[ExI] Public draft of my book 'Tales of the Turing Church

Stathis Papaioannou stathisp at gmail.com
Fri Oct 19 23:26:17 UTC 2018

On Sat, 20 Oct 2018 at 08:50, Stuart LaForge <avant at sollegro.com> wrote:

John Clark wrote:
> > But the fact is you chose to do X
> > rather than Y because you prefer X. Why do you prefer X ? There are only
> > 2 possibilities,  there was a reason for you preferring it in which case
> > you are in the realm of cause and effect, or there was no cause for your
> > preference in which case it was random. So it's always a cuckoo clock or
> > a roulette wheel.
> A choice is a decision and decisions are not mystical phenomenon. A
> thermostat makes decisions, computers make decisions, and bacteria make
> decisions. Choice is a real physical phenomenon.
> I think you are conflating reason with cause. I can choose to save my
> money to buy a car in the future. Such a choice has no cause because
> classic causation presumably follows the arrow of time. Causes are in the
> past and effects are in the future. Therefore my preference to save my
> money has no past cause but it certainly has a reason and is certainly not
> random or irrational. You could make a case for reverse causation, but I
> have trouble envisioning a retrocausal cuckoo clock.

Your preferences are psychological states, physically encoded in your
brain, which form as a result of previous brain configuration and previous
experience. Your preferences therefore have a cause in the past and are the
cause of future events. An uncaused choice would be one that happens for no
reason at all, not even a bad reason. This might be OK if it happens
occasionally but if all your choices were like this you would not survive

>>  Furthermore Conway published theorems regarding free will which
> >> defined it as the ability to make choices that are not a function of >>
> the past.
> > That's an event without a cause, and that's the definition of random.
> Humans can make decisions based upon preferences for future states that do
> not yet exist. Those decisions are events that are neither random nor
> caused by most accepted notions of causation.

The future state does not exist and may in fact never exist, but idea of
the future state exists encoded in your brain, and it is this which is a
contributory cause to forward-planning behaviour.

> > The only definition of free will that I know of that isn't gibberish is
> > the inability to always know for sure what you're going to do next until
> > you actually do it, and I find that no more mysterious and profound than
> > the fact that you don't know what the results of a calculation will be
> > until you've finished the calculation.
> I agree that there is nothing profound or mysterious about the ability to
> make decisions.
> >
> >>  Whether Conway's definition of free will is correct or not is
> >> debatable, but I can deliberately choose to say a non-sequitur or do
> >> something unpredicatbly spontaneous.
> >
> > I agree, there is no law of logic that demands every event have a cause,
> > randomness is possible. And there is another name for doing things for no
> > reason, irrational.
> Not all reasons for doing things are causes since some reasons for doing
> things are the effects of whatever it is that your are doing. And doing
> something to bring about a desired effect is neither random or irrational.

The effect does not contribute to its own cause. The expected effect is
like a simulation in the brain. If you think that you will go to paradise
if you crash a plane into a building, it is not going to paradise that
makes you crash the plane.

Stathis Papaioannou
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