That whole free will doesn't exist in the universe thing:

Todd Feinman

Ad Honorem
Oct 2013
6,583
Planet Nine, Oregon
Well collapsing a superposition of states through measurement is different than the chance of a random input from a neuron in a complex network of neurons; that randomness might never be detectable as a behavioral output, or even change the overall flow of thought as has been suggested before. That typed, I also have long suspected that the brain might operate as a type of quantum computer, so I certainly sympathize.
 

sculptingman

Ad Honorem
Oct 2009
3,664
San Diego
But presumably if neurons firing are influenced by thought, then surely thought is neurons firing and so on back, there is a sequence of unpredictable neurons. There may be unpredictability, but is it choice?
Hard to say- if thought is nothing but an emergent property of neuronal firing- and thought can affect whether neurons fire- then the circular snake chasing its tail you describe literally takes thought out of the loop of classically determined events.

That is- no amount of information to the given state of the brain/body and incoming stimulus could possibly predict the result. And if the result that is observed is an artifact of thought... then thought alone defines the result. I don't see any other possible definition of free will than thought alone defining a choice that can not be predicted thru the actual physics of the mind.

moreover- the topology of synaptic connection is largely created by thought... ergo- if thought defines neuronal firing thru a causation not determined by physics- then thought alone is largely responsible for the structure of the brain's neuronal connections.
This would make even the larger scale functionality of the mind an artifact of quantum level events of which thought alters the probability curve.

From another tack- what is the purpose of consciousness? It evolved as a survival tool. Instead of action being driven by the death of all the variants that behaved in a certain tropic fashion... and those that behaved differently surviving - i.e. instinct- consciousness allows the individual organism to create a model of reality and fine tune that model over time so that it can create and test and refine its own patterns of behavior to better predict a changing environment.
But for that to work, I have to have the feedback of failure. that is, if I try a thing that turns out not to work, I have to be able to invent and chose a different thing to try, and repeat that cycle until I find the thing that works. Repeating that successful action reinforces that new behavior thru denser synaptic structure- which can eventually make that action into something I do deterministically, because the structure of the brain is now wired to elicit that response without my having to even choose.
But this entire scenario relies upon my ability to invent new actions to try when old patterns of action fail.

If the operation of mind is deterministic- then i do not see how this strategy can possibly work. How can you invent a new action when your brain is already wired for actions?

Thus- I would argue that evolution favors the development of genuine ability to make Choices that are not predetermined. Which may only be possible thru the evolution of a nervous system where some of its function teeters precariously on the knife edge of quantum probablity.
This way our brains are a mix of mostly deterministic function, but with the deterministic architecture of the brain modifable by thought alone.

Again- I can not conceive of any better definition of what free will would look like in operation.

Mind is undoubtedly something esoteric and special. There is no 'existence' without conscious perception of existence.
What does the Universe "look" like without any mind to perceive it?

For each of us, the Universe begins when we gain conscious awareness of it- and ends when we die.

Reality- in that sense- is nothing but what we Think and Feel.
 

sculptingman

Ad Honorem
Oct 2009
3,664
San Diego
Well collapsing a superposition of states through measurement is different than the chance of a random input from a neuron in a complex network of neurons; that randomness might never be detectable as a behavioral output, or even change the overall flow of thought as has been suggested before. That typed, I also have long suspected that the brain might operate as a type of quantum computer, so I certainly sympathize.
Well- it does not matter. They have proven that the Probability wave is real.
That just plain means that the universe is NOT deterministic. You can't predict what will happen in the quantum level event. Not because we lack the ability to see it... but because it genuinely is random.
IF the world is not deterministic at the quantum level- and neurons firing / or not firing is triggered at that level- then thought is NOT deterministic since a single Neuron firing can form a cascade of firings that form a single thought.

This does not mean we actually HAVE choice- it means it is possible that we do.

It could also mean that our thoughts at that scale are purely random. Simply unpredictable, but not necessarily the result of any choice.
but that is still not deterministic.
 
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Todd Feinman

Ad Honorem
Oct 2013
6,583
Planet Nine, Oregon
I agree about the fundamental indeterminism. That kind of is reality; everything is defined relative to something else, and everything is entangled -- that's the web of Maya or Tantra. it's really all one thing; nothing has true self nature, so me, you, free will, determinism, all an illusion.
 

Dreamhunter

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Jun 2012
7,503
Malaysia
An ant or a bug, either of them, also has 'free will'. When a big fruit dropping from a tree is just about to smash & quash it into complete oblivion, which has the greater say in things to come, the ant/bug, or the fruit?
 
Jun 2016
1,863
England, 200 yards from Wales
Well- it does not matter. They have proven that the Probability wave is real.
That just plain means that the universe is NOT deterministic. You can't predict what will happen in the quantum level event. Not because we lack the ability to see it... but because it genuinely is random.
IF the world is not deterministic at the quantum level- and neurons firing / or not firing is triggered at that level- then thought is NOT deterministic since a single Neuron firing can form a cascade of firings that form a single thought.

This does not mean we actually HAVE choice- it means it is possible that we do.

It could also mean that our thoughts at that scale are purely random. Simply unpredictable, but not necessarily the result of any choice.
but that is still not deterministic.
Sure, but not deterministic is still not what people mean by free will (I think). As you say not necessarily the result of choice, I'm not sure what that choice would mean actually.
If the neurone fires randomly, and triggers more firings is the causation from the one neurone to the series, after the initial random event, determined ?, if so we have random followed by determined - where is the choice? Choice would be a mental event, but any such event is apparently based on these random firings, and the resultant series .

Given enough neurones, and there's a lot in a brain, is it perhaps like the indeterminacy of the sub-atomic level hardly affecting a large body of atoms - an asteroid contains presumably random events at the sub-atomic level yet the whole follows , eg, the laws of gravity in a deterministic fashion?
 

sculptingman

Ad Honorem
Oct 2009
3,664
San Diego
Sure, but not deterministic is still not what people mean by free will (I think). As you say not necessarily the result of choice, I'm not sure what that choice would mean actually.
If the neurone fires randomly, and triggers more firings is the causation from the one neurone to the series, after the initial random event, determined ?, if so we have random followed by determined - where is the choice? Choice would be a mental event, but any such event is apparently based on these random firings, and the resultant series .

Given enough neurones, and there's a lot in a brain, is it perhaps like the indeterminacy of the sub-atomic level hardly affecting a large body of atoms - an asteroid contains presumably random events at the sub-atomic level yet the whole follows , eg, the laws of gravity in a deterministic fashion?
Again- the thing is that any though begins with a cascade initiated by a single neuron firing. I am not suggesting that they fire randomly, just because they can not be predicted- I am suggesting that the probability of firing can be CHANGED by thought alone. The wave function itself altered bias the result out of the purely random.
If what I think is an artifact of what I think- in the now- then changing my mind is NOT the result of materialistic preconditons, but the result of thought.... that must be free will. Otherwise there can be no such thing as 'will;' in any sense.

If conscious animals do not have the power of choice- then the evolution of mind serves no real purpose and would not have occurred.

Myself- its an esoteric and meaningless distinction.
Free will is the ability to choose among various potential actions. and on what basis do we make that choice- we mull it over- we weigh and evaluate- on the level of reality we mentally inhabit- that is effectively the action of will.

To suggest we do not 'really' choose is to not even define what is meant by the word "we"?
what are we other than a collection of experiences and thoughts reacting to reality on the basis of information that can be gleaned from our experiences and thoughts?
 
Jun 2016
1,863
England, 200 yards from Wales
Again- the thing is that any though begins with a cascade initiated by a single neuron firing. I am not suggesting that they fire randomly, just because they can not be predicted- I am suggesting that the probability of firing can be CHANGED by thought alone. The wave function itself altered bias the result out of the purely random.
If what I think is an artifact of what I think- in the now- then changing my mind is NOT the result of materialistic preconditons, but the result of thought.... that must be free will. Otherwise there can be no such thing as 'will;' in any sense.

If conscious animals do not have the power of choice- then the evolution of mind serves no real purpose and would not have occurred.

Myself- its an esoteric and meaningless distinction.
Free will is the ability to choose among various potential actions. and on what basis do we make that choice- we mull it over- we weigh and evaluate- on the level of reality we mentally inhabit- that is effectively the action of will.

To suggest we do not 'really' choose is to not even define what is meant by the word "we"?
what are we other than a collection of experiences and thoughts reacting to reality on the basis of information that can be gleaned from our experiences and thoughts?
The 'thought' that affects the firing of neurones is itself the firing of neurones, or are you suggesting that it is something 'outside' that process?