Free Will

on fundamental matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind and ethics.

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Re: Free Will

#12901  Postby Cito di Pense » Oct 04, 2018 7:55 pm

scott1328 wrote:
Cito di Pense wrote:
scott1328 wrote:
Cito di Pense wrote:

That's how definitions work, scott. They're a starting point, and not a conclusion. What we don't do is define something, and then conform our observations to accord with it.


What a pithy bromide, have you been taking lessons from surreptitious?


This is so simple, scott, that it does not require more than a pithy bromide. Putting -ism or -ist on the end doesn't (by itself) make the ruckus non-trivial. "Could have done otherwise" is the same as having had free will. At least in the Department of Tautology Department, Subjunctive Subsection.

I have no idea what you are trying to get at. Say directly what you mean. I posted a video I found interesting. In the exceedingly unlikely event that you actually watched it, direct your criticisms toward it. Otherwise, if you have not watched it, you have no basis for criticism.


Of course I have no basis for criticism. Like everything else in this business, the argument can't be summarized, can it? You just have to watch the whole movie, read the whole book. It's like a file that's already been compressed, but just try reading one of those! I know, I know, you uncompress it with your MIND.
Хлопнут без некролога. -- Серге́й Па́влович Королёв

Translation by Elbert Hubbard: Do not take life too seriously. You're not going to get out of it alive.
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Re: Free Will

#12902  Postby romansh » Oct 06, 2018 9:30 pm

The interesting thing about compatibilists and Scott's video highlights it is:

Compatibilists in some form or another accept that we could not have done otherwise, like hard determinists and hard incompatibilists, which is fair enough. Then something happens, a person is influenced and responds to the myriad of influences and voila some future action is now something one is capable of being morally responsible for, but that person could not have done otherwise looking back at that action at some future time.

So the we go around in circles, if things had been different we might have (likely have) done otherwise.
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Re: Free Will

#12903  Postby scott1328 » Oct 06, 2018 10:13 pm

NO the statement “could have done otherwise” is semantically meaningless. There is no possible world in which such world where such a statement could be verified. So ditching an incoherent definition is the only possibility.
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Re: Free Will

#12904  Postby ughaibu » Oct 18, 2018 4:34 am

scott1328 wrote:the statement “could have done otherwise” is semantically meaningless.
Of course it isn't. If at time one an agent can perform action A and distinct action B, then as A isn't B, if the agent performs B then they could have performed A. "Could" is just the past tense of "can".
scott1328 wrote:There is no possible world in which such world where such a statement could be verified. So ditching an incoherent definition is the only possibility.
Well, science requires that we can repeat procedures and it also requires controls, so there is more than one scientific procedure. This immediately entails that science requires that we can perform at least two distinct actions, and once we've performed one, that we could have performed a different one. In other words, science requires that we "could have done otherwise".
Now, what could anyone think is so important about denying the reality of free will, that they're prepared to throw out science in support of it?
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Re: Free Will

#12905  Postby felltoearth » Oct 18, 2018 11:10 am

Being able to perform two distinct actions =/= could have done otherwise. Check the tense on those two sentences.
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Re: Free Will

#12906  Postby zoon » Oct 18, 2018 8:12 pm

ughaibu wrote:
scott1328 wrote:the statement “could have done otherwise” is semantically meaningless.
Of course it isn't. If at time one an agent can perform action A and distinct action B, then as A isn't B, if the agent performs B then they could have performed A. "Could" is just the past tense of "can".
scott1328 wrote:There is no possible world in which such world where such a statement could be verified. So ditching an incoherent definition is the only possibility.
Well, science requires that we can repeat procedures and it also requires controls, so there is more than one scientific procedure. This immediately entails that science requires that we can perform at least two distinct actions, and once we've performed one, that we could have performed a different one. In other words, science requires that we "could have done otherwise".
Now, what could anyone think is so important about denying the reality of free will, that they're prepared to throw out science in support of it?

The results of many thousands of scientific experiments indicate that our brains are determinate mechanisms, and as predictable in principle as any other mechanism. The results of science support the claim that we do not have ultimate free will.

However, although there is enough evidence to show that our brains are almost certainly determinate, we don’t yet understand the mechanisms, because they are very complex. Eventually, science may well be able to predict brains accurately and in detail, but so far, modern science is almost completely useless for predicting brains. In practice, we still predict each other using the prescientific evolved guesswork of Theory of Mind, which is better than nothing but not very accurate.

In the future, when brains are understood as mechanisms, social life may be very different, and the concept of free will may become entirely redundant. Changing people’s behaviour may well be a matter of changing brain structures, like tinkering with a car engine, or redesigning a robot. So far, we are nowhere near that stage, and social life includes a number of evolved behaviour patterns which we do not fully understand. Punishment and reward are used to modify behaviour, but they require coordinated group action, and we’re far from understanding exactly how this coordination comes about.

I think there is no inconsistency in claiming both that we are almost certainly determinate mechanisms with no ultimate free will, and also, at the same time, that while we do not understand those mechanisms it makes sense to continue using the concept of free will much as before. As you say, scientific methodology assumes that scientists have something like free will, but I certainly don’t agree with you that that shows science assumes we have ultimate free will, I think it shows only that scientists haven’t yet worked out the details of our brain mechanisms.
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Re: Free Will

#12907  Postby scott1328 » Oct 18, 2018 10:03 pm

What is this "ultimate free will" you are referring to? Is it as incoherent as "could have done otherwise". We don't even actually know that our machines are "ultimately determinate" that is to say "could NOT have done otherwise."

These terms are meaningless. There is no way at all possible to decide if something could have done otherwise or not.
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Re: Free Will

#12908  Postby ughaibu » Oct 18, 2018 10:06 pm

zoon wrote:The results of many thousands of scientific experiments indicate that our brains are determinate mechanisms, and as predictable in principle as any other mechanism.
This isn't true and it never will be true. Imagine if Haynes-type experiments genuinely showed that decisions were completed pre-consciously several seconds before action. If that were the case and the subject had decided "left", then they would act "left". But the researcher could announce "left" and the subject could have been instructed to record their observation of "left" by acting "right", and vice versa. As science requires that researchers can accurately record their observations, almost every time, human behaviour can never be fully predictable.
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Re: Free Will

#12909  Postby zoon » Oct 18, 2018 11:01 pm

scott1328 wrote:What is this "ultimate free will" you are referring to? Is it as incoherent as "could have done otherwise". We don't even actually know that our machines are "ultimately determinate" that is to say "could NOT have done otherwise."

These terms are meaningless. There is no way at all possible to decide if something could have done otherwise or not.

I agree with the narrator of your video (transcript here) when he argues that free will is a useful concept in the context of using punishment and reward to modify behaviour.

I also think that if neuroscience had reached the point where behaviour could easily be modified directly by altering brain structures, then there would be no point in using punishment and reward, because altering the structure of the brain would give far more detailed control. Punishment, reward and free will would become redundant concepts.

So my view is that free will is a useful concept in the context of our current ignorance of brain mechanisms, but that it would drop out of use if we understood ourselves fully in scientific terms. It’s in that sense that I’m saying free will is not ultimate.

Certainly, we don’t yet know for certain that we are determinate, but the evidence all points that way?
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Re: Free Will

#12910  Postby zoon » Oct 18, 2018 11:07 pm

ughaibu wrote:
zoon wrote:The results of many thousands of scientific experiments indicate that our brains are determinate mechanisms, and as predictable in principle as any other mechanism.
This isn't true and it never will be true. Imagine if Haynes-type experiments genuinely showed that decisions were completed pre-consciously several seconds before action. If that were the case and the subject had decided "left", then they would act "left". But the researcher could announce "left" and the subject could have been instructed to record their observation of "left" by acting "right", and vice versa. As science requires that researchers can accurately record their observations, almost every time, human behaviour can never be fully predictable.

This argument only holds if the researcher always tells the subject what the predictions of the subject’s behaviour are. I see no reason why the researcher needs to do this?
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Re: Free Will

#12911  Postby scott1328 » Oct 19, 2018 1:41 am

zoon wrote:
scott1328 wrote:What is this "ultimate free will" you are referring to? Is it as incoherent as "could have done otherwise". We don't even actually know that our machines are "ultimately determinate" that is to say "could NOT have done otherwise."

These terms are meaningless. There is no way at all possible to decide if something could have done otherwise or not.

I agree with the narrator of your video (transcript here) when he argues that free will is a useful concept in the context of using punishment and reward to modify behaviour.

I also think that if neuroscience had reached the point where behaviour could easily be modified directly by altering brain structures, then there would be no point in using punishment and reward, because altering the structure of the brain would give far more detailed control. Punishment, reward and free will would become redundant concepts.

So my view is that free will is a useful concept in the context of our current ignorance of brain mechanisms, but that it would drop out of use if we understood ourselves fully in scientific terms. It’s in that sense that I’m saying free will is not ultimate.

Certainly, we don’t yet know for certain that we are determinate, but the evidence all points that way?

Don’t you get that it is the agent’s ability to evaluate consequences that is the sine qua non of free will.
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Re: Free Will

#12912  Postby ughaibu » Oct 19, 2018 4:40 am

zoon wrote:This argument only holds if the researcher always tells the subject what the predictions of the subject’s behaviour are.
You've misunderstood. What this shows is that the subject's behaviour is not fixed when the researcher makes their prediction. So predictability doesn't imply determined.

Anyway, let's take the science seriously, the predictions of quantum mechanics are irreducibly probabilistic, this means that if time is rewound to the point at which Schrodinger puts the cat in the box, on about half the subsequent evolutions the cat will be dead, when he reopens the box, on the rest it will be alive. Recall that researchers must be able to accurately record their observations, almost every time, so, Schrodinger must be able to correctly record "dead" or "alive", according to how the world evolves. This immediately commits us to the view that his behaviour is neither determined nor a matter of chance.
Predictions require mathematical transformations from state A to some other state or states, from this it immediately follows that predictions are confined to probabilities with determined limiting cases. But that means there is human behaviour that is unpredictable, even in principle.
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Re: Free Will

#12913  Postby Cito di Pense » Oct 19, 2018 4:59 am

ughaibu wrote:this means that if time is rewound to the point at which Schrodinger puts the cat in the box


Time isn't re-wound, except for filosofeezers. If you want to do a thought experiment, be my guest, but at least do some thinking.
Хлопнут без некролога. -- Серге́й Па́влович Королёв

Translation by Elbert Hubbard: Do not take life too seriously. You're not going to get out of it alive.
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Re: Free Will

#12914  Postby GrahamH » Oct 19, 2018 7:38 am

ughaibu wrote:
zoon wrote:This argument only holds if the researcher always tells the subject what the predictions of the subject’s behaviour are.
You've misunderstood. What this shows is that the subject's behaviour is not fixed when the researcher makes their prediction. So predictability doesn't imply determined.


It does "show" that at all. It only means the researcher doesn't knot it yet, or perhaps the apparatus hasn't measured it yet.

You can do better than that.
Why do you think that?
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Re: Free Will

#12915  Postby GrahamH » Oct 19, 2018 7:42 am

ughaibu wrote:Recall that researchers must be able to accurately record their observations, almost every time, so, Schrodinger must be able to correctly record "dead" or "alive", according to how the world evolves. This immediately commits us to the view that his behaviour is neither determined nor a matter of chance.


The researcher can accurately record the observations every time if such behaviour is determined by circumstances that include those events being observed. You don't need free will to act as a recorder. Free will might give you the option to falsify results.
Why do you think that?
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Re: Free Will

#12916  Postby zoon » Oct 19, 2018 9:50 am

scott1328 wrote:
zoon wrote:
scott1328 wrote:What is this "ultimate free will" you are referring to? Is it as incoherent as "could have done otherwise". We don't even actually know that our machines are "ultimately determinate" that is to say "could NOT have done otherwise."

These terms are meaningless. There is no way at all possible to decide if something could have done otherwise or not.

I agree with the narrator of your video (transcript here) when he argues that free will is a useful concept in the context of using punishment and reward to modify behaviour.

I also think that if neuroscience had reached the point where behaviour could easily be modified directly by altering brain structures, then there would be no point in using punishment and reward, because altering the structure of the brain would give far more detailed control. Punishment, reward and free will would become redundant concepts.

So my view is that free will is a useful concept in the context of our current ignorance of brain mechanisms, but that it would drop out of use if we understood ourselves fully in scientific terms. It’s in that sense that I’m saying free will is not ultimate.

Certainly, we don’t yet know for certain that we are determinate, but the evidence all points that way?

Don’t you get that it is the agent’s ability to evaluate consequences that is the sine qua non of free will.

I agree with you, and with the narrator of your video (transcript linked in my quoted post above) that the ability to evaluate consequences is essential for us to ascribe free will, but I don’t think it’s enough. In the video, the narrator first assumes it’s enough, and says that anything which can evaluate the probable consequences of an action, and so can respond to the threat of punishment, can be said to have free will. However, he backtracks almost immediately afterwards, when he says that a cat does not have free will, even though a cat can evaluate consequences. He then redefines free will, and says that something has free will if it can evaluate consequences from what happens to another individual, as well as from what happens to itself. Since, in his opinion, cats cannot do this, he says that cats can be trained, but they don’t have free will, so “punishment” is not the appropriate term when training cats. Apart from my view that he’s underestimating cats, I think his definition of free will has now become much more complicated and fuzzy, it’s lost the virtue of simplicity, and I still don’t agree with it. I agree that we don’t normally ascribe free will to cats, but I don’t think the reason is based only on whether a cat can work out consequences from what happens to another cat. Again, I think this ability is essential but not enough; my view of free will is that it’s even more complicated and fuzzier. I’m not laying claim to scientific accuracy, only to the usefulness of a concept which is still central to the way humans organise social life.

In particular, the narrator of the video claims that a robot has free will if it has been programmed to respond both to punishment and to its observations of another robot being punished. I think the science of robotics is reaching the stage where a robot might be programmed to achieve this, at least in some simple situations, and I don’t think I would be inclined to say that such a robot has free will while a cat doesn’t? Unlike a person, such a robot could be re-programmed in detail, and the re-programming would not be regarded as unethical. Quoting from the transcript:
To illustrate, imagine a possible world wherein every home comes preinstalled with its own robot butler. Now imagine that, for whatever reason, our butlers tend to act out in strange ways. For instance, maybe they smash up our dishes and then rearrange our furniture while we sleep. Under most circumstances, we would simply correct the malfunction by tracking down the faulty lines of code and then updating them accordingly. In the future, however, there might not be any code to fix. Most machine learning algorithms today are not based pure, iterative logic, but on neural networks derived from fitness functions acting on the raw experience of the environment itself. Thus, if we ever want to correct our robots’ misbehaviors, we may actually have to train them through the institution of reward and punishment. And if, by some happenstance, our robots reach a point wherein they can learn from the experiences of each other, then we wouldn’t have to train them all individually to achieve the desired result. Instead, we could single out an individual robot and then make a very public spectacle out its punishment. If doing so results in a marked deterrence of future misbehaviors, then we will have officially satisfied the definition of free will. And why not? For all practical purposes, that’s basically how we govern human social behaviors already, so it makes perfect sense to describe a hypothetical robot population in exactly the same terms.

My main beef with that passage it that it describes a markedly silly way to build robot butlers. Why on earth train them via the slow and inefficient method of punishment and reward, when they could perfectly well be programmed to do what you want in the first place? This would be very much simpler, as well as giving better results.

When dealing with people, we don’t have the option (yet) of reprogramming, because we don’t know how. We are a social species which has evolved a wonderfully complex collection of systems which enable us to cooperate closely in groups while still being competitive individuals. A unique aspect of human groups (as contrasted with other animal groups) is that they set up systems of rules, and any individual who breaks a rule is liable to be ganged up on by the rest of the group. This is one of the ways evolution has for practical purposes squared the circle (well enough, not perfectly) of getting competitive individuals to cooperate and pass on their genes more effectively. If this ganging up on rule-breakers is going to work as a useful deterrent, then it does make sense to check first whether the rule-breaker chose to break the rule, or whether they were forced or incompetent (e.g. ill), and this is where the concept of free will comes in. It seems to me that free will is entangled with the other prescientific concepts which we still need to use for cooperating effectively with people in our own group. For example, a person is taken to have subjective experiences, they can suffer, and causing another person to suffer without good reason is a central reason for punishing people – i.e. causing more suffering, but this time for good reason. I’m with Sapolsky when he says it’s complicated.
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Re: Free Will

#12917  Postby GrahamH » Oct 19, 2018 10:37 am

zoon wrote:
My main beef with that passage it that it describes a markedly silly way to build robot butlers. Why on earth train them via the slow and inefficient method of punishment and reward, when they could perfectly well be programmed to do what you want in the first place? This would be very much simpler, as well as giving better results.


There is a simple answer to that bit. It's simpler to devise an algorithm to make a ganaral purpose AI do what we want. We can't even define what we want as simple rules.
We might not use punishment and reward in the human sense though. It would more likely be a suite of merit / cost functions that influence reinforcement lerning algorithms to guide the evolution of the neural nets.


The scope for AI to invent unexpected behaviours is considerable and will probably increase the close we get to a general inteligence AI. I don't think it's that far fetched for a robot butler to surprise you by rearranging your furniture if it has at some time been tasked to move furniture and trained to anticipate your needs.


All the same a digital computer system operating in an environment is a model of deterministic function. We don't need to imagine a "free will chip" for the scenario to be credible. We could have what looks like free will from determinism.
Why do you think that?
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Re: Free Will

#12918  Postby ughaibu » Oct 20, 2018 12:17 am

zoon wrote:if neuroscience had reached the point where behaviour could easily be modified directly by altering brain structures, then there would be no point in using punishment and reward, because altering the structure of the brain would give far more detailed control
Just to be clear about this, you think that lobotomising criminals is an advance in human behaviour?
zoon wrote:my view is that free will is a useful concept in the context of our current ignorance of brain mechanisms, but that it would drop out of use if we understood ourselves fully in scientific terms. It’s in that sense that I’m saying free will is not ultimate.
But free will isn't a psychological or political device, so whether we hold that there is free will isn't something decided by irrelevancies like the supposed attitude to justice in the USA. If it were, then presumably places like Norway would be full of free will deniers, but of course they aren't. Political considerations are no more relevant to the reality of free will than they are to the reality of global warming and psychological considerations are no more relevant to the reality of free will than they are to the reality of evolution.
zoon wrote:Certainly, we don’t yet know for certain that we are determinate, but the evidence all points that way?
You keep saying this, but it's not clear what you mean by the eccentric term "determinate" nor what the supposed evidence is, perhaps you could spell these things out.
Also, as science includes the assumption that there is free will, whatever it is that you mean by the above, it cannot consistently be that science suggests there is no free will.
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Re: Free Will

#12919  Postby zoon » Oct 20, 2018 8:14 am

GrahamH wrote:
zoon wrote:
My main beef with that passage it that it describes a markedly silly way to build robot butlers. Why on earth train them via the slow and inefficient method of punishment and reward, when they could perfectly well be programmed to do what you want in the first place? This would be very much simpler, as well as giving better results.


There is a simple answer to that bit. It's simpler to devise an algorithm to make a ganaral purpose AI do what we want. We can't even define what we want as simple rules.
We might not use punishment and reward in the human sense though. It would more likely be a suite of merit / cost functions that influence reinforcement lerning algorithms to guide the evolution of the neural nets.


The scope for AI to invent unexpected behaviours is considerable and will probably increase the close we get to a general inteligence AI. I don't think it's that far fetched for a robot butler to surprise you by rearranging your furniture if it has at some time been tasked to move furniture and trained to anticipate your needs.


All the same a digital computer system operating in an environment is a model of deterministic function. We don't need to imagine a "free will chip" for the scenario to be credible. We could have what looks like free will from determinism.

I agree with what you say in this post. I was dismissing machine learning too glibly, but, as you say, training an AI system (at any rate, current AI systems) is not the same as human punishment and reward.

As you say, it would presumably be possible to build a deterministic robot with what looks like free will to us. I’m not sure we’d want to, I think that the concept of free will, since it’s very much tied up with the use of punishment, is all a part of managing competition within human groups: someone with free will is held to have certain rights as a person, to have some claim on group resources, and people would probably not want to build that? Robot butlers are useful, but robot butlers with employment rights would be a step too far?
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Re: Free Will

#12920  Postby Cito di Pense » Oct 20, 2018 8:36 am

zoon wrote:I was dismissing machine learning too glibly, but, as you say, training an AI system (at any rate, current AI systems) is not the same as human punishment and reward.


Is it different because a human being is not a machine? Even you don't believe that. Is it different because one is more complex than the other? Even you don't believe that. So the 'difference' you're after is not about the outcome but about the goal. This bullshit you keep publishing is still full of teleology.

zoon wrote:Robot butlers are useful, but robot butlers with employment rights would be a step too far?


That's presumably because you believe the concept of 'rights' has a goal, and it looks to me very much as if that's why you treat it as different. I think your analysis is still being spooked by teleology, zoon, right from the word 'go'. Maybe that's because you still believe, in your heart of hearts, that humans have a special sauce. If that's only because you identify as human, you're not doing philosophy, but just practicing identity politics.
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Translation by Elbert Hubbard: Do not take life too seriously. You're not going to get out of it alive.
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