What, Exactly, is "Free Will?"
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27-09-2013, 04:53 PM
What, Exactly, is "Free Will?"
(27-09-2013 10:38 AM)guitar_nut Wrote:  
(27-09-2013 10:08 AM)black_squirrel Wrote:  If you claim that science can predict a lot of stuff, and even more so in the future, I agree. If you claim that science can predict everything at some point in the future, then there is no way of testing this hypothesis. At no point in the past have we been able to predict everything, so there is simply no precedence for such a claim.

Someone somewhere on this forum said that everything is predictable, but the math is just too hard. I tend to agree with that statement. If you had all the variables and understood the relationships between them, you could predict what color socks I'll wear tomorrow. There's just no way for you to process the equation or gather all the necessary variables. I don't think that we'll every get to a point where we have all the variables. I can't imagine it, anyways. So while I agree that WE will never be able to predict everything (at least in my lifetime), I completely disagree that it's not possible.

The variables, and the equation to determine a specific outcome, do exist.

If you say that WE will never be able to predict everything, but that it is possible, then WHO will be able to predict the future?
God?
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27-09-2013, 09:15 PM
RE: What, Exactly, is "Free Will?"
(27-09-2013 10:19 AM)EvolutionKills Wrote:  
(27-09-2013 10:08 AM)black_squirrel Wrote:  More or less by definition, science studies things that can be predicted. It relies on experiments that can be reproduced. It is therefore not surprising that many theories in physics are deterministic. But some of the models are non-deterministic,
such as statistical mechanics, quantum mechanics, etc.
But there is also a lot of stuff that science cannot predict. Claiming that science can "in principle" predict everything is not a scientific claim, but a metaphysical one. Either you can predict stuff and you demonstrate it, or you cannot. The quantifier, "in principle", just means "in your imagination".

I reject metaphysical notions.
If your notion of determinism is not metaphysical, please explain your definition of determinism and how we can test this hypothesis. Otherwise I don't care.

If you claim that science can predict a lot of stuff, and even more so in the future, I agree. If you claim that science can predict everything at some point in the future, then there is no way of testing this hypothesis. At no point in the past have we been able to predict everything, so there is simply no precedence for such a claim.


That's a missrepresentation.

How many birds were airborne in the sky over Washington DC at exactly 9AM EST this morning? There is an exact numerical value answer to this question, the answer exists in principle even if we may never have a satisfactorily accurate answer in practice.

We may never be able to develop the 100% accurate predictable scientific models, but in a deterministic universe, those answers still exist in principal even if they are never achieved in practice.

I am not sure with what you mean by "in principle an answer exists".
An answer does not exist until you answer it. I rather stick to practical notions.
"In principal" is too metaphysical for me. In principal, God exists.

Everything has a cause (determinism). So in principal there is a first cause (=God), even though we cannot know God in practice.

So fine, in principal I do not have a free will, but in practice, I do. That is good enough for me!
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27-09-2013, 09:21 PM
RE: What, Exactly, is "Free Will?"
(27-09-2013 09:15 PM)black_squirrel Wrote:  Everything has a cause (determinism). So in principal there is a first cause (=God), even though we cannot know God in practice.

In principle. IF one grants two very tenuous premises. Namely, that everything has a cause and that God is not part of everything.

I see no reason to pick those premises over the alternatives unless one is a priori working towards their conclusion.

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27-09-2013, 09:29 PM
RE: What, Exactly, is "Free Will?"
(27-09-2013 01:58 PM)cjlr Wrote:  
(27-09-2013 12:55 PM)guitar_nut Wrote:  So my follow up question would be: How do we define when something is no longer a variable? For example, I could keep drilling down the list of what I consider variables (however unreasonable or unobtainable they might be) until I have enough data to actually predict the outcome of the coin toss, from where my hand will be during the toss to the speed at which it begins its rotations.

Trying to learn here... I realize I'm not totally understanding how a 'variable' is defined in this situation.

Well, I was doing a bit of conflation there, strictly speaking... A coin toss is chaotic but might in principle be deterministic - even things like spontaneous air currents during flight will affect the results. So in theory it might be predictable, but not in practice. That's not the point.

The point is that some things are not firmly predictable (in the sense of "I know which one and only one outcome will happen"), and that this is an inherent feature of our quantum mechanical universe. Some events can only be reduced to probabilities and not certainties. Well - certain probabilities. If you see what I'm getting at.

(27-09-2013 12:55 PM)guitar_nut Wrote:  You've officially left my comfort zone. I'll take your word for it. Big Grin

Ironically that's much easier to explain. Quantum mechanics is probability. Like, literally. Take some state vectors and give them complex probability densities. Done!

Okay, so, non-glibly, what does that mean? It means that an exact description - that is to say, knowing everything about a system that it is possible to know - does not and cannot tell you what the outcome of a measurement will be. (loosely speaking all interaction is equivalent to measurement - or rather, measurement is a type of interaction...). It means that all of the things it is possible to know about a system cannot be known simultaneously.

Okay. Lesson 1: quantum measurements
The simplest example is of a two-state system; that would be, Spin-1/2, or binary polarisation, or some such. So, a Hermitian operator on the aforementioned state vectors (uh, but that's a bit esoteric...). Hmm.

Spin 1/2. Measuring the quantity we call "spin" (which, isn't really a thing actually floating about and spinning, but that's not important right now Tongue ) returns a result of up or down. Call that |+> and |->. A state that is only either up or down is called pure. Pure states are very rare. It's not precisely that "it can be more than one state at once" (you may have heard this about quantum mechanics) but that "it can't be more than one state at once while you're checking". If we pluck a random particle, what is its state? Before we measure it? All we know is that it must be one or the other after measuring.

A general state looks like this: a|+> + b|->. 'a' is the probability density of measuring up. 'b' is the probability density of measuring down. This is basically equivalent to saying 'a' is the odds of 'up' and 'b' is the odds of 'down'. The sum of their norms is unity (|a|^2 + |b|^2 = 1) - there is closure of the measurement basis, ie, orthonormal eigenvectors of the measurement operator... Whatever. That's just restating the idea that you must always get some result, whether up or down Big Grin . But 'a' and 'b' can be any complex numbers. That's reality on a quantum level.

Lesson 2: the uncertainty principle
(which probably you've heard of)
Due to certain consequences of the above (operators don't necessarily commute) it is fundamentally impossible to know non-commuting measurements at the same time. On a simple physical level this is because of what I said earlier - measurement is interaction. To be overly reductive, to see where something is you hit it with something else and see where the collision happened. But having hit it, its motion will change. Actually it's a matter of harmonic analysis of wave packets...

In quantum mechanics, for two non-commuting observables (if operators commute then their order doesn't matter - if I measure A then B vs B then A, is the result the same?)the uncertainty relation means that the product of uncertainties has a minimum value. What this means is that combined uncertainty cannot be zero. The more well-defined one is, the less well-defined the other is.

tldr:
It is impossible to say exactly which outcome will occur. The only possible knowledge is the probability of each outcome.
It is impossible to know, simultaneously, all knowable properties of a system to an arbitrary degree of precision.
Chaotic systems whose initial conditions are quantum are thus impossible to predict (no matter what we know / try to know).

It is a brave attempt to explain quantum mechanics in 1 post, but I am not sure if people will get it.

Take a qubit in superposition and measure it, et voila, the end of the deterministic universe. It is just unfortunate that the people who do not want to go against neuroscience, have no qualms about going against quantum physics. I believe someone utter something about hidden variables in an earlier post.
It was Einstein who said that God does not play dice (and he did not mean that God does not exist). Of course, Einstein was proven wrong,
and quantum mechanics cannot be explained with deterministic hidden variables.
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28-09-2013, 03:47 AM
RE: What, Exactly, is "Free Will?"
(27-09-2013 09:15 PM)black_squirrel Wrote:  I am not sure with what you mean by "in principle an answer exists".
An answer does not exist until you answer it. I rather stick to practical notions.
"In principal" is too metaphysical for me. In principal, God exists.

Everything has a cause (determinism). So in principal there is a first cause (=God), even though we cannot know God in practice.

So fine, in principal I do not have a free will, but in practice, I do. That is good enough for me!

At this point I don't know whether or not you actually lack the understanding, or are being purposely obtuse.

Your terrible attempt at using First Cause argument as an analogy is bullshit. That argument assumes that God is the answer. Even using the First Cause argument, my point would be that even if there was a first cause, we may never know what that cause was IN PRACTICE, but there does exist an answer IN PRINCIPAL (but we need not assume any gods).


In my bird analogy there does exist a specific numerical value, somewhere between zero and the total number of possible birds in that area, that at a specific given time where in fact airborne in the sky over Washington DC. We could know this answer, if for example we had placed GPS trackers and accelerometers on every bird in the United States, and had all of their data fed into a large database, so that we could parse it and see which ones appeared to be flying at exactly 9AM on a given day over DC airspace. That exact number, that exact answer, exists IN PRINCIPAL even if we currently lack the means to get that exact answer IN PRACTICE. Is the concept really that hard to understand?

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28-09-2013, 03:55 AM
RE: What, Exactly, is "Free Will?"
(27-09-2013 09:29 PM)black_squirrel Wrote:  It is a brave attempt to explain quantum mechanics in 1 post, but I am not sure if people will get it.

Take a qubit in superposition and measure it, et voila, the end of the deterministic universe. It is just unfortunate that the people who do not want to go against neuroscience, have no qualms about going against quantum physics. I believe someone utter something about hidden variables in an earlier post.
It was Einstein who said that God does not play dice (and he did not mean that God does not exist). Of course, Einstein was proven wrong,
and quantum mechanics cannot be explained with deterministic hidden variables.

Quantum mechanics does not get you freewill, because unless you can control how quantum mechanics affects and influences your brain and the decisions it makes, you're still back at square one. Quantum Mechanics is interesting, and when you go down the rabbit hole far enough, everything might just be random chaos at base. Further down there might be principals and laws that we simply don't understand that who that chaos to be ordered in some way. We really are at the limits of our current understanding of the universe. But above the quantum level, at the levels where things start to really affect us, things appear to be very deterministic.

But this still doesn't negate the fact that all you've attempted to do is redefine freewill, and then fail to justify your special version of it. You want to created an arbitrary circle around yourself and label it 'freewill' because you think no one else can get inside your circle, but you fail to realize that like it not not, everything outside that arbitrary circle is still influencing you in ways that you both do not control and are entirely unaware of. You've yet to attempt to answer that, other than to stomp you feet and go 'nuh-uh, you can't mind control me!' as if that was an adequate answer.

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28-09-2013, 04:52 AM
RE: What, Exactly, is "Free Will?"
I'd say you are over-interpreting the neurological evidence and prematurely jumping to an unwarranted conclusion.

You have also introduced the strawman of "absolute" free will.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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28-09-2013, 04:56 AM
RE: What, Exactly, is "Free Will?"
(27-09-2013 10:38 AM)guitar_nut Wrote:  
(27-09-2013 10:08 AM)black_squirrel Wrote:  If you claim that science can predict a lot of stuff, and even more so in the future, I agree. If you claim that science can predict everything at some point in the future, then there is no way of testing this hypothesis. At no point in the past have we been able to predict everything, so there is simply no precedence for such a claim.

Someone somewhere on this forum said that everything is predictable, but the math is just too hard. I tend to agree with that statement. If you had all the variables and understood the relationships between them, you could predict what color socks I'll wear tomorrow. There's just no way for you to process the equation or gather all the necessary variables. I don't think that we'll every get to a point where we have all the variables. I can't imagine it, anyways. So while I agree that WE will never be able to predict everything (at least in my lifetime), I completely disagree that it's not possible.

The variables, and the equation to determine a specific outcome, do exist.

But they are likely probabilistic, therefore not deterministic.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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28-09-2013, 07:15 AM
RE: What, Exactly, is "Free Will?"
(28-09-2013 04:56 AM)Chas Wrote:  
(27-09-2013 10:38 AM)guitar_nut Wrote:  The variables, and the equation to determine a specific outcome, do exist.

But they are likely probabilistic, therefore not deterministic.

So I'm learning! The scope of knowledge on these forums is kinda spooky...

If Jesus died for our sins, why is there still sin? If man was created from dust, why is there still dust? If Americans came from Europe, why are there still Europeans?
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29-09-2013, 05:04 PM
RE: What, Exactly, is "Free Will?"
Track #2 on Permanent Waves.

There is no "I" in "team" but there is a broken and mixed up "me."
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