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It’s Complicated: Unraveling the mystery of why people act as they do (theamericanscholar.org)
233 points by Hooke 175 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 177 comments



This is true even at a personal level. If you think you know why you act the way you do but you have never done an experiment to validate it you have a pretty good chance of being wrong. Even for simple things, like how fast you drive, is it the speedometer and you are looking at it, or is it how your engine sounds, and if turn up your music do you drive faster and is that because you are more aroused/excited, or is it because you can't actually hear how loud your engine is? Or maybe it is something else entirely.


Everyone is living in fairytale narratives that we spend decades crafting for ourselves. And doing so has some great benefits! But it is also can be very problematic at times.

I've been trying to figure out how to live while minimizing the extent of my personal fabricated narrative. It's a bit tricky... As with many things, I think basic awareness of the phenomenon is the first productive step.


Why minimize your creative narrative instead of perfecting it? it seems that hewing toward a concept of objectivity only makes you a subject of the cultural whims of those who feel free to define it for themselves.


>I've been trying to figure out how to live while minimizing the extent of my personal fabricated narrative.

sounds interesting. Do you know of any suggested reading on the topic?


Over the last couple years, I've been exploring this. I can't provide any answers, but I've found all the usual recommendations useful. CBT, Watts, Stoicism, yoga, mindfulness.

Of those, the last -- mindfulness -- has been the most crucial.

I cannot usually control my reaction to stimulus, but the hardest part for me (and in others, now that I observe them) is the identification of the event trigger.

Once you identify what causes things to happen[0], it's much much much easier to adjust the behavior. The event notifier pattern has been most useful for me.

[0] after all, it's kind of ridiculous that a bad incident in traffic will affect my interaction with a colleague.


Mindfulness, despite the recent buzzword-iness of it, has been an amazing tool for me. When I'm feeling any number of negative emotions (anger, anxiety, stress, etc.), or when my OCD flares up, it helps so much to simply pause, turn and face the emotion, address it, and say to myself "I am feeling this way because..." and calling out the trigger. It almost takes the teeth out of the negative feeling, making it pass a lot sooner.

Sounds a little hippy-dippy, sure, but for me it falls into the "it just works" bucket.


Sounds like CBT! Other things I've found that help is more sleep, and less caffeine. It's not talked about much, but I'm convinced caffeine exacerbates the kind of negative emotions and anxiety that affect us perfectionists. I don't quite have the willpower to give it up, though.


After very regularly drinking 1-3 cups of coffee per day for about 8 years, I stopped for the six weeks of this years fasting period. After a few days of headache and tiredness things normalized. I expected a big difference (whatsoever) but was underwhelmed. There might have been a positive effect of not drinking coffee, but I didn't notice anything significant.


I can not give up good coffee as long as I have access to good roasters and an espresso machine.

However, I will freely concede that caffeine does indeed seem to heighten feelings of anxiety. On days when something unpleasant is on my mind, it makes it worse.

On the other hand, it helps me start the day by doing something for myself - making good coffee. I enjoy the process and at the moment, making bad days worse is a price I gladly pay for it.


5 dried grams of magic mushrooms. Or listen to 40+ hours of lectures from Alan Watts.


hehe thanks for the tip, but I don't trust my own psyche enough for those kinds of experiments, even though I'm deeply curious of what I'd experience.


Listening to lectures is pretty benign and you can stop any time. And they're legal everywhere. Here's one to get your started.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXvoYGrnuv8


Molly with friends.


No, MDMA will give you exactly the opposite effect. It will encourage and cement connections to culture/s and social bonds. It just effects your serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine levels. What magic mushrooms (and other psychedelics like LSD) do is increase the communication between distant parts of the brain that don't normally communicate. That will lead you away from consensus reality, not deeper into it.


Not necessarily. MDMA could potentially enable you loose any feeling of self-concern -- no fear, insecurity and self-consciousness; that feeling of being 5 year old on the Christmas morning.

This might be especially beneficial for someone who is communicating predominantly w/ machines since a kid, and who might have trouble empathizing or relating w/ people.

In this short video Sam Harris describes it very eloquently.

http://bigthink.com/think-tank/sam-harris-discusses-mdma-and...


5??????


You're right, 7 will work much better.

On a more serious note, look into 4-AcO-DMT. Essentially mushrooms without the unpleasantness of actually having to eat mushrooms.


How does one even get access to this?


Perhaps easier than the mushrooms, various "chemical supply companies" will sell it to you for "research" and not ask many question. There's a list of such companies on the "RCSources" subreddit wiki.

It's definitely a good idea to get any chemicals tested before consuming them. I doubt they'd intentionally send you the wrong chemical, but I guess shipping mixups could happen. Energy control runs an excellent testing service https://energycontrol-international.org/drug-testing-service...


I'd try to Google a darknet Amazon.


>> I've been trying to figure out how to live while minimizing the extent of my personal fabricated narrative.

> sounds interesting. Do you know of any suggested reading on the topic?

The Bible, there's no better. Jesus preaches and teaches truth, truth will erode this false fabricated narrative.


> truth will erode this false fabricated narrative.

ooh boy, that's a deep rabbit hole. I'm an atheist now, but I was raised in a deeply religious household (fundamentalist christian, family and entire social circle took the bible very seriously).

My experience is that everyone thinks they have the "truth", even though each sect's truth is mutually exclusive from all others (even though they all read from the same book). In addition I found that Jesus' teachings (mostly harmless, mostly obvious) didn't do much to "erode this false fabricated narrative", but rather layered over an additional set of narratives.

I never experienced any deeper insights than this despite a couple of decades worth of heavy indoctrination attempts.

I'm sure you mean well though, so I appreciate your comment.


Buddhist saying...

If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.


Minimize your personal fabricated narrative by abiding by a 2,000 year old fabricated narrative. Checks out.


Well, lets say, you dont minimize it, you standardize it. Also christianity like all others martyrer religions (shia, judaism) has its benefits, as the usual mad inventor crowd in for some serious suffering before salvation, is part of the cultural accepted background.


Lol ;D


Right, this is like how prayer works. Not by the intervention of a deity but by forcing you to think through what you want and why you want it, thereby helping to create the mental preconditions for going about getting it. "God helps those who help themselves" in other words.


Do one thing at a time. Do it slowly and deliberately. Put space between things. Turn chores into meditating.


Not sure how (or when) it started, but I often catch myself asking why. Just that, about anything I might be doing - from being annoyed with my son to holding the door open for a janitor.

The answer is never just there, but it materialises a day, a month or year later.


Not to mention major life decisions.


I've been sitting with an Advaita teacher for a while.

One of the pointers is to observe one's own choices. I am still looking for this mythical free will thing people keep taking about.


Oh, that was a translation error- if you medidate long enough you dont care about anything- you can do so naked. Thats when the free will... part comes into play.


If you haven't seen the lecture from Robert Sapolsky (author of the book the article is summarizing) on Depression, do yourself a favor and see it now! He's wonderfully eloquent and approachable even to the laymen in giving the neurobiological underpinnings of what is a terrible illness.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOAgplgTxfc


Thanks indeed. It clarifies a lot. We are lucky to live in a period when sufficient knowledge on the subject has accumulated and has been put together for us to have some understanding of how it works. Going from here to finding fixes is a long way since there are a lot of variables, but at least we have an idea of how the leverage points in the system interact.


Thanks for linking to this. This guy is extraordinarily thorough.


Thank you


> there is no homunculus (or soul, or separate entity) calling the shots for you, but even if there were a mini-me inside of you making choices, that mini-me would need a mini-mini-me inside of it, ad infinitum.

I find it kind of amusing that people think free will is an illusion. It's a great illustration of how you can get people to believe anything, including things that violate their most fundamental perceptions.

This "Science disproves free will" thing has the epistemological hierarchy reversed: one of the surest things I know is my own will. Before Descartes could proclaim "I think, therefore I am" he had to choose to make that proclamation.

The argument that free will can't exist because it involves infinite regress is not particularly convincing: if anything, we should expect that our agency springs from something as bizarre as a causal singularity. Consciousness is weird as hell, and I expect the true nature of consciousness will turn out to be weirder than we can imagine.


So your belief in free will comes from "It's going to turn out to come from something really weird"? That's not convincing either.

I don't believe in free will, but I believe that there will always be the illusion because the computing needed to know anything before it happens is far too much, and if you knew, it would add another layer of things you'd need to compute, meaning you still wouldn't know your choice ahead of time.

I agree that the infinite regress argument is not convincing - it proves nothing. I would point to science, physics, etc, which is much more factually supportive of it. Of course you can point out quarks, quantum computing, etc, but my argument is that the "randomness" is simply a system we have yet to understand.

More importantly, you highlight something else - choice is not the same as free will. Yes, we all have choices we make every day. They seem to be our will because we don't understand how they were made down to the particles. Whether or not there is free will, there is always choice. So the question is, when is the lack of free will actually relevant? I find that a lot of people apply it in ways that don't make sense when it actually does offer insight in certain interesting areas such as ethics.


> I don't believe in free will, but I believe that there will always be the illusion because the computing needed to know anything before it happens is far too much, and if you knew, it would add another layer of things you'd need to compute, meaning you still wouldn't know your choice ahead of time.

I think the illusion comes from the desire of a person to have power over their situation, which allows their instincts, especially those hidden from the person themselves, to have an effect which gives them an advantage evolutionally.

With all other things equal, without ascribing free will, having one's mind have control over their life vs being controlled by external factors is one in the same. So there must be a natural built in preference for autonomy or there isn't enough space for hidden instincts to manifest themselves.

One of the biggest examples of what I would call "hidden instincts" would be the fact that children grow up to be like their parents, including developing the very same vices that they hated when they were kids, such as domestic violence, drug abuse, abandonment of a child by a parent, etc. In order for these instincts to manifest, one must have control over oneself. (These instincts are possibly genetic, but a great survival tactic is to imitate your parents, since no matter how miserable their lives turned out, they were genetic winners in the fact they had you)


> More importantly, you highlight something else - choice is not the same as free will. Yes, we all have choices we make every day. They seem to be our will because we don't understand how they were made down to the particles. Whether or not there is free will, there is always choice. So the question is, when is the lack of free will actually relevant?

Great point. This should be brought up more often. Many discussions of free will completely skip over this angle.


I haven't studied the subject but on the odd day, it'd pique my curiosity. I've thought on these lines earlier but eventually I'd end it with "but the very act of choosing to make a choice" is in itself governed by the presence/absence of free-will. I have to admit I've not made progress from that point (neither have I made efforts to break through that barrier).


How is free will not the same as choice? A lack of free will is an inability to exert agency through choosing. Determinism removes the possibility of choosing.

If you have no free will, you can't express yourself... nothing you do will be the product of your desires. Weren't you free to choose the words you wrote in your reply?


You're being quite naive, not understanding what the issue is.

Of course everything you do will be a product of what "you" "decide" to do. In that, completely naive & day-to-day, sense of the phrase, "you" do have "free will".

But how did that "decision" come to be? Was there a cause for it to happen? If so, what caused it? If it was caused by deterministic laws of physics, then that doesn't sound much like "free will". If it was random, it doesn't sound like "free will" either. What is "free will" and how does it start electrochemical reactions in your brain which will result in a movement of your hand? What is "you", which posseses "free will"?


It's all about definition here I guess. I would say choice is the illusion itself.

I chose the words I did, but the "how" is all an answer of essentially very complicated physics, chemistry, biology, and everything I've experienced in my life.

>"If you have no free will, you can't express yourself... nothing you do will be the product of your desires."

This is absolutely false. My desires are still a part of what drives me. I express myself every day in countless ways. The distinction is that I didn't have free will - it was always going to happen, in the way it happened. My consciousness does not understand how it came to that though, so it sees it as choices I made. It's just a bunch of molecules reacting to each other. That doesn't say anything of what the reactions mean or make what I do or feel any less important.


> If you have no free will, you can't express yourself... nothing you do will be the product of your desires. Weren't you free to choose the words you wrote in your reply?

My words are "my" choice and indeed the product of my desires, but that me and those desires are nothing more or less than the product of various mundane processes. I could never have been anything other than myself, and as such I could never have chosen any words other than these. (And if my choice of words was not determined then that just means they were random, which doesn't seem to make them any more an exercise of agency or free will - fundamental particles are able to behave just as randomly as we are).

I am a coherent existence because the causal relations from one thing to another really do go through a nexus that can be identified as me, but there's no free will there - what would it even mean to have free will?


> A lack of free will is an inability to exert agency through choosing.

Not at all. A computer program can easily do such things as choose items from a list, and thus create the appearance of agency to an outside observer. But that doesn't mean that it exhibits free will.


> Weren't you free to choose the words you wrote in your reply?

I was thinking the same. If we have no free will, what made us think that we don't have free will? Because we don't have free will, the thought on "not having free will" should probably the outcome of the past actions, which we didn't have choice on that either. Is it inevitable for many people to think so? Why not the rest?

So, do we really don't have free will?


> I don't believe in free will, but I believe that there will always be the illusion because the computing needed to know anything before it happens is far too much, and if you knew, it would add another layer of things you'd need to compute, meaning you still wouldn't know your choice ahead of time.

Interesting. I arrived at the same conclusion for myself, but used it as justification that I, basically, "might as well believe in free will". Sort of like a duck typing approach: If it walks like free will and talks like free will, I can just act as if it's free will.


How would you tell? If you didn't have free will, what would you expect that to feel like?

(I don't think free will is even a coherent concept, much less something that anyone has)


> I find it kind of amusing that people think free will is an illusion. It's a great illustration of how you can get people to believe anything, including things that violate their most fundamental perceptions.

And yet, my own fundamental perceptions say otherwise. If I sit here and try to decide to do something, how do I do it? I kind of... wait. Wait for some idea to pop into my head. Wait for something to appear before me. Wait for some feeling to push me one way or another. Try as I might, I can't find anything inside me that could constitute free will. Just a jumble of perceptions and inklings that change with the wind.


And yet you still choose. You're trying to dissect your agency, but it's too fundamental to be analyzed like that. It isn't a decision-making process: it is the decision itself.

Writing that reply to me required a series of decisions on your part. Do you feel like your words are under your control? Communication requires choice... if we have no free will, then we're mute prisoners. I'm pretty sure I'm not a mute prisoner, and if I am, then whoever is controlling my typing is making a cruel mockery of my plight. :(


Without free will, we wouldn't be accountable for our choices.


That's a different axis than the free will vs determinism debate though. What you are describing is your (and my) inability to convincingly prescribe meaning to our actions. Just because we don't understand it doesn't mean it is determined.


Try give up all your bad habits, today. You (or at least most) will find that our "free" will is barely free on the margin. We're able to change, but not in an instant decision, more like a chemical process - slowly, methodically, by working at our inner animal. Many can't change, just stay stuck in their habits for life, despite how free we believe we are.

> Before Descartes could proclaim "I think, therefore I am" he had to choose to make that proclamation.

Not at all. I could program a PC to say that. We believe he chose that. A determinist might say he had as much choice as a plant. A person with his characteristics, given his context, would say something like that. Now if he chose to take up gymnastics and run away with the circus, that would be more like free will. Try acting out of character. Quite hard.


> one of the surest things I know is my own will

How do you know you can trust this knowledge you supposedly hold?


And yet, you seem to know he can't.


Hardly. It just seems a bit presumptuous to claim firm knowledge of the fundamental, low level workings of one's brain.

In general, I find these discussions often go on far too long without even bothering to define the terms. "Free will" itself seems to be an incredibly nebulous concept.


Indeed, I tend to think there is no coherent definition of free will. (Or at least, not one that leaves any doubt about whether we have it.)

Often people appeal to it as an intuitive notion, but the only notion of "will" we intuitively understand is the one we necessarily have.


> It's a great illustration of how you can get people to believe anything, including things that violate their most fundamental perceptions.

Or maybe it's just that all of my experience, memories, thoughts, and sensory input leading up to this exact moment in time leave me involuntarily with the belief I don't have free will.


"Free will" is not a terribly well defined notion, but it's usually considered distinct from the concept of consciousness. Moreover, most people tend to define it in a way that is incompatible with a deterministic universe (indeed, in some cases that is the definition). One can of course be fairly certain that "I think", but that doesn't necessarily mean they can be sure "I decide". Once could instead imagine that our conscious experience is merely a strange phenomena caused by the entirely deterministic actions of our brain, and is merely along for the ride.

Now personally, I believe there is no coherent definition of "free will" which is meaningfully distinct from "will", and as such, in as far as it can be said to exist, we must have it. I'd love to be challenged on this, so I'm a little disappointed to see how many people in this thread seem to be making assertions without defining anything. These are incredibly subtle concepts that require precision if we are to have any kind of meaningful discussion.


I think this is the most insightful comment on HN I have read in a long while.

We are limited by the concepts our minds can form. As I commented before, free will could arise from an infinity of antecedents; the fact that we find it difficult to wrap our minds around such a concept does not in any way imply anything about its veracity.

I could not agree more; things like consciousness and free will are very likely to require concepts of almost infinite complexity to model. It is the height of hubris to say something as inane as "science disproves free will", to think we can settle these questions with with glibly, with concepts that are the product of a mere 70-or-so years of mental development


You don't need to grasp any of the complexity to believe that free will does't exist. In fact the argument is almost a truism: as long as the mind is something created by the brain, and the brain is governed by the laws of nature (both known and unknown), then there's no free will.

It's a somewhat tired argument, because it's mostly semantics. But it really doesn't matter how complex the brain is.


> as long as the mind is something created by the brain, and the brain is governed by the laws of nature (both known and unknown), then there's no free will

There are three assumptions here that need a citation.


given that quantum physics is expressly not deterministic, i'd back off a bit on the surety of your inadequate opinion


The idea that we can predict human behavior and thus invalidate the concept of free will is that there exists an algorithm that takes less time to run than the future human behavior it predicts will happen in. However, certain biological processes, like protein folding, take exponential time to compute, so we're going to have to make due with approximations for now. Thus, there will always be some aspect of the unknown with regards to human behavior until we get those algorithms to run faster.


The curious thing is observing the behaviour of the people trying to push that idea.

It's almost like they just use it as a tool to maximize their freewill impact in the world.


Does nobody else find this to be time-wasting drivel? We do what we do because we're apes with hats.

Any thing that acts does so with a system. The system determines the actions. This is true for the laws of nature as much as a football game. Even if someone cheats, they're cheating because of the system of the game.

> "Sapolsky concludes that World War II really was the worst thing humanity ever did to itself."

Really? Really now? Thousands of years of slavery, war, discrimination, class struggle, superstition, genocide, and at least a few centuries having to wear really stuffy clothes in the summer, and six years of war was the worst thing that happened? I didn't read the book, but this is a farcical idea that requires aggressively downplaying all of both the atrocity and perpetual minor trauma of recorded history.

The worst thing humanity ever did to itself was religion, but second to that was politics, so WWII can take the silver medal. Ironically, the best thing humanity ever did to itself was war, as it necessitated the development of technology to maintain hegemonic dominance.


I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the analogy to taking away an epileptic's driving licence.

People who regularly suffer epileptic seizures are not allowed to drive, for example, but we don’t think of this ban as “punishing” them for their affliction.

“We’ve successfully banished the notion of punishment in that realm. It may take centuries, but we can do the same in all our current arenas of punishment.”

I've long thought that one of the cruelest things about our justice system is that it barely takes into account the terrible circumstances that someone might have been through before they become a criminal.

Is the epileptic analogy really the right one, though? By that analogy, we would pre-emptively remove freedoms from people who've had a bad upbringing, or a genetic predisposition to violence. That sounds like precrime, and a very dangerous road to go down.

I would love to see a more compassionate and rehabilitation-based justice system, but I really don't think he has chosen the right analogy.


The schism between our science and politics is finally getting airtime. Liberal western politics are based on individual liberty and free will. However, mainstream science maintains that we're neither individuals nor have free will. Do we try to reconcile both views? Or do we drop one in favor of the other?

This, by the way, is also the subject of Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, by the same author behind Sapiens.


If we assume that free will doesn't exist (which I don't agree with, but for the sake of argument we'll assume it doesn't), one might still expect people to make choices that maximize their own well-being and it isn't too much of a stretch to suppose that such choices are more often than not good for society, or at least more so than a planned society where most choices are made for you by some authority.

One can argue for democracy, free speech, and other modern liberal ideas on the basis that they produce a more stable, prosperous society.

This assumes that we've already decided that stability and prosperity are attributes that society should have.

I think science is a great tool for figuring out what the consequences of a particular action are likely to be, but it's not a tool that will tell us which of several outcomes we should prefer.


You're echoing Hume's is-ought distinction which I generally agree with.


Optimism and Hume notwithstanding the outcomes regarding prosperity and stability may be bestowed upon the society as a whole without the choices by individuals having individually assisted their own life outcomes.


Societies where the choices are made by the government, not the individuals, have not bestowed prosperity and stability on the whole.


China seems to be a counter example to that (and the largest example in the history of mankind, with 600 million people having a prosperous life thanks to, arguably, the government making decisions on their behalf, not to mention it has been the most stable civilization on Earth despite a few periods of instability), though on the whole, you might be right. I just wouldn't claim that with nearly as much confidence as you do.


China has free'd up quite a bit from the old centralized planning system, and the material well-being has improved quite a bit since they did.


You could argue that it has been shown that it isn't so black and white, not all decisions are a result of pure free will in all cases. But there has not been some conclusion that there is no free will by "mainstream science" as it is still an open topic.

It's also not necessarily contradictory for it to be a bit of both.


Do you agree with the following:

- Mainstream science operates on the assumption of physicalism.

- Mainstream science operates on the assumption that mind/consciousness is reducible to the brain organ.

- Mainstream science operates on the principle of causation.

What follows from that is that libertarian free-will is impossible. What you're left with is determinism (and compatibilism which isn't a scientific view, but a moral one).


If we had free will we'd choose not to get into big online discussions about whether or not we have free will, without first defining what we meant by free will...


I tend to agree with you -- the universe can't be so lazy as to generate such a useless string of words that is your comment. For the definition I refer you to introductory philosophy texts.


> For the definition I refer you to introductory philosophy texts.

Because that's the definition that everyone is using in this kind of free-form conversation? Nah. If we were all using the same definition, it wouldn't generate this much discussion.


We're commenting on an article by a philosopher about an advanced text about human behavior by a top scholar that is also making claims about philosophy. Surely, I can't be faulted for assuming some competency in basic philosophy in the discussion.


> What you're left with is determinism

Not true even at a fundamental level.

Why should it be true at a macro/aggregate one?


Can you clarify what you mean? How are we not left with determinism at a fundamental level?

(And if it starts with a Q, then at most one can say is that it's possible that it's not deterministic. It's perfectly compatible with determinism, just not (AIUI) (and IANATP) currently known whether or not it is the case.)


Quantum mechanics?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Determinism#Modern_scientific_...

Edit: why downvote this?


It's widely accepted that QM is fully deterministic, even if the future is unpredictable in practice. Broglie–Bohm, being an equivalent and sound interpretation, is poof of this.

Quantum randomness isn't truly random. There's no free lunch for free will to be found in QM.


Sorry, I am reading conflicting information. The Wikipedia page seems to say the opposite.

> the result is not traditional determinism, but rather determined probabilities

> Thus, quantum physics casts reasonable doubt on the traditional determinism of classical, Newtonian physics in so far as reality does not seem to be absolutely determined.

> A critical finding was that quantum mechanics can make statistical predictions which would be violated if local hidden variables really existed. There have been a number of experiments to verify such predictions, and so far they do not appear to be violated. This would suggest there are no hidden variables, although many physicists believe better experiments are needed to conclusively settle the issue

This appears to be an open issue. With evidence pointing towards true randomness.

You mentioned the pilot wave theory. Is there experimental evidence in favor of it beyond standard quantum mechanics?

> Bohmian mechanics has never been widely accepted in the mainstream of the physics community. [0]

Thanks. This is all quite over my head.

[0] - https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qm-bohm/


> the result is not traditional determinism, but rather determined probabilities

This is the crux you should retain.


None of your postulates are accurate or well-defined.

--I don't know what 'physicalism' means.

--Mainstream science doesn't even claim to know what consciousness is, let alone what it can be reduced to.

--Science does not operate on the principle of causation. The point is to make falsifiable predictions that can, when verified, be considered as evidence that your hypothesis for how things work might just be how they work.

There is just so much we don't know. Using science to justify some new-agey claptrap about determinism is just malfeasance.


>None of your postulates are accurate or well-defined.

>--I don't know what 'physicalism' means.

Is "well-defined" a codeword for "I don't understand"? Physicalism is as well-defined of a concept as anything can be.

>--Mainstream science doesn't even claim to know what consciousness is, let alone what it can be reduced to.

Since you don't understand what is "physicalism" I don't think you're going to get this point. The idea is that everything is reduced to elementary physical structures. Therefore nothing can be extra-physcial, super-natural or otherwise. I.e. non-dualist. Therefore the mind must be reduced to physical structures.

>--Science does not operate on the principle of causation.

So is there anything that is uncaused? When the scientist constructs an experiment do they think "oh what if the billiard ball moved without cause?".

>There is just so much we don't know. Using science to justify some new-agey claptrap about determinism is just malfeasance.

Actually "new-agey" thought tries to do the exact opposite: save dualism and free will.


>The idea is that everything is reduced to elementary physical structures. Therefore nothing can be extra-physcial, super-natural or otherwise. I.e. non-dualist. Therefore the mind must be reduced to physical structures.

I understand that some people claim this to be a definition, but that hardly makes it one. What's 'extra-physical'? To do this, you must first define what boundaries physicality has. I don't think there is any good definition to be offered here without begging the question.

>So is there anything that is uncaused? When the scientist constructs an experiment do they think "oh what if the billiard ball moved without cause?".

A scientist has a model for certain phenomena that can be verified experimentally. One can call this causality, sure, but that it leads inexorably towards determinism seems far from clear to me.

>Actually "new-agey" thought tries to do the exact opposite: save dualism and free will.

I have no opinion on the question of 'free will' as you frame it. Is it part of the human condition that one's circumstances have a large role to play in how life proceeds? Certainly! I'm just against the view that science has anything to say about it.


>I understand that some people claim this to be a definition, but that hardly makes it one. What's 'extra-physical'? To do this, you must first define what boundaries physicality has. I don't think there is any good definition to be offered here without begging the question.

I get that this question can be recursively applied. It's children's favorite game -- to keep asking "what is ____?". I'm going to guess that you disagree with philosophy as a whole and will keep questioning if anything philosophers discuss is well-defined. If that's the case why are we then discussing philosophy?

EDIT: you can also say "I disagree with physicalism" or "I'm a dualist". But saying all those things are not well-defined is merely a cop-out.


We can discuss philosophical notions, but then we are discussing philosophy and not science.

I just have a distaste for bringing science into a discussion where it can be finagled into whatever one finds convenient for the matter at hand.


I'm wondering where science would end up if it operated with the same methods, but started from different underlying assumptions than those that you listed. If it would be able to build unexpected, but nonetheless verifiable theories; or if it would just end up being unable to produce anything useful whatsoever without these axioms.


Science needs only methodological naturalism not metaphysical naturalism.

There are religious scientists - they personally believe that miracles exist so they oppose the real methaphysical naturalism but they assume naturalism during work (that is the methodolical kind), and that is enough for progress, science doesn't care.


"mainstream science maintains that we're neither individuals nor have free will" lol. You haven't even bothered trying to give a definition of what free will is... The definition of which is something for philosophers to debate.

What I think you mean to say is, at the level of human perception, mainstream science maintains the universe is deterministic (as opposed to non deterministic (which quantum mechanics might be (or "super deterministic)).

A deterministic universe is in no way incompatible with the notion of "liberty". You might think of each "choice" you make as a transition in a finite state machine. If you have more potential transitions from any given state, you have more liberty. You do choose what transitions to take, your issue is just that at some level the universe caused you to choose one of those transitions... well what would "free will" look like? A ghost ("soul") outside of the universe controlling your actions instead? How is that any better? Why does the ghost make it's choices?

Not sure what you even mean by science maintains we aren't individuals?


I probably shouldn't be replying to people who end sentences with "lol". But ok, I'll bite.

>You haven't even bothered trying to give a definition of what free will is

I assume you read the article and we're using that as context in our discussion as people do when they're discussing articles on HN.

>The definition of which is something for philosophers to debate.

Not really, there are three accepted mainstream philosophical views on free will: libertarian, determinism, and compatabilism.

>What I think you mean to say is, at the level of human perception, mainstream science maintains the universe is deterministic (as opposed to non deterministic (which quantum mechanics might be (or "super deterministic)).

Not sure what this exactly means, but the "universe is deterministic" is part of what mainstream science claims.

>You might think of each "choice" you make as a transition in a finite state machine. If you have more potential transitions from any given state, you have more liberty.

You're pushing a homunculus theory of free-will here. The idea that there is a "you" that is making a choice for you. That's libertarian point of view.

>well what would "free will" look like? A ghost ("soul") outside of the universe controlling your actions instead? How is that any better? Why does the ghost make it's choices?

Actually based on your previous sentence you seem to believe that -- not me.

>Not sure what you even mean by science maintains we aren't individuals?

The break-down of the "individual self" as a theory. Look into studies done on patients with severed brain hemispheres. It shows you that there is more than one competing selves.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zx53Zj7EKQE


I assumed you were assuming a "homunculus" definition of free will. (which is reasonable since you give three different philosophical positions on it yet didn't indicate which you subscribed to)

"Actually based on your previous sentence you seem to believe that -- not me." If you really aren't an individual it's not that hard to extend... You are a collection of finite state machines... Same conclusions apply. However as far as people are concerned you might as well assume a "homunculus" theory since the transitions they care about happen inside a first person narrative (for the most part). Kind of like how classical mechanics isn't exactly precisely true, but still best at explaining macroscopic behavior.

"Look into studies done on patients with severed brain hemispheres. It shows you that there is more than one competing selves." It shows you that each half of a brain is capable of qualifying as "human". It does not show you there are two competing selves in humans whose hemispheres are connected. Kind of like sometimes one twin absorbs the other in the womb. I bet if you take a random grown adult, partially lobotomize them, entirely remove half their brain, if they're not completely disabled they'll be more on par with dog than human level intelligence.


> Not sure what this exactly means, but the "universe is deterministic" is part of what mainstream science claims.

It doesn't. Quantum physics is as mainstream as they come, and so is chaos theory.

But determinism doesn't actually have much to do with "free will". There are many known indeterminate stochastic processes, yet nobody would claim that they possess free will, i. e. radioactive decay.


QM and chaos theory are both fully deterministic, even though future prediction is impossible in practice in some cases. We only call them non-deterministic because we can't ever hope to determine outcomes ahead of time in practice- NOT to say that the outcome isn't ultimately from a natural flow of causality.

In fact, ultimate causal determination is proven for both. Consider Broglie–Bohm.

There is no true randomness. Not in math and certainly not in QM.


That's not the current consensus in regards to QM.


Where it might be worth highlighting that the "libertarian" in this context is different from the political "libertarian".

> the "universe is deterministic" is part of what mainstream science claims

Well, deterministic or fundamentally random, right.


> However, mainstream science maintains that we're neither individuals nor have free will.

What is your definition of free will such that mainstream science says that we do not have it? In general, I'd recommend always stating your definition of free will when discussing it, because people's definitions differ.

Given that definition, how would the world look if we did have it, and if we didn't? (You are part of the world, so your inner feelings count, if that's all you think would differ.)

How sure are you that the world looks the first way, and not the second way?


This is really not a point of contention in philosophy. And that's I think why the OP didn't bother to define it as well. I suggest reading one of the philosophy encyclopedias online to get answers to the question of definition.


The first three sentences of the free will article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy say:

> “Free Will” is a philosophical term of art for a particular sort of capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives. Which sort is the free will sort is what all the fuss is about. (And what a fuss it has been: philosophers have debated this question for over two millennia, and just about every major philosopher has had something to say about it.)

The first three sections after that (1.1, 1.2, 1.3) are about different definitions of free will. Where did you get the idea that free will had a settled definition? Is there something else I should be reading?


It's not different definitions of free will unless you're using "definition" super broadly to mean anything that talks about the subject. At the end of the paragraph:

>If there is such a thing as free will, it has many dimensions. In what follows, I will sketch the freedom-conferring characteristics that have attracted most of the attention


> mainstream science maintains that we're neither individuals nor have free will

Citation needed!


How about the article you're commenting on? It said exactly the same thing, just different words.


The article (and several modern scientists and lots of classical philosophers) confuse free will with some external entity that can take decisions for our life while standing outside it (as some objective spectator).

In the end, those decisions, even if they were possible, would not be free will, but either arbitrary (random) or requiring some homunculus doing the thinking somewhere inside us.

Rather, I say, our will, and that's free enough, and as free as it gets, is mixed up in ourself: it is ourself. Our body, past history, experiences, brain structure, etc, define us, and their sum is what ends up taking the decisions.

Thus it doesn't even matter if our "conscious self" is not aware of a decision we've made as some studies say [1]. Our body is still us (in fact, that's all there is when we talk about our self, our body + our neural synapses as shaped by our life experiences from our trajectory in space-time). We are not some souls independent of our body/life story. We ARE our life story/body.

This means that determinism (that the universe makes us takes exactly a specific decision at every point etc), if exists, is totally combatible with such a notion of free will. Free doesn't mean "able to go random" but "expressing freely its owner" -- and since our will's owner is our body+history, it cannot but take a single decision each time, those that determine who we are, and thus our essence.

[1] http://www.nature.com/news/2008/080411/full/news.2008.751.ht...


Sure, that's compatibilism. But it's not a scientific view, it's a moral one.

However, most people would disagree with you. The lay person's view are actually more of a libertarian view of free-will.


>Sure, that's compatibilism

Sure, it's combatible with compatibilism (e.g. similar to Frankfurt's ideas) but it's not one of the classic variants. I find incompatibilistic (sp?) theories hopelessly dualistic.

>But it's not a scientific view, it's a moral one.

I'd say it's fundamentally a philosophical one, on the nature of self, and only derivatively a moral one. I also don't think they are "scientific" views on such matters, as they transcend observation.

(As for the moral part: I don't think morality is about what we "freely chose" to do: rather it's about who we are -- the choosing after all is secondary and stems from that. This reconciles morality with both the influences of a personal history beyond one's control, and the person's "agency").

>However, most people would disagree with you. The lay person's view are actually more of a libertarian view of free-will.

Yeah, but the "most" part shouldn't matter, as reality is not a popularity contest. It's only whether they are right that matters.


You mean the article that refers to a few cherry picked quotes but not actual research on the topic of free will?

... "Sapolsky quotes American cognitive scientist Marvin Minsky in support of the position that free will is really just “internal forces I do not understand.” ...

I never liked this argument. By saying it's "internal forces", subconscious struggles within myself, seems to conclude we've learned all there is to know about "physical reality".

We can't see beyond the boundary of our own reality (universe). To say we're certain reality only exists within those boundaries seems dubious.


Maybe, but assuming Shermer has correctly conveyed the contents of this part of the book, Sapolsky's got a lot of nerve asserting so confidently in this book that there is such a definitively deterministic core to humans behavior at the macro level while acknowledging irreducible complexity irrespective of scale as he did so clearly in one of his Stanford lectures: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_njf8jwEGRo&index=21&list=PL.... I really like the guy as an educator, and I'm sure he's earned his scientific chops, but that doesn't qualify him to be even an amateur ethicist.


> Liberal western politics are based on individual liberty and free will.

> However, mainstream science maintains that we're neither individuals nor have free will.

You are conflating government control and social interactions. Liberal western politics is based on individual liberty and free will in the context of government policy. Such policies are focused on reducing the control that governments have on individual rights and not how individuals are influenced by other individuals within societies, which is the topic that Homo Deus and Sapiens focus on.


"focused on reducing the control that governments have on individual rights and not how individuals are influenced by other individuals within societies"

The distinction here becomes very blurry very rapidly.

Governments are composed of individuals within societies. Individuals influence each other within a socio-political framework.


How am I conflating those things?

Also false on Homo Deus, it covers both and much of it is about governments, politics and policies. Happy to quote some, but really just open the book on a random page you'll probably see that.


This is only one of several areas in which our institutional structures (including law, politics, finance, and economic theory) are at odds with scientific models.

As a famous Kenyan has said, "reality has a way of biting back".[1]

________________________________

Notes:

1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-us-canada-38671714/obama-...


Politics are a bit ahead of you, at least in the most advanced countries (Scandinavia etc.): They have almost completely eliminated concepts such as (moral) guilt from law. They may send you to (a rather comfortable) prison, but never as retribution. Only being an actual, ongoing danger to others can justify taking someone's freedom. Same with drug addiction: it's treated as a disease, not personal failure.


> They may send you to (a rather comfortable) prison, but never as retribution.

this was contested in a recent HN thread[1], with regards to norway in particular:

> Only a few prisoners enjoy the freedom of this island, which is equivalent to a trustee camp in a US min security prison. The rest who were given 10+ year sentences are in complete isolation in what the media loves to refer to as hotel prisons. In these cells everything is provided for you including your own shower, therefore there's no reasons for the guards to ever let you out and you stay in there 23hrs per day. Because the media calls them hotels, it prevents any prisoner from being able to complain and be taken seriously, so often these guys will either light their cells on fire and hopefully get transferred to one of the older style jails so they can talk to other inmates, or they just kill themselves.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14430539


I've heard that about Scandinavia. That's a great step forward!


I've been thinking about this recently. My conclusion is that a good arrange would is a strong state together with a free society. This is what happens in both current world superpowers, China and USA, but the former have a state a little stronger than its +1.5bi population while the latter has a "free society" stronger than the biggest government of the human history.


Not having free will and being capable of acting on it are two very different things. That is, it doesn't matter if we have free will or not, we can't base any immediate decisions on it since we are not Laplace's demon.


What would be a good book to read before this book? Or is it friendly enough for someone new to behavioral science?


I would highly recommend [P.M.S. Hacker's "Human Nature: The Categorical Framework](https://www.amazon.com/Human-Nature-Categorial-Framework-Hac...).

Hacker is an excellent philosopher and a very clear writer. He starts from broad categories to look at human nature and what it makes sense to say of the nature of sentient animals, insentient animals, and inanimate things.

The main relevant chapters are:

1. "Agents and Actors", 2. "Teleological Explanation", and 3. "Reasons and Explanation of Human Action".

His main point is that many "unanswerable" questions in neuroscience and behavioral science are simply nonsensical because they play with conceptual confusions.

I would also highly recommend his sequel book "The Intellectual Powers: A Study of Human Nature".


Quite honestly, I'd give it a shot straight up, and pay close attention to references. I suspect Sapolsky will point you to the foundational works as necessary.

(I've not read this book of his, or any others, but I've seen numerous lectures and interviews, and read several of his papers and essays. He's an academic, but one who explains things exceedingly clearly, and documents sources. Sort of the best of all possible worlds.)


I can't say for sure as I haven't read it, but my general impression of Sapolsky is that he's very good at explaining things - in other words not unnecessarily abstruse.


I'd say that it's friendly enough. The appendices provide short primers on neuroscience, hormones, and proteins, and help make sense of the rest of the book. I'm about 1/3 of the way through and every day I have something new that I'm excited to tell my wife about.


You can see his lecture in my post here and decide whether he has too many underpinnings for you - I would guess not: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14591520


I haven't read his new book, but I've read most of Sapolsky's older books and they're all excellent. "A Primate's Memoir" and "Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers" are my favorites.


The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker


The human brain's electro-chemical makeup and its response to stimulus, both from the other organs and through the external sensory organs, are the reasons we act the way we do. Like the Human Genome project before it, this mystery can be solved with large amounts of personnel, money and time. Do not complain that it's complex (it is, we know, the sooner we commit the appropriate resources the sooner we'll be finished). [And yes, I am doing something about it - I'm a returned to school STEM-neuro student]


That's like saying that electrical circuits are the reason that a web browser shows a web page when click on a link.

There's no "home button transistor", but there may be transistors that, by their switching, control the appearance and action of the home button.

Mechanism isn't rationale.

Web browsers work because they were designed at a high level to accomplish a task, and a lower level of primitives was assembled (literally and figuratively) to implement the task.

When we talk about reasons for something, we normally have intention in mind, and we're talking in a high level abstraction mode. Mechanism is just an implementation detail. In the absence of a designer, mechanism doesn't cease to be an implementation detail; we don't have legs because of the signalling actions of cells in the embryo, triggered by DNA and proteins, cause fleshy buds to grow into bony appendages. We have legs so we can move around, and we can move around because in our ecological niche we're more successful moving around. The reason for legs doesn't lie in biology at the organ or chemical or physical level, because those are implementation details to the reason mode of thought.


We currently think that it is, but that's not to say that we won't turn out to be wrong. Maybe someday we will come up with a coherent model for how things like mood, your current gut fauna, the amount ambient light, what you ate/drank over the past few weeks, etc. affect how you act and do.

Well, what happens when/if we nail that model down and find out that it doesn't account for some wibbly-wobbly quantum going on in the dense electrical storms of our brains, which pulls in information from somewhere else from time to time? Don't try to answer a question like this authoritatively in the same paragraph that you mention you're currently a student...


Maybe start with something very small and hopefully simple, like a zooplankton, and figure out how that works, then work your way up ... anyway, good luck.


No. Do not do that. The second that the cause/effect relationship is understood down to a neuron level like that, advertisers will abuse that to make things even more effective.


This is truly peak HN. No matter how philosophical or universal the topic of conversation, someone is still so mind-killed that their reaction is "how will this affect advertising".


Not mind killed. Just a realist. You and I both know that's what would happen.


Dude, way to _still_ not get the point. Whether or not you're correct has literally nothing to do with what I'm talking about. My complaint wasn't about you being wrong, it was that your small-minded enough that even in a conversation about the very nature of the human mind, your contribution is about advertising.

It's just a more niche version of those people who manage to turn literally every conversation into "yea and if the fucking _republicans_/_democrats_ get their way blah blah". Whether or not they're correct in any given instance is entirely besides the point.


Learning about Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and the rest of the Cluster B disorders (and their comorbidity) helped me understand ALOT about certain types of behavioral patterns that I previously found completely mind-boggling.


Call it anyway you want, lizard brain, flyers (Castaneda), Yaldabaoth (agnostics), this force that pushes evolution on earth at great speed through predatorial behavior like competition and flight or fight.

We humans are the most intelligent species and still can't overcome it, as a civilization whatever political system or religion we tried no matter how hard we try we can't seem to overcome it, we still have wars and violence.

When few succeed to inspire people to overcome it and fight without violence like Mahatma Gandhi did they inspire humanity and are called saints by their nation.

When an individual can control his own feelings to such an extent that violence or anger feelings can no longer touch him we call him enlightened.

Maybe this force is not only trying to help us evolve but wants to teach us something marvelous if we overcome it.


First, I'm not sure how we can anthropomorphize an evolutionary force like that.

Second, evolutionary forces have made us value nonviolence in the first place. If they hadn't, we wouldn't have any notion of the reason or means to overcome what we see as a never-ending cycle. If we are able to even conceive of violence as something negative then it means we are already able to "overcome" it to some extent, but then we find that the question itself is circular.

Essentially, to be able to think that the world is shitty you already need a framework in place where members of your species are influenced by a widespread desire to make it less shitty according to criteria determined by their biological needs.


I don't know who thinks that humans value nonviolence but they clearly don't read the news.

Species act to adapt to their environment and provide for their needs. Nature necessitates violence for adaptation and survival. In species with no natural predators, an abundance of natural resources, and no problems with genetic propagation, violence might not be necessary for survival. But in many species, even ones with no natural predators (or very little risk of predation), they may commit violence upon themselves, usually to enforce a social order, or eventually pass on their own genetic material. Or they may commit violence for fun, I believe as a sort of practice for real-life predation.

And violence isn't negative. You're ascribing with morality (a human construct) or are diminishing (it's actually constructive) a natural and productive act that supports virtually all life on the planet. To escape it we would need to escape nature itself.


>You're ascribing with morality (a human construct) or are diminishing (it's actually constructive) a natural and productive act that supports virtually all life on the planet.

I'm not sure what you thought I wrote but it's the opposite of what I outlined. My whole argument is indeed that morals are indeed a human construct, so that if someone laments the amount of violence, they should realize that to be able to make such a complaint you already need to have arrived to a point where avoiding violence has granted you evolutionary advantages and thus been selected for to some extent, hence making the question a closed loop. Otherwise, the question would not even be conceivable to our minds.

>I don't know who thinks that humans value nonviolence but they clearly don't read the news.

Just because we engage in violence very frequently doesn't mean it is not valued. There are many different evolutionary pressures coexisting together. At the largest end of the scale, having a less violent society is very much an evolutionary advantage, otherwise we would not have an ingrained sense of fairness, the notion of morality, or as you mentioned the desire to inflict normative violence if that standard of fairness is violated by another individual. These emotions and constructs exist because they bring an advantage, and they do ironically bring on a state of lesser violence through the applied threat of violence.

>a natural and productive act that supports virtually all life on the planet. To escape it we would need to escape nature itself.

Violence doesn't have a special status in the sense that it will be productive in any environment. Just like any other trait, if the conditions change to a sufficient extent, it will become obsolete. It's only positive due to the way things are currently working. We're by definition part of nature so we can't escape it, but that doesn't mean nature will necessarily remain the way it has been in the past.


> having a less violent society is very much an evolutionary advantage

I don't see how this is the case. We have a lot more violence than is necessary for adaptation or survival. I don't think our 'ingrained sense of fairness' is an advantage, I think it is similar to what already exists in nature, but is then broken down by our fragile emotional state and confused by our higher brain functions clashing with our evolutionary simple heuristics. It's like running a web app in AWS to control a shopping list and it's source code consists solely of algebraic expressions. It's cumbersome and problematic. I'm sure developing our higher brain functions was useful in our survival, but it clearly conflicts with our instinctual survival traits.


> Maybe this force is not only trying to help us evolve but wants to teach us something marvelous if we overcome it.

I'm having a hard time figuring out what you're trying to say.

It seems like you're attributing some mysterious intentionality to our violent impulses, as if there's some benevolent entity somewhere in there.

It sounds like you're talking about God.


Well, if you look at the human brain, it's just a larger cortex on top of the primitive brain stem. So I think, simply looking at our brain architecture, we are will always be impacted by the emotional low level impulses that were the main drivers of behaviors of our ancestors.


Exactly this, although it's more a useful mental model / philosophy than a concrete nullifiable bit of science IMO.

In the meditation style I prefer, it's useful to think of the subconscious/primitive brain as an elephant that is somewhat under control of the driver (the modern brain).


That's just what your brain wants you to think.


Minor pedantic point: it's Gnostics (i.e. the exact opposite of agnostics): http://www.gnosis.org/gnintro.htm


I call it scarcity of resources. You won't see wars and what not when you have humanity with abundance of resources.


a) The problem is more distribution more than abundance.

b) I bet that we'll have wars even if everyone has all they need. I'd like to be wrong.


> The problem is more distribution more than abundance.

This. Not because scarcity isn't present, but because it is fundamental and inevitable; distribution isn't he thing that can be addressed, and scarcity is not.


a) World gdp per capita is less than $18.000, hardly what i would call abundance. We are still a few good decades away from abundance.

b) I bet that rich countries, where people have all they need, will not provoke wars or engage on unprovoked wars (unless for humanitarian reasons).


The richest country in the world has been at war overseas almost constantly since the end of WWII.


And it went to war for the following reasons:

a) scarcity of resource (oil) / humanitarian reasons (whichever you prefer to believe)

b) was provoked into it (because of cold war or terrorists)


This is demonstrably false. You need only look at the actions of our government (e.g. The CIA) to discern that the United States has gone to war (or "military conflicts" or whatever they call them these days) for reasons such as A) financial gain for private persons and companies B) financial gain for politicians C) financial gain for the country D) political gain for individuals E) extending a miltary based hegemony F) moral agendas (e.g the War on Drugs) etc, etc. The United States is by no means some perfect rational actor which engages in war solely for economic reasons or for "self-defense".


Those were the declared reasons, yes. But exactly what would you say are the resource and humanitarian gains and to what degree forgivable-due-to-provocation-in-retrospect is, say, the US-Vietnam War?


I recall from primatology lectures that a majority of violence is not triggered by a scarcity of resources but by friction in social ranking. I also recall a lecture by Sapolsky where he talk about this successful peace negotiator which focused on mutual respect, understanding and a feeling of kinship rather than negotiating about borders and resources.


In a book called The Happiness Hypothesis, the author made the interesting claim that violence is often cause by an attack on a person's self-image, and that it was indeed thus heavily linked to social friction.


Scarcity is a universal (more abundance doesn't cure scarcity, it just changes expectations of what is acceptable.)


Not really. Most people on most developed countries don't have scarcity for water, food, clothes, transport... It wasn't always like that. Things do become more abundant and people will dot not always change expectation on the same amount.


> Most people on most developed countries don't have scarcity for water, food, clothes, transport

Yes, they do. They may not have what you view as critical shortages, but if thode things weren't scarce, in economic terms, they would be free of cost.

> Things do become more abundant

Yes, but they continue to be scarce.


Evidence, please. Vague speculation doesn't belong here IMO.


Exactly what are you asking for evidence of?


The OP appears to conflate selective pressures with unconscious human decision-making. At least, that's what I took away from it.

That seems confused to me, but I can't speak for anyone else in the thread.


It's at least as complicated as all of mathematics, in the worst case.


Maybe the core of so-called 'free will' or 'soul' is just a random-number generator. Other than that, we are just many layers of deep neural networks.


Then the question becomes: can there be a really random number generator ?


Perhaps a pseudo random number generator, with the solar radiation level and the moon phase as seeds. ;)


So I wonder now, how many murders are simply solved because it was I the monument vs. solved for cases that were planned with cold hearted logic?


TL;DR: watching the movie "Taxi Driver" you'll learn more about about human behavior than reading that article.


Such as?


How volatile human behavior can be.


Per Deep Thought, the answer to life, the universe and everything is 42.

It's a very deep thought, if you go past the literal interpretation.

EDIT:

Before you down vote, read what I meant, since it is obvious that if you are considering a down vote then you're not getting what I'm referring to, and probably think I'm talking about numerology.

What I'm referring to is his choice of a number to represent the answer to life, universe and everything. Not a magical number, but just A NUMBER. It shows how futile it is to try and answer some questions in a mechanical/mathematical way. Some questions are not computable, and there is more meaning to life beyond the rational.


I've heard that its intended to be the ASCII code for "*" which represents a wildcard (i.e., anything).

Is that what you had in mind or do you have different interpretations?


> The answer to this is very simple. It was a joke. It had to be a number, an ordinary, smallish number, and I chose that one. Binary representations, base thirteen, Tibetan monks are all complete nonsense. I sat at my desk, stared into the garden and thought '42 will do' I typed it out. End of story.


You obviously did not go past the literal interpretation and he was talking about the literal interpretation. What I'm referring to is his choice of a number to represent the answer to life, universe and everything. Not a magical number, but just A NUMBER. It shows how futile it is to try and answer some questions in a mechanical/mathematical way. Some questions are not computable, and there is more meaning to life beyond the rational.


I interpret it to be that the answer is whatever we make of it. Your interpretation tells me more about your mindset than about any actual truth. Taken that way, meaning is what we project on it. You project a number as futility; a numerology-leaning individual could project a different meaning.

You are both correct. It's a Rorschach test of philosophy.




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