Free Will Isn’t a Predictive Statistical Model

December 25, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

Free will is a program guessing what could happen if resources were spent executing code before having to execute it.

I suggest that Free Will is not merely the feeling of predicting effects, but is the power to dictate effects. It gets complicated because when we introspect on our own introspection, our personal awareness unravels into a hall of sub-personal mirrors. When we ask ourselves ‘why did I eat that pizza’, we can trace back a chain of ‘because…I wanted to. Because I was hungry…Because I saw a pizza on TV…’ and we are tempted to conclude that our own involvement was just to passively rubber stamp a course of multiple-choice actions that were already in motion.

If instead, we look at the entire ensemble of our responses to the influences, from TV image, to the body’s hunger, to the preference for pizza, etc as more of a kaleidoscope gestalt of ‘me’, then we can understand will on a personal level rather than a mechanical level. On the sub-personal level, where there is processing of information in the brain and competing drives in the mind, we, as individuals do not exist. This is the mistake of the neuroscientific experiments thus far. They assume a bottom-up production of consciousness from unconscious microphysical processes, rather than seeing a bi-directional relation between many levels of description and multiple kinds of relation between micro and macro, physical and phenomenal.

My big interest is in how intention causes action

I think that intention is already an action, and in a human being that action takes place on the neurochemical level if we look at it from the outside. For the motive effect of the brain to translate into the motor effect of the rest of the body involves the sub-personal imitation of the personal motive, or you could say the diffraction of the personal motive as it is made increasingly impersonal, slower, larger, and more public-facing (mechanical) process.

  1. December 28, 2013 at 8:35 am

    I think another mistake is commonly made aside from those you mention. that you chose pizza _and_ saw a pizza on the television is not a causal link. Pizza may have been chosen or prioritized days in advance, primed not by the television advertisement, but retriggered by it. This does not make the decision predictive, it only links the ad to the choice in a tangentially coherent manner. The real trigger could be anything including the fact that the volley ball game in the commercial brought up memories of last week when you were playing volley ball and felt hungry for pizza.The priority for pizza can be overridden by many other inputs including state of stomach, smell of air, weather, company and so on… or none of them. Free will is not static or predictive, it is both a combination of inputs and feedback signals so that the choice creates quiesence in the simulation running in our brains. The choice is not for pizza but for some food that ‘should’ by estimate achieve quiesence or push the balance away from harm in the system overall.

    In the choice to move away from harm we find free will.

    • December 28, 2013 at 1:08 pm

      Yes, I agree, although sometimes were even born to parents who move away from harm too often and too easily, and we become daredevils, or else they inspire us to become even more risk averse, or alternate between the two, etc. Even the degree to which we feel that we have free will is affected by our own participation and outside influences coming together…half teleology-intentional, half teleonomy-unintentional.

      • December 28, 2013 at 6:00 pm

        Moving away from harm can be seen as risk taking but that is wrong because it assumes the risk taker knows of the risk. I view risk taking as bad rule sets such that the risk was not properly assessed and place the behavior broadly in reduced pre-frontal activity.

        parents that move away from harm too easily prevent rule building in the pre-frontal lobe. This then affects interactions with other rule sets.

        It gets complex because of the number of rule sets and that most interactions seem negatory in action rather than positive contribution.

        This is shown in teens of protective parents don’t have rules or experience to help them navigate risky behaviors.

        I see all good actions as harm avoidance. There are no rules against avoiding harm, only on creating harm or moving toward perceived harm to self or others where others are used to help avoid harm.

        I’ve not seen any conceptual papers on such rules and would be grateful if you have a link.

      • December 28, 2013 at 6:49 pm

        You don’t consider courageous actions to be good? I think that there is a lot of useful insights which have come out of evolutionary psychology and cog sci, but I think that it is oversold currently. There is a bias toward motive effects when we make inferences only from measurable phenomena. Most of consciousness has nothing to do with survival, and is generally an aesthetic appreciation of feelings and sensations for their own sake.

      • December 28, 2013 at 7:23 pm

        Courageous action is, AFAIK, an action to minimize harm to self or group. I’d say there is altruism but it is based on rules of reducing harm and evaluation of self against harm to group or species. I can see that reduction of harm is the driving force action in all things. The evaluation of that process is wrongly done in that almost all evaluations are looking for positive action in vectors that are not strictly harm reduction. The effect of such positive vectors is seen or felt often, but it is a side effect of the primal drivers for harm reduction so appears to be an actual vector.

        Geometry shows two forces, pulling away from a single point but in directions which are north and east so the effect appears to be a force pulling northeast. The drive to reduce harm hardly ever functions strictly on it’s own so we imagine other vectors in play that are not there,.

      • December 28, 2013 at 10:01 pm

        I think there is truth to that, but I don’t see things in terms of rules and drivers, but of sense and motive. It seems too simplistic to pick a single aspect of human or animal life and say that everything must be derived from that. It has too much of a 19th century flavor for me, like Libido or Class Struggle. It seems like a case could be made for the opposite – that the history of civilization has been the history of war and causing harm. Reducing harm could be secondary to a number of things; love, vanity, exploration, competition, learning, etc.

      • December 29, 2013 at 4:30 am

        I see where you are coming from even though I disagree. I understand thought and feeling to be reducible to more basal components and the mind building rules about the world on those basal components can become very complex and lead us to feel that there is/are more to it.

        To understand you need to break down every emotion and a range of ‘motives’ for such emotion to see what it is all made of. As you do so remember to clearly define what harm is and what is meant by harm to each situation as you break them down.

        I dare you to find love at the bottom of the stack in the case of Hitler or Genghis Khan etc. You however will find fear and harm.

      • December 29, 2013 at 5:36 am

        Well, Hitler had a lot of love for Germany, and other things too. Genghis Khan practically invented diplomacy and the postal service, almost certainly out of love for his empire and its people.

        Motives are much more limited than aesthetics. If we reduce all eating to the motive of survival, then we lose the distinction between digging in the mud for an edible root and building a global network for the refrigerated transport, storage, and preparation of food as art. There is no reason to reduce life to something mechanical. Doing so is just inverted superstition. Instead of seeing strings everywhere leading up to God (proprietary teleology), we see strings everywhere leading down to Mechanism (generic automaticity). It’s a powerful tool, but I think has now become a crutch worldwide. I think that we are as deep into what I call substitutious bias now as people were into supersitious bias in the Dark Ages. The Enlightenment has led, naturally enough, to the Overexposure, and the consequences are an ever escalating pathology for inspection and verification which has serious consequences.

  2. December 29, 2013 at 6:54 am

    I did not mention the motive of survival. Survival is a pain avoidance thing.

    You seem to be making the same mistake as many others. The primary reason for eating is your body needs fuel and it sends your brain a message of harm. Hunger pains cause us .. well, pain or harm. We eat to avoid harm. This one pain avoidance can permeate the rules in our head where we simulate the world around us. The more weight the pain of hunger has the more we want to avoid it. That is at a basic level. Now, if you find yourself where you have to gather money to eat (even if that is in the service of feeding others) you will do that to avoid the pain of hunger. We have the built in ability to empathize the emotions and feelings of others so we don’t want our babies to go hungry either and so on. Because of this we’ll construct many intricate plans to avoid hunger to a point where it can become a phobia and be a driving factor in all we do. Power is a way to avoid pains of certain kinds, and so it goes that everything can be reduced downward to just a handful of things and a lot of it is all based on harm avoidance. Follow through on this and you’ll find odd dichotomies such bullies are the ones who suffer from insecurity issues and so on.

    Think about pain for a second or 400. The signals bouncing around in your head are not actually causing your brain to hurt. Your mind does not ‘feel’ as such. The pain you think you feel is just electrochemical signals in your brain. Amputees feel phantom pains and such in their now missing limbs… the signal paths still work so the brain ‘feels’ the sensations that can’t be there. Pain is a ‘set’ of signals in the brain. Harm is imminent pain or pain. The signals that constitute ‘feeling’ pain in the brain can be produced without physical pain signals. Fear causes this pain configuration, as does changing how we think about the world – or changing the rules of how the world works in our brain simulation.

    Pain is not simply a physical sensation. There are children born without the ability to feel pain, but they cried as babies and so on. Pain is only in your head… literally. Yeah, I know it’s more complicated than that but stay with me here. If that pain is just a set of signals in your head you can create them without physical pain and the brain ‘feels’ pain. Fear can do it. Loss can do it and so on and these can trigger physiological actions which then affect our bodies and we feel those actions too. Avoiding pain is not simply about physical harm/pain.

    Does that make sense?

    • December 29, 2013 at 3:22 pm

      You seem to contradict yourself. You start out with the standard representational model of qualia (which doesn’t work, and which MSR replaces successfully, IMO), in which all sensations simply arise or emerge necessarily from empirical conditions related to damage avoidance, but then end up making pain about open ended non-physical conditions.

      I understand everything that you are saying. I’m not making a mistake. Read what I’ve got here if you like, pretty much everything that I’ve got to say is here. I’m going to try to avoid going down the road of arguing this elementary stuff for hours and hours, so please don’t take it personally if I only respond to questions about MSR from here on out.

      • December 29, 2013 at 7:00 pm

        thanks. I do not take it personally and can fully understand your position on rehashing stuff. I don’t think I’ve contradicted myself… so off to do more reading. I’ll let you know if I can understand how you think it’s contradictory.

        The difference between the two ‘kinds’ of pain is simply that physical pain has requisite accompanying nervous system imputs to the simulation in the brain. Nervous system inputs always get highly weighted as undoubtedly ‘real’ such that without them you might not understand if you are feeling pain or not. There is a malady which causes this situation.

        Have a great day, thanks for the conversation.

      • December 29, 2013 at 7:34 pm

        I think that the emotional or psychological pain has accompanying nervous system conditions also, they’re just associated figuratively, “through” direct experiences rather than literally, but indirectly, through the body’s experiences. I agree that they are difference, and that difference is consistent with the private-public, temporal-spatial difference, but I wouldn’t say that they are different “kinds” of pain, in ever sense. We can see a lot of crossover, i.e., narcotics, local anesthetics, and general anesthetics kill pain by masking awareness in different frames of reference, but they all work neurologically. Knowhatimean?

        Thanks, you have a great day too. Hopefully I’ll be less cranky next time ;P

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