AST distinguishes between neuronal activity (attention) versus conscious experience (awareness), and postulates that awareness is both a model of attention and a director of attention. Essentially, consciousness as a simulation that has the startling ability to influence the simulator itself. Example: we experience seeing an apple (awareness) and consciously focus upon it, which amplifies the neuronal activity for sensing and processing vision (attention). Due to this amplification, we then gain a sharper experience of noticing more details about the apple. Awareness both models attention and directs it.
In terms of predicting decisions based on brain scanning, it would be easy to see how as a person’s awareness focuses attention on a particular image, even without quite realizing it, that the brain patterns of such attention would be clearly amplified.
This study seems to suggest that our conscious feeling of making a decision is a false experience. That we are simply watching a pre-ordained movie and are being given a false sense of agency. In AST, even though our consciousness is a synthesized model of our brain activity, and even though decisions may be made in neurons not part of that modeling, there is little meaningful difference between the model we experience of making a decision and the brain activity of the decision itself. Although there will always be a lag between a model of activity and the activity itself, we generally experience no lag.
it would be interesting to see in what edge-cases lag would really matter. I believe there are some odd experiments with buttons and blinking lights where the decision to press a button is experienced after the experience of seeing the light from pressing the button.
All the same, if AST is on target, then conscious agency is real, and this paper doesn’t have anything to say on the matter, even if the headline is highly suggestive that it does.
Or am I missing something here?
"Consider an analogy. Max struck a log with his red ax, thereby causing the log to split. If Max’s ax had been green, it would have split the log just as well. But he was under strict instructions to split wood only with red axes, and he was committed to following the instructions. If his ax had been green, he would not have used it; in fact, he would have looked for a red ax and split the log later, after he found one. In this scenario, the fact that the ax is red is causally relevant to Max’s splitting the log when he does and therefore to the actual log splitting action he performed, an action that has a specific location in time. Similarly, in the imagined experiment, the fact that at t, Sam made a conscious proximal decision to press seems to be causally relevant to his pressing when he does and therefore to the actual pressing action he performs. I should add that although we do know that, other things equal, red and green axes split wood equally well, we do not know how effective unconscious decisions are. Nor do we know whether unconscious deciding (as distinct from unconscious nonactional intention acquisition) is something that actually happens. Also, for all we know, if there are instances of unconscious deciding, they are far too rare for there to be more than a glimmer of a chance that if Sam had not made a conscious proximal decision to press at t, he would have made an unconscious one."
It is worth pointing out that Mele is famous for remaining agnostic about free will (and certain fundamental questions surrounding it).
More researchs like this are positive, as this is a far from solved field.
From the Wikipedia article -
That is to say, researchers recorded mounting brain activity related to the resultant action as many as three hundred milliseconds before subjects reported the first awareness of conscious will to act.
What am I missing?
It (or more precisely, the people who fully internalize the result and who have the power to act on it) will probably start treating other people a lot more like we currently treat machines.
It seems to me that if you have a materialist theory of consciousness that there have to be unconscious essentially mechanical processes underlying it. But as long as those processes are contained within the being making the decision, it seems to me that it should still be considered ‘free will’.
Now, perhaps there is some level of determination there that makes the traditional idea of free will hard to maintain, but I’m not sure we have to toss the concept out entirely.
I’ve always largely considered it a convenient fiction useful for legal and ethical discussions.
If you’re designing a legal system, I don’t think you care as much about the first causes of human action compared to whether the action was done by a particular human being without being forced to do it by some external actor.
To clarify the question, what kind of scientific experiment would you even imagine that would even resemble something producing evidence for or against free will?
(These experiments talked about in this topic do not at all fit it: they just show that there are conscious and subconscious parts of our experience of life and our experience of the process of choice. In what world would that be related to the degree of "free-ness" of that choice is beyond me. I thought we all knew already that there are conscious and subconscious parts of the brain and that many of activities of "I" are subconscious.)
My instinct is that physics is performing a computation at optimal efficiency. Even if everything is deterministic, there is no other way to determine the outcome other than letting it play out.
In other words, even if a decision you made was bound to happen, there was no other way to find out what that decision would be beside letting you compute it.
So, your decisions can be both deterministic and unpredictable.
From this perspective, I don't think the existence or absence of randomness makes any difference on the question of free will.
This is not a limitation of technical prowess, this is a quality of quantum particles, of thermodynamics, etc.
My point is, if it is impossible to construct such an experiment, it means it is not a question within the domain of science. Science deals with hypothesis which can be realistically disproven.
Maybe. Determinism isn't dead, by any means. Depending on what model of quantum mechanics turns out to actually be correct, full determinism might be just fine. But even if one of the models that would invalidate full on determinism is correct, 'adequate determinism', similar to what Stephen Hawking believed in, might apply - the idea that the level any quantum fluctuations occur at makes it unlikely to result in any difference at the level that human thought, etc., operates at.
Universal predictability would definitely disprove free-will, but disproving universal predictability tells us nothing about free-will.
If determinism is correct, then given enough storage and computational power (or intelligence capable of doing this within their mind), an outside observer would be able to figure out every single action I would ever take before I took it.
If how my brain works is deterministic, and all of my encounters are able to be pre-determined, and those all deterministically shape my decisions and actions, then... how I can I possess libertarian free will?
There are systems today that we can predict fully (i.e. we can predict what will happen faster than it can actually happen) that decades ago would have been unpredictable due to their chaotic nature. There are systems we cannot predict today that we will be able to in the future. Brains very well could be one of them.
To be clear, I think that free will--by definition--cannot exist in a purely deterministic universe. Any semblance of free will in such a universe would be purely illusory. It also cannot exist in a universe where events can only ever be some combination of random events and determined events. Randomness is also not free will.
Free Will would have to be some other special category of events that is neither determined not random. We don't have a word or phrase to describe what these events would be like other than "Free Will." However, lacking the vocabulary and math to describe it does not make it non-existent.
That is not even non-existent, more like a misconception which one comes out of by thoroughly examining what "feels" correct. Like Wittgenstein said one of the jobs of philosophy is to free us out of semantic knots. I see free will such a knot arising due to our conception of a separate self from the causality, leading us to project a conception of freedom which makes no sense when examined upon.
1) Events with no cause such as the beginning of the universe or broader multiverse, depending on your beliefs or 2) Infinite regressions of causal chains if you believe that the universe or God (or a god) has always existed or
3) Some combination of the above.
In all of these, somehow there can be uncaused effects, but in 1) and 3) some causal chains can just begin existing, like free will would require.
But the lower layers are all still you, molded based on your experiences and conscious layer.
The part of you that goes, "I choose A" is only the vocal/mental switch where you become conscious of the choice.
The results don't seem to be stating anything new or non obvious to me. Am I missing something?
So this goes into the question of "free will". Is your conscious mind making the decisions or is just trying to justify the decisions made by the unconscious mind.
> up to 11 seconds before they consciously made the decision
should be interpreted as
> up to 11 seconds before they pressed one of the buttons
I can't imagine how they measure the time when the conscious decision was made but they definitively measure when the button was pressed.
This was choosing horizontal or vertical stripes, there isn't a rational reason not to go with my gut, although I could if I wanted to demonstrate free will.
Implying that our conscious experience of the world has no control over our brains.
Otherwise conscious/unconscious implies some sort of duality in your head. Like the homunculus..
I think the question becomes: Why are we conscious in the first place?
Which could mean everything is aware to some extent. People, dogs, rocks, etc.. But because of our big complicated brains that can hold memories and all that - we are aware of being aware.
Similarly, unconscious activity is just how consciousness and choice work. That doesn't mean that free will doesn't exist. It's a complete misunderstanding of the concept.
Does this imply it was not my choice to type "free will"? Would I be unable, through conscious effort, to learn how to type with a different keyboard layout?
I can't think of a reason to suspect that we don't also train our decision-making processes the same way. (This is especially true for such trivial, inconsequential decisions as to which pattern to select in an experiment.) And I suspect we could train ourselves to always prefer a particular kind of pattern fairly easily through conscious effort.
So even if you limit free will to consciousness, I am not sure how you can say anything specific about free will as a result of the study.
Because "you" are not just your conscious mind, you are your entire body and mind, including your unconscious; these are holistic and interdependent systems. The tendency to want to separate these is a common mistake reminiscent of an absurd mind-body dualism.
"Free will" is making a choice according to what "you" want, not according to what your conscious mind thinks it wants.
the reason you don't smash all of the skulls is as causal and determined as the impulses afaict.
to me it seems that life is just sufficiently complex self contained units that are completely bound by deterministic laws. we have a sense of self referential capalbility which may give the illusion of free will but I'd say that it's not your decision to stop the impulses of smashing skulls rather it is the inescapable result of your unique determined state or rather process that your brain has been configure d for based on life experience and genes.
I mean, support for Compatibalism is in effect not the support of determinism that it claims to be. It's just an effort of philosophers to safe free will, out of free will, which means, to me, out of ignorance. So the only real insight is that we are sufficiently ignorant. How is that still sold as a positive thing?
That still didn't come out right.
I was trying to say, that Compatibilism is a meta argument. If it isn't then because it determined free will as a deterministic fact. I understand that philosophy is rather complicated, and at the very least I doubt that, if Compatibilism is true, that many people understand it sufficiently to be in the position to support it, other than as an educated guess.
Long ago, some philosophers suggested that we cannot be held morally responsible for factors that our outside of our control, and further, that any effects that follow from factors outside of our control, are thus also outside of our control. Determinism is the quintessential example. Numerous arguments have since been presented that debunk this need for control, the ability to do otherwise, etc. These properties simply aren't necessary for moral responsibility.
Furthermore, studies in experimental philosophy have shown that lay people actually employ Compatibilist moral reasoning, debunking the long held assumption that people are incompatibilists because of religious upbringing.
So I disagree that Compatibilism is some sort of meta-argument, as it fits squarely in the expected domain of discourse for free will. It is precisely fulfilling the philosophical research program of identifying that which is necessary to make sense of choice in our moral language.
Do you know of any materials that present the debate in a form that a ten year old could understand?
For instance, diagnosing someone with a sprained muscle as being out of shape doesn't help get them in shape, and in fact, the immediate treatment is more rest until they're healed.
So I think it's incorrect to say that people don't have agency, but it's equally incorrect to say that merely identifying that they have agency should suffice if such a person is making incorrect decisions. Sometimes it might, but not always.
Even adding a soul wouldn't help, i imagined a soul existing in another universe affecting this one; same problem, just 1 universe over, cause and effect or random is still not 'me'.
I think the only way to square any version of free will is to radically redefine what the term 'me' means.
In particular, it is well known that if you don't believe in any degree of free will, the stranger quantum effects (or basically any kind of statistical thinking) can be ignored - if the experiment to be run is itself pre-determined, then hidden variables that correlate the behavior of the experiment with the 'decisions' of the experimenter can't be ruled out anymore.
Perhaps more fundamentally, if you believe that there is absolutely no free will, then of course this conversation is essentially pointless, eve though we were forced into it by the big bang.
>if you believe that there is absolutely no free will, then of course this conversation is essentially pointless
If you are absolutely devoted to defining yourself as the ghost in the machine in a world where ghosts have been disproved; But if you can redefine 'you' to mean the machine, then your actions are an extension of who you are. So you can't choose to be someone other than yourself, but what value did that add anyway?
The problem is that you're employing an incoherent or invalid conception of free will. Free will can be compatible with determinism, eg. Compatibilism.
This only works if we radically redefine the term "one's motives". Which isn't different from redefining what 'me' means.
The problem is of course that in a Newtonian universe one's motives is a result of arbitrary past actions outwith our current definition of one's motives. And in a quantum universe one's motives are arbitrary (randomly) generated outwith our current definition of one's motives.
Fortunately, that's not a problem at all for free will and moral responsibility! That's why Compatibilism is now the prevailing paradigm.
Which might not even be an unreasonable way to look at it. Many people make a contrast between habit and will. There already seems to be a common idea that much of the time, people do things the way they always have, and it is only at certain key moments that the will asserts itself and changes course.
A point made in the Matrix movies: you're not here to make a choice, you've already made it. You're here to understand why you've made that choice. I think that's probably a pretty good analogy of how consciousness operates.
I rather think of it as an integrator, in that, it collects and integrates the results of various subsystems into a coherent "rationale" for why you've made a choice, and that rationale is then stored in your memory as "my choice".
Then again, I may be biased.
is it? you should patent and sell it, you could call it fast-forward computing. FPS game players would pay a fortune for computer being able to display events from the future!
The choice is completely non-consequential, it's picking between 2 patterns. The brain choose based on it's initial biases. It's like when you are turning off your brain watching youtube videos, it's likely that you will open another video after that instead of going back to your work because there is a strong pre-existing brain activity related to whatever you're watching.
What I'm saying is it isn't like some directive from the subconscious that you cannot go against, it's more like one room is filled with sweets and the other is filled with nothing. The choice is still taken at the moment.
> The choice is still taken at the moment.
There is no reason to expect that 'the moment' is the same as when we become aware of it. It's questionable if we can make make any choices within two or three seconds. We just have behaviour that feels like it's our own volition.
Of course it's our own volition.
Do you see anybody else there telling the person what to do? Is there some "eternal soul" that should have been informed to make the final decision?
The misleading dichotomy here is that the conscious urge is something different from the "choice from the brain up".
Whereas the conscious urge is just a later manifestation of the "brain up" process. It's just a nicer UI output we give ourselves of the choice process.
It's still our brains, that is us (there's no third party involved), that makes the decision, based on our past experience, knowledge, preferences, memories, etc as wired in our brains.
Whether we do it at the conscious layer or we do it at the lower level and then project it at the conscious layer doesn't make it any less of "our own volition".
To me it's like saying "the computer didn't make this picture, because the picture was already created in the memory as a structure before it was send to the screen".
Obviously not, but commonly when people refer to so called 'free will', they don't just mean to imply that you, as a physical entity carry out things by your own volition, it is taken to mean that you consciously deliberate on your choices and have some insight into your own decision making.
These experiments suggests that the actual decision making happens at a much more secluded, black box like level.
Free will, in a meaningful sense, is taken to mean 'rational control', not just 'that guy over there acts in some way because his brain commands him to', because that's true almost by definition if you exclude religious explanations.
Well, it's both: as people we can consciously deliberate on our choices for months, torment ourselves at a very conscious level, express it out to others who couldn't care less, listen to moody EMO music, even write lyrics about our predicaments before we make a choice.
But we can also make some much easier decisions using our pre-conscious processing. And that might involve deliberation too -- it certainly involves prior experiences and stimuli.
That's orthogonal to whether free will exists or not, though, and people saying that such pre-conscious choices it's proof free will doesn't exist are wrong. There's no necessity that free will has to be expressible as conscious deliberation. Just that it comes "freely" from the person. There might be lots of conscious deliberation behind those "non-conscious" decisions too.
Free will might very well not exist, but not for that reason.
We are ourselves, the whole time, sub-conscious or conscious. One's self doesn't resolve to just the "voice 'speaking' in our thoughts".
Given that we have to make decisions all the time it's natural an unconscious heuristic could exist, but that, again, doesn't mean "not having free will".
If you think that "free will" is becoming aware of your decisions just when you make them, consider the fact that the human perception of "Now" spreads over 3 seconds or more. The ordering of two events can swap up to 5-7 seconds in some cases (ever feel that you are thinking about somebody and then they call you).
There is some evidence that your brain does stuff parallel and out of order and then marshals them into stream of consciousnesses where causality of internal processes seems right.
Yet the idea of free will is so empowering that I choose to go with it even when it would make sense short term to deny it.
Seriously, even if it wasn't true and somebody here starts to believe it - even if that thought weren't a real decision but just a response to my persuasion skills - even then it would probably make a positive impact on their life.
Is everything in my life a product of my own decicions? No. I've been dealt a good hand. But after I learned to decide for myself it became better.
FWIW I've also no idea who would downvote you, your position seems
reasonable even if we disagree strongly. If anyone think what you say is wrong I'd urge them to pst evidence instead of just downvoting.
For we act not only under external compulsion but also by inner necessity.
I’ve been doing this for at least 3 years and have not yet encountered a choice made out of “free will”, and not by desires, basic needs, thoughts, trauma, conditioning etc.
My conclusion is that in the West, “free will” is an un-investigated label for any combination of the above.
This teacher often speaks of a sense he calls “the false sense of authorship” which claims the responsibility of our actions, thoughts and words.
Still completely inconsequential choice. Nothing is going to change in lives of these people based on this choice. This is not a "free will"-type of choice people usually think about.
I think this all started with Sam Harris using this argument in his crusade against free will, and some people just picked it up without giving it a second thought.
The argument is that if the choice is unconsequential (like thinking of a random city or pushing one of equally meaningless buttons), Sam sees that as somehow being the "most free of a choice you could think of". But it is the complete opposite to how the real world and real life works!
I would argue that choosing which school to go to, which career to pursue, which food to eat, which person to spend time with - those are real choices, that's where the free will is used. In choices which have consequences. Choices that matter. Choices that require using the consciousness, not appropriating its gargantual power as being a glorified random number generator. Not in a choice that requires no effort, and can be forgotten the moment it is made, because it will have no consequences whatsoever.
Good luck making those real choices being predictable by a computer. When a computer can predict what career I am going to choose or who am going to hire (given real viable choices) - then we can come back and talk about free will. Of course at that point, by definition, we have Strong AI which can predict almost anything and the world will be completely different, beyond our wildest imaginations because we can't see it behind the veil of technological singularity.
These experiments say nothing about free will. (Of course the papers themselves don't pretend to either, just the sensationalist journalists weakly versed in popular philosophy.)
So basically for big N's, study is much trustworthy.
We have biases. Sometime we are aware of them. Sometimes, evidently, in trivial situations, we don't notice such patterns.
"Be mindful of your biases" just took on a wider scope.
- maximum duration to choose is 20 seconds.
So basically if you look one of them 10 seconds, seconds one 10 seconds. And make your choice. They can see your choice when they go back in your brain activity 11 seconds before.
(If they can with MRI can see how much you like something while you are looking)
So basically nothing much value here.
(PS: when i see 'upto 11 seconds', this sounds like marketing talk)
(I also don't like the "up to 11 seconds".)