[extropy-chat] Best To Regard Free Will as Existing

Jef Allbright jef at jefallbright.net
Thu Apr 5 21:59:29 UTC 2007

On 4/5/07, Thomas <Thomas at thomasoliver.net> wrote:
> Jef Allbright wrote:
> >[...]
> >
> >There's no paradox here folks, it's just about using the appropriate
> >context.  We have no problem at all describing the behavior of *other*
> >agents in fully deterministic terms.  It's only when we consider
> >volition from our own point of view that we are seduced and overcome
> >by the illusion that something special is going on.
> >
> >- Jef
> >
> Yes, but don't you think it a little special that the range of human
> determinism has evolved into rational consciousness?  Even allowing for
> the possibility that "self" is an illusion, does not respect for human
> self determinism fuel the transhuman impulse?  -- Thomas

First, I should amend my statement above from "we have no problem at
all" to "we have no problem in principle" describing the behavior of
*other* agents in fully deterministic terms. [Thanks to Damien for
highlighting my sloppy writing.]  We can look, in principle, as deeply
as desired into the patterns of motivations of a "willful child" and
follow a deterministic chain of cause and effect.  It's when we try to
describe our own volition from within that we fall into the "strange
loop" that prompts so much philosophical discussion.  In practice, we
ascribe "free-will" to the behavior of others because we actually
conceive interactions between entities at this level of abstraction,
for very pragmatic reasons of limited cognitive capability.

Thomas, I'm afraid I'm not sure I fully understand your comment, but
I'll try to respond:

I don't think there's anything special, as in fundamentally
mysterious, involved in human cognition.  As Eliezer says, there are
no mysterious answers, only mysterious questions.

Likewise, I don't think there's anything special, as in fundamentally
mysterious, in the observation that intelligent life has evolved.
Indeed I think self-awareness is an inevitable product of the
evolutionary process.  I would hesitate, however, to emphasize "human"
or "rational" in that regard.

As for the "transhuman impulse", I think that it's a deep part of our
nature that our reach continues to exceed our grasp[1], and that this
is best exemplified, but not restricted to our species.

I do think that humanity is special, mainly because I'm currently an
active member of that club.

- Jef

[1] Apologies to Robert Browning.

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