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Echoes and Mirrors» Blog Archive » Free Will from Heisenburg’s Uncertainty Principal

Free Will from Heisenburg’s Uncertainty Principal

Free-will vs. determinism is a very scary subject to broach and one that most people will avoid like the plague. It impedes on our very self-worth. Our uniqueness stems from our individuality, which stems from the fact that each and every single one of us is the master of our own destiny. And because without it, there might not be a God.

If this were an illusion (hard determinism) then the implication is that our actions are akin to a very complex set of dominoes cascading. Our creations are just echoes of machinations that appear to be freely chosen, but cannot occur any other way. Even natural, random events are pre-determined and human reaction is determined. The entirety of existence would be a very precisely tuned Rube-Goldberg and that idea scares the living crap out of every one of us. Having developed such a complex psychology begs that there is something more to existence than highly ordered and complex systems. Our brains are wired to operate within a relative range, unable to really comprehend either infinity nor absolute nothing, and hyper-actively recognizes patterns. They can be grasped a priori, but there will never be a postiori evidence for either non-existence or infinity. But they’re fascinating none the less.

Which is why we attempt to rationalize everything.

Some people use religion. Others use Quantum Mechanics and mathematics:

“We must believe in free will, we have no choice,” the novelist Isaac Bashevis Singer once said. He might as well have said, “We must believe in quantum mechanics, we have no choice,” if two new studies are anything to go by.

Early last month, a Nobel laureate physicist finished polishing up his theory that a deeper, deterministic reality underlies the apparent uncertainty of quantum mechanics. A week after he announced it, two eminent mathematicians showed that the theory has profound implications beyond physics: abandoning the uncertainty of quantum physics means we must give up the cherished notion that we have free will. The mathematicians believe the physicist is wrong.

And if they decide that there is determinism at the quantum level, then it’s kind of depressing… you are like one of those little toy monkeys that bangs cymbals together and then die. Interaction with the universe is still limited to influence and it still seems real, but the illusion would just mask the fact that humans are automatons.

But the very fact that the illusion exists is what troubles me. There are three possibilities that I’m going to consider:

  1. Thoughts are products of the physical activity within the gray bits in a skull. They are the products of very complex machinations.
  2. Thoughts are actions, not the product of actions.
  3. Thoughts are a combination of some attribute unique to each individual and the resulting feedback of its interaction with the physical universe, even the gray bits inside the skull.

The third option is more or less dualism. There is strong evidence for complex feedback loops, but they apply in all situations. There is also a slippery slope for the mystical with every postulation and premise. This covers in the internal. The external has roughly the same options:

  1. Chaos is fictional but we cannot recognize the pattern because it is too expansive.
  2. Chaos is real.
  3. There are large expansive patterns that overlap with chaos in a system, but do not interact.

I don’t like the idea of being a slave to determinism. If we take 1 from both as true, then we are slaves to a universe that is predetermined. Taking 2 from both as true, free will is very much alive and kicking. Taking 3 from both is a compromise that allows humans to influence the universe, but restricts us through systems and laws. Option 3 is an acceptable comprimise to most people because it retains the individual self but accepts that there are limits.

But there is much more work to be done in this line of thought, I think. The marriage of quantum mechanics and philosophy seems to be very important.

But why is Will such an important guy that he should be freed? I say we pitch in to support his appeal and get him some good lawyers.

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