s control)? Yes or No?

Have you stopped beating your grandmother yet Trick? A simple yes or no answer – please!

Implicit in your question is an acceptance of the very system I am questioning.

In my world, which is a world defined by probability functions, neither yes nor no are accurate.

The answer is always – to some degree, and the degree depends upon the context, and both the context and the degree are important, and uncertainty is always a big part of every context.

In my world, the philosophical position you take is logically equivalent to that of Derrida, just in a different domain (the flip side if you like).

In my understanding, both are grossly irresponsible in their willful over simplification and ignorance of the deep lessens of history.

Both deliver existential level risk if they gain popularity in a significant fraction of the population at large.

[followed by to Trick – This type of unfocus is exactly why I have the character limit. Adding in terms such as “heuristics” and “oracles” adds in nothing new to the point about how those are freely willed, even though you make the non-sequitur to that. You do this with the term “predictability” as well, but the free will debate is not about whether something is predictable or not (or to whom it is not predictable for, etc.) – that seems to be your misunderstanding of the topic. Same with complexity, more complexity (with sets of boundary conditions) does not equate to free will.

So to focus down on where you make the non-sequitur leap:

“It can mean a level of self determination that includes levels unpredictability from the perspective of external agents.”

None of this is freely willed “self-determination”. These “heuristics”, “oracles”, “predictability”, “unpredictability/randomness”, “complexity”, “boundary conditions”, “rules”, etc…ALWAYS stem to events that the person has no say over…whether that be a causal lines that ultimately stem outside of the person (and hence is not “self-determined” but driven by antecedent variables), or causal lines that stem to indeterministic/truly random events that the person has no say over (and hence is not “self-determined” but driven by non-willed truly-random variables)…and any interactions between the two can never lead to a system that has freely willed “self-determination” because the very interaction is dictated by the EXACT product of these lines.

“To will is to show some disposition, some preference, at some level.”

The point is, that “will” could not have been, of the person’s own accord, otherwise (the free will of concern). Any otherwise that comes from indeterminism would be entirely out of the control of the willer. This is the same for ANY of those complex processes that you use to obfuscate this point.

Whether or not something is predictable to an external agent is entirely irrelevant to the topic of free will.

Instead of keep reiterating what you had in multiple comments, I’d like to focus down on a “yes/no” question if answerable to you:

Given the “complex” system you propose, could the “willer” (the person willing) have willed, thought, or done otherwise – of the willer’s own accord (meaning the otherwise output would have been ultimately “up to willer” and not due to some event out of the willer’s control)? Yes or No?]

The question is loaded Trick – but you cannot see that, which is a big part of why communication is not working.

All questions are loaded, in a very real sense.

Communication happens when the loadings are accepted on both sides, in our case they are not.
I am not operating on the same set of assumptions you are.
For me, their use in this context is outside of their domain of utility.

You will not allow discussion of the substantive issue as you have not distinguished it as such.

And in the context you supplied in 2443 characters – the answer is Yes – and it is only yes to the degree that the individual making such a choice claims it as such.

Without that claim of independence, it is determined by other causes.

And every choice so claimed will of necessity have aspects of influence from many levels of other factors.

And the mechanics of it are deeply complex and non-binary, and seem to me to extend to the very substructure of the matter from which we are made.

Note how you break your own rules (I’m not a great fan of rules, and I acknowledge the necessity of a minimal set, and the definition of minimal is uncertain).

And I can sort of get the point, that we need to focus on the substantive issues.
But we are nowhere near the substantive issue.
And it took over 2,000 characters to make a simple social point.

I doubt we will get near the substantive issue this year – at this rate.

[followed by to rom – Ted here is my perspective I have asked repeatedly how indeterminism (a cosmic dice shaker) provides free will. You assume indeterminism exists. I might not as there are deterministic interpretations of quantum phenomena. eg Sabine’s Superdeterminism. Never heard of superdeterminism? How does complexity and recursion make it free?]

Hi rom

I don’t assume anything, other than existence (whatever it is – cogito ergo sum).

Everything in my world is some function of evolution in the first instance, and some function of a balance of probabilities derived from the examination of sets of observations and conjectures.

Mathematics and logic seem to be the best modeling tools we have, and there does not seem to be any requirement for reality to exactly align with any model we may make of it.

So it seems entirely probable that our models will always be essentially heuristic.

Freedom seems to exist in a system that does not have hard determinism, but rather has context sensitive degrees of influence – which is one of the many possible interpretations of QM.

We are never entirely free, because complexity requires boundaries to deliver form.
But nor are we necessarily entirely determined.
There does seem to exist a balance in there, not reducible to a simple binary.

[followed by to Trick – and his answer to my Why are you having this conversation question]

It was a deeply recursive question – very “tongue in cheek”.
It seems to have elicited a surface level “ego” response.
I was hoping the humour might get you to look a few levels deeper.

[followed by to Trick]

No Trick, from my perspective you are not granting the possibility of indeterminism, because you keep looping back to binary cause and effect.
You keep trying to reduce complexity to binary.
Something essential is lost whenever that happens.
I am arguing from a non-binary space.

[followed by to Trick and rom – and rom’s Ted should be able to state his position clearly and coherently, that is he has the will to do so and it is free to do so.]

Any system must start from relative simplicity, and build to the more complex.

Any system of understanding must start from simple conjectures.

The simplest possible distinctions are binaries.

We all had to start there.

Some people get so comfortable in the simple binary space of true/false that it is difficult for them to even conjecture the possibility of non-binary truth values, let alone spend significant time exploring such systems.

I am not in a binary space.

[followed by to rom – “We might apply boundary conditions to simply the complexity. Boundary conditions are useful approximations nothing more. Which of the four fundamental forces don’t extend to infinity?”]

A gradient can be an effective boundary, if at some region of that gradient a threshold of action is effectively crossed.

And boundaries can be much more complex than simple gradients.

All that is necessary for evolution is for something to be sufficiently boundary like to alter survival probabilities with sufficient reliability to influence the frequency if variations present in the population. And the definition of population is also similarly probabilistic.

Seriously not simple.

[And thus it seemed it would end, but it limps on.
From my perspective, deeply troubling.
Both Trick and rom are clearly very intelligent, and reasonably well read, yet appear unwilling or unable to examine the paradigm I have been trying to make available. Having been through that process quite a few times now myself, I can empathise with their responses in a real sense, and even understand the insults, and none of it makes it easy.

So I have been keeping my responses as simple as I can and still retain any shadow of the depths I am trying to make clear.

To Trick’s response and question following my:
“No Trick. False on every count.”

Good, that gives us focus. Let’s start here:
Q: Given the “complex” system you propose, could the “willer” (the person willing) have willed, thought, or done otherwise – of the willer’s own accord (meaning the otherwise output would have been ultimately “up to willer” and not due to some event out of the willer’s control)? Yes or No?
You claim this is a loaded question, which means no matter how you answer Q, it presupposes that you X.
Please fill in X.

The use of the term “ultimately” is what makes the question difficult.

Will in this sense isn’t ultimate, it is instantaneous.

A system complex enough to exhibit “will” must of course have many necessary components present that allow it to have the form that it does.

So if you are in search of an “ultimate”, then everything in existence ultimately traces back to big bang.

“Will” of the sort I contend, can only exist if the causal chain is soft (probabilistic) rather than hard.

[Followed by]

I cannot answer that question from my perspective, because the terms “control” and “own accord” are too hard.

In my understanding, none of us have strict control of anything, the best we have is degrees of influence, and in some cases those may closely approximate (but never equate to) strict control.

In my understanding the willer could have altered the likelihood of that particular outcome in that particular instant, and that was the outcome that occurred.

[ Trick asked – Do you have ANY degree of influence over the outcome of any indeterministic event (e.g. whether a particle in the system collapses or decoheres to a 30% chance area over a 15% chance area, etc.)? Y or N]

Can you be a little (lot) more specific?

I can push a graphite control rod in or out of a nuclear pile and alter the output of the system, without knowing how or if it affects the probability of any specific atom decaying.

I cannot tell when any specific atom will decay, and I can predict within quite useful limits the response of the system as a whole.

It is analogous to that, but several levels more complex.

[In response to Trick – 5/5/18]

I do not accept the assertion that all quantum indeterminism is in “over how the wave function of the superpositioned state will collapse”, though that is an important idea.

Heisenberg uncertainty (related) seems to be important also.

The very idea that mathematical models can capture what is going on accurately seems to be at issue.

Degrees of approximation seem to be allowed, nothing more.

The mathematical technique “sum over life histories” seems to point to deep influence.

[In response to Trick’s – Do you agree that the “uncertainty” in HUP is NOT the same thing as true randomness / no cause? Y or N]

Still not that simple.

At least two aspects present in HUP.

1/ HUP gives indeterminancy to all measurement – regardless of if underlying mechanism is deterministic or has random aspects. So from the perspective of the knowability of the universe – HUP introduces indeterminance.

2/ Is the conjecture that any mathematical model accurately models reality, rather than simply giving us the best heuristic approximation. Irrational numbers point to mathematical models being heuristic.

[In response to Trick’s – Do you agree that the “uncertainty” in HUP is NOT the same thing as true randomness / no cause? Y or N]

If consciousness is an information system, then indeterminancy of information is every bit as random, from the perspective of that information system.

So giving a simple yes or no answer to the question seems to be off topic, if the topic is the freedom of an information system rather than the freedom of any level of substrate upon which that information system is operating.

From an information perspective – HUP delivers indeterminant measurements – Random, within limits.

[Trick asked- Imagine a universe where EVERY event (ontologically) has a cause (there is no event that is not the specific product of antecedent causes), HOWEVER there are aspects that make it so we cannot assess the specifics about certain causes (there is uncertainty, meaning a lack of knowledge about a cause). In that universe, could you have done otherwise? Y or N]

That universe cannot logically exist.
As soon as uncertainty becomes translated to information then it delivers randomness to some degree.
That lack of predictability, then introduces a degree of freedom to the system.
If a system is of sufficient complexity that it can condition that (bias it in some way), then the internal state of that system can become separated from hard causal predictability of the whole.
Any level of “noise” in a system can do that.
This requires complex systems.

[To Trick]

Can you prove your claim that a lawful computational system whose state is determined by its consistent rule set applied to inputs according to its program, can have outcomes that are predictable when one or more of the inputs are not predictable?

HUP gives fundamental limits to predictability.

No amount of repeated measurement can get past HUP.

[To Trick]

No Trick

My position is both epistemological and ontological (repeatedly stated as such).

I do not accept your assertion that the position of a photon is deterministic. The twin slit cannot work if it is. It must have a plank degree of indeterminism.
The math says it is probabilistic.

Can we prove absolutely ontological indeterminism?
No – no more so than we can prove determinism.
HUP is non deterministic on that issue.

I agree with you in the sense that it is possible to construct a deterministic model of anything that works within the margins of error present in a system.

And having had both the physical and intellectual experiences I have, it seems probable to me that the universe within which we exist is at every level a balance between the lawful and the stochastic.

In that universe, free will can exist.
In yours it cannot.

And by definition, there is no reliable way to distinguish between them.

[To Trick]

Are you familiar with the idea of an “Oracle” in computational systems?

A system that delivers a workable heuristic by having a random output within a set of constraints that have a reasonable probability of surviving in that context.

With the insertion of an unpredictable output from an oracle, a system can become decoupled to a degree from the necessary relationship to the external causal stream, in as much as such causality exists.

And this will need many sets of 500 characters.

[To Trick]

No Trick

You are making an assumption of ontological causation.

That is your bias, your belief.

It is not actually supported by evidence.
Evidence sets we have all contains uncertainty.

The best evidence we have indicates quantum mechanics gives the best approximation to reality, which is uncertainty within limits, that over large collections delivers a close approximation to a regular distribution.

And that distinction is important.

It seems to be as Heisenberg said.

[To Trick – 13 May – he stated – I am not making an assumption of ontological causation, I’m saying that the only evidence of an uncaused event is in quantum wave function collapse IF we accept an IIQM. ]

I can say something exactly equivalent Trick.

To me, the evidence is clear, that all knowledge is approximation, that the very idea of Truth – of absolute causation, is illusion.

Look at the evidence of recent centuries.

We started with the idea that absolute knowledge was possible.

Newton was certain of Truth.

He was wrong.
His mathematics was later proven to be nothing more than a useful approximation to reality in some contexts.

Why do you hold onto a disproven idea?

[To Trick]

I get that in your reality, your statement:
…”lack of a causal variable for wave-function collapse. Period. There is no other theory for an ontological lack of causation.”
does make sense.
I can see how that appears to be so, from within the paradigm set you seem to be using.
And yes – in a sense.

You do not yet seem to appreciate how my statements might be valid in a different paradigm set.
And that is the issue.

I can point to any number of ladders.
I cannot make you climb them.

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
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