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Eugene Leitl Eugene.Leitl at lrz.uni-muenchen.de
Thu May 8 08:42:22 EST 1997

On Thu, 8 May 1997 hefeng at cz3.nus.sg wrote:

> Is there really free will?

Does it really matter?

> Many would answer yes. When someone said he made a decision, he meant that
> he CHOSE to make that decision, there is nothing that could stop him if he
> didn't want to stop.

Introspection doesn't yield any scientific results. In most cases what's 
happening under the hood is profoundly counterintuitive. I seem to recall 
one study where a motoric reaction was already determined well before the 
subject was aware of it. 

I guess current consensus at a highly trivial level says the "I" is just a
surfer over miles of murky depths of down below. The majority of what's
happening is unaccessible to self, in a certain sense the self is a
signature of deeply buried activity. 

> This puzzles me a bit. Is the brain a deterministic machine at the neuro
> level? If so, there will be no free will at all, our thoughts are all
> results of physics laws! Maybe we think we can make whatever decisions we
> feel like to but in fact we can't?

This question is meaningless. Whether we are FSMs, or quantum systems,
pseudorandom is fundamentallx indistinguishable from true random. We just
can't tell. It doesn't make one iota of difference from the user front

> Maybe the brain is not deterministic and owns that to quantum mechanics?

QM is not just a good idea, it's the law.

> Or maybe the extreme complexity of the brain has something to do with the
> apparent uncertainty in our thinking?

Again, you are trying to gain knowledge from introspection. It's futile.

> And do we really have control over our thoughts? Have you ever tried to
> forget something?

Such a trait does not appear to be meaningful in evolutionary context. 
For what's this worth, one could probably make memories kinetically 
inaccessible by autosuggestion. Not that I tried. What does the 
literature say?


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