Free Will

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

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Re: Free Will

#4661  Postby Cito di Pense » Jan 13, 2017 3:14 pm

archibald wrote:
Cito di Pense wrote:We do know what computationally-intractable problems are, and having a bunch of beardy guys sit around cogitating about human behavior is not likely to have more success than trying to compute it.


I didn't know this. But I now see the following:

"...consider a program that makes 2 to the power n operations before halting. For small n, say 100, and assuming for the sake of example that the computer does 10 to the power12 operations each second, the program would run for about 4 × 10 to the power 10 years, which is the same order of magnitude as the age of the universe.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computati ... actability


I hope folks who might have other ideas will at least read what you link to, here. But that's a nice basic example that shows a glimmer of the problem. What kind of a problem implies 2 to the power of 100 operations? Think about just enumerating the connections in a very large network, something like a brain. You have to do that before you can start deciding which ones have the most traffic, because you have to monitor them if you want to know which specific connections have their role to play in whatever wibbly human characteristic you want to identify and then investigate. Having confidence that science can figure out a lot more shit than we know now is not unreasonable, but having a good idea about the kinds of limitations makes for fewer unsupportable statements about the potential of research into fine details of human behavior.
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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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Re: Free Will

#4662  Postby scott1328 » Jan 14, 2017 7:44 am

All NP complete problems exhibit O(2n) complexity. The traveling salesman problem is a notable example of an NP complete problem. However there are far harder problems than NP complete.

Consider this. Suppose you had a massively parallel super computer whose individual processors were the the size of protons. Each processor's clock time was the time it took light to travel the diameter of the proton. Now imagine that computer has a volume equal to the size of the visible universe and the computer is packed with as many proton sized processors as can be packed into a volume the size of the known Universe. Now set it to solve a non trivial traveling salesman problem on a graph with 556 nodes. It would take it on the order of 13 billion years to finish.

Ref: chapter 9 Labrynths of Reason by William Poundstone, 1989.
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Re: Free Will

#4663  Postby VazScep » Jan 14, 2017 8:00 am

ughaibu wrote:Now, imagine a researcher who has access to the set of laws of some empirical science that entails all human behaviour, and a sufficient description of the universe of interest, sufficient computing power, etc. That researcher would be able to stick the required input into a computer and get an answer to the question "after observing the result of the computation, which will I write earliest "-1" or "+1"?" But the researcher can set as their recording procedure the following: if the computation predicts "-1", record this by immediately writing "+1", and if the computation predicts "+1", record this by immediately writing "-1".
This is the same sort of argument used against divine omniscience. Suppose you have vanilla icecream and chocolate icecream in front of you, and you really want the vanilla. But then God says to you "I know you will choose the vanilla." So what do you do? You choose the chocolate!

I'm not sure I'd conclude from this that humans have freewill. I think the correct conclusion is that humans are assholes.
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Re: Free Will

#4664  Postby Cito di Pense » Jan 14, 2017 8:07 am

VazScep wrote:I think the correct conclusion is that humans are assholes.


Would you call that 'heuristic'?

VazScep wrote:you can dig a hole and fill it with concrete


Constructivism for the win!
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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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Re: Free Will

#4665  Postby VazScep » Jan 14, 2017 8:15 am

archibald wrote:
Cito di Pense wrote:We do know what computationally-intractable problems are, and having a bunch of beardy guys sit around cogitating about human behavior is not likely to have more success than trying to compute it.


I didn't know this. But I now see the following:

"...consider a program that makes 2n operations before halting. For small n, say 100, and assuming for the sake of example that the computer does 1012 operations each second, the program would run for about 4 × 1010 years, which is the same order of magnitude as the age of the universe.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computati ... actability
I'll agree with Cito and say that having even a basic understanding of complexity theory is a good thing(TM). For another reason, it'll give you ideas of the limits of, say, computer animation and what your iPhone can do.

Something somewhat related to complexity theory is chaos. Chaotic systems have the property that small changes to the input parameters get scaled up in a simulation into very large changes over time. Some systems are so chaotic that, even a change within your measurement error is going to completely flip your outputs over the timescale you're interested. This means that the simulation is utterly worthless. Hence, we don't ask weather forecasters for predictions more than a few days in advance.

Now suppose we have a model of human beings for making predictions. Even with magic beans computers, the model might exhibit such chaotic behaviour that it's impossible to get the inputs to a sufficient resolution to simulate it.

Artificially chaotic systems are used to generate "random" numbers. The numbers aren't random, of course, because they are generated by a deterministic procedure. But the benchmark for having a decent random number generator is that the problem of recognising that the data is actually algorithmically generated should be NP hard.
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Re: Free Will

#4666  Postby Cito di Pense » Jan 14, 2017 8:20 am

VazScep wrote:This means that the simulation is utterly worthless.


we haz statistikal mekanix

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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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Re: Free Will

#4667  Postby ughaibu » Jan 14, 2017 8:29 am

VazScep wrote:I'm not sure I'd conclude from this that humans have freewill.
Sure, the argument isn't that ambitious. It aims only to refute denial of the reality of free will on the grounds that all human behaviour is "chemistry and physics doing its thing", or similar appeals to psychology, neuroscience or any other empirical science.
What I'd like to see is the argument that takes us from the history of science being also the history of us increasing our control over our environment and what we can do within it, to the conclusion that the stuff posited in our stories, when doing science, is all of our environment and fully controls us, and what we can do within it.
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Re: Free Will

#4668  Postby Cito di Pense » Jan 14, 2017 8:33 am

ughaibu wrote:
VazScep wrote:I'm not sure I'd conclude from this that humans have freewill.
Sure, the argument isn't that ambitious. It aims only to refute denial of the reality of free will on the grounds that all human behaviour is "chemistry and physics doing its thing", or similar appeals to psychology, neuroscience or any other empirical science.
What I'd like to see is the argument that takes us from the history of science being also the history of us increasing our control over our environment and what we can do within it, to the conclusion that the stuff posited in our stories, when doing science, is all of our environment and fully controls us, and what we can do within it.


It aims to refute denial of the reality of free will on the basis that the argument isn't abstruse enough. See? I said it in fewer words. Having issues about 'control' is not a philosophical matter. Talk to BWE about it.

If life is like a circular linked list instead of like a bowl of cherries or a box of chocolates, being on top is like being on the bottom. But so is being in the middle. Keep your hands on the plow and hold on.
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

#4669  Postby zoon » Jan 14, 2017 8:42 am

Trying to predict a car engine during a five minute warm-up by tracking the movements of every atom would probably be computationally intractable for most practical purposes. Engineers don't attempt it, but car engines are still predictable enough to be useful. Human brains are more complex than car engines, but they are still mechanisms which are robust enough to have survived for millions of years, they are far from totally chaotic systems. We already predict each other well enough for usefulness, although, as economists repeatedly discover, those predictions are not always accurate. We still think of each other in Stone Age terms because so far our evolved Stone Age methods of predicting each other are massively more effective than anything neuroscientists have come up with. For us to appear as the mechanisms we are, scientific prediction of brains doesn't need to be perfect down to the last atom, it only has to be noticeably better than the evolved procedures we already have. Which is still a long way off.
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Re: Free Will

#4670  Postby Cito di Pense » Jan 14, 2017 8:47 am

zoon wrote:We already predict each other well enough for usefulness, although, as economists repeatedly discover, those predictions are not always accurate.


Well, it sounds like your perspective is very short term, not that there's anything wrong with that. Birds do it, bees do it, overeducated fleas do it. If you wanted to say that humans are organisms, I think we already knew that, perfesser.
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Re: Free Will

#4671  Postby zoon » Jan 14, 2017 9:17 am

Cito di Pense wrote:
zoon wrote:We already predict each other well enough for usefulness, although, as economists repeatedly discover, those predictions are not always accurate.


Well, it sounds like your perspective is very short term, not that there's anything wrong with that. Birds do it, bees do it, overeducated fleas do it. If you wanted to say that humans are organisms, I think we already knew that, perfesser.

Many simple organisms are far more predictable than humans, but scientists are nowhere close to predicting even the simplest bacterium in terms of the exact positions of its constituent atoms. If neuroscientists ever do predict people more effectively than humans already predict each other, it's unlikely to be with atomic-level accuracy.
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Re: Free Will

#4672  Postby Cito di Pense » Jan 14, 2017 9:37 am

zoon wrote:
Cito di Pense wrote:
zoon wrote:We already predict each other well enough for usefulness, although, as economists repeatedly discover, those predictions are not always accurate.


Well, it sounds like your perspective is very short term, not that there's anything wrong with that. Birds do it, bees do it, overeducated fleas do it. If you wanted to say that humans are organisms, I think we already knew that, perfesser.

Many simple organisms are far more predictable than humans, but scientists are nowhere close to predicting even the simplest bacterium in terms of the exact positions of its constituent atoms. If neuroscientists ever do predict people more effectively than humans already predict each other, it's unlikely to be with atomic-level accuracy.


With what, then, zoon? Hand waving? If you define your target after you loose the arrow, you'll always have a perfect score if you're willing to lie about it. You're not predicting anything but prediction; right or wrong, a prediction is a prediction, so you can safely predict that humans will go on making predictions, right or wrong, but mostly wrong. So much for your brand of scientism and apologetic for the wibbly fields where the strategy is to get lucky. If you can put up with knowing what you're doing at least that much, then so can I.

But let's ask the question with eyes open: How well do humans predict each other? What trivial examples do you want to cite? If prediction fails, redefine success. I'm not saying that you should stop what you're doing, whatever that is. But if you want to inflate its significance, there are easier customers to sell that crap to than I. Broadcasting in the blind isn't a marketing strategy except in old fashioned radio and television. If I had an ad-blocker for this kind of crap, guess what would happen? You'd be the beneficiary of it.
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

#4673  Postby romansh » Jan 14, 2017 5:21 pm

Hari Seldon came to mind reading your last post Cito. What's it got to do with anything?

The problem with free will, it is an incoherent concept when defined in terms of indeterminism, determinism or mixtures thereof. What should we do about it? "Should" makes no sense if free will is an illusion. What will we do about it? Time will give us an inkling.

For those that believe in free will ... they can do whatever they think they should.
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Re: Free Will

#4674  Postby archibald » Jan 14, 2017 5:34 pm

zoon wrote:
Cito di Pense wrote:
zoon wrote:We already predict each other well enough for usefulness, although, as economists repeatedly discover, those predictions are not always accurate.


Well, it sounds like your perspective is very short term, not that there's anything wrong with that. Birds do it, bees do it, overeducated fleas do it. If you wanted to say that humans are organisms, I think we already knew that, perfesser.

Many simple organisms are far more predictable than humans, but scientists are nowhere close to predicting even the simplest bacterium in terms of the exact positions of its constituent atoms. If neuroscientists ever do predict people more effectively than humans already predict each other, it's unlikely to be with atomic-level accuracy.


Yes, the system/method that produces the best probablistic predictions (not necessarily 100% correct predictions) wins. :)

As you say, at the moment, our prehistoric brains do a half-decent enough job (enough to have helped in our survival so far, perhaps) and arguably better than any computational or neuroscientific method devised by humans yet. Or maybe it's intractable, at least as you say if we are seeking to model it at the atomic level.

One caveat to that is that we are talking about predicting what an individual will do. Predicting large populations might be another matter. It might even be easier, in some ways. What an individual ice crystal might do might be harder to predict than where a cloud will go, at least in the short term.

On a side note, I read that some experiments have already produced results in which observers can predict (simple) decisions that subjects make with an above-average hit rate (64%, I think, in John Dylan-Haynes' experiment and I think 80% claimed by Itzhak Fried, when attaching electrons to single neurons). It strikes me that even getting anywhere near those percentages seems to be counter-indicative for free will. If technological advances allow for better and better recording and these percentages can be repeatedly obtained or improved on, I think it would be very very hard to still argue for free will. But then I think that already. :)
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Re: Free Will

#4675  Postby VazScep » Jan 14, 2017 6:03 pm

archibald wrote:As you say, at the moment, our prehistoric brains do a half-decent enough job (enough to have helped in our survival so far, perhaps)
You've got a long way to go from noticing that humans have survived to saying that humans have any particular feature.

The organisms that have survived to this day survived to this day through all that weather. So what?
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Re: Free Will

#4676  Postby zoon » Jan 14, 2017 9:56 pm

VazScep wrote:
archibald wrote:As you say, at the moment, our prehistoric brains do a half-decent enough job (enough to have helped in our survival so far, perhaps)
You've got a long way to go from noticing that humans have survived to saying that humans have any particular feature.

The organisms that have survived to this day survived to this day through all that weather. So what?

The particular feature in question is predicting other conspecifics, and there are large quantities of experimental evidence that humans are especially good at this, and have areas of the brain that are specialised for it. For one striking example, the abstract of a 2012 paper here reads (the full paper is not available free):
Birgit Knudsen and Ulf Liszkowski (2012) wrote:
Eighteen- and 24-month-old infants correct others in anticipation of action mistakes
Abstract
Much of human communication and collaboration is predicated on making predictions about others’ actions. Humans frequently use predictions about others’ action mistakes to correct others and spare them mistakes. Such anticipatory correcting reveals a social motivation for unsolicited helping. Cognitively, it requires forward inferences about others’ actions through mental attributions of goal and reality representations. The current study shows that infants spontaneously intervene when an adult is mistaken about the location of an object she is about to retrieve. Infants pointed out a correct location for an adult before she was about to commit a mistake. Infants did not intervene in control conditions when the adult had witnessed the misplacement, or when she did not intend to retrieve the misplaced object. Results suggest that preverbal infants anticipate a person’s mistaken action through mental attributions of both her goal and reality representations, and correct her proactively by spontaneously providing unsolicited information.

This is preverbal human infants making inferences about others’ actions which go beyond anything non-human animals have been shown to achieve, they have inferred a false belief to predict another individual, they are not simply using their knowledge of the world. Preverbal infants are unlikely to have learned this ability from other people, it's almost certainly evolved. The abstract of an experiment which compares 5 year old children to apes in a similar task is here:
Krachun C, Carpenter M, Call J, Tomasello M. (2009) wrote:
A competitive nonverbal false belief task for children and apes.
Krachun C, Carpenter M, Call J, Tomasello M.
Abstract
A nonverbal false belief task was administered to children (mean age 5 years) and two great ape species: chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and bonobos (Pan paniscus). Because apes typically perform poorly in cooperative contexts, our task was competitive. Two versions were run: in both, a human competitor witnessed an experimenter hide a reward in one of two containers. When the competitor then left the room (version A) or turned around (version B), the experimenter switched the locations of the containers. The competitor returned and reached with effort, but unsuccessfully, towards the incorrect container. Children displayed an understanding of the competitor's false belief by correctly choosing the other container to find the reward. Apes did not. However, in version A (but not version B), apes looked more often at the unchosen container in false belief trials than in true belief control trials, possibly indicating some implicit or uncertain understanding that needs to be investigated further.

A 2009 review article comparing the capabilities of humans and chimpanzees when predicting other agents is available in full here, the abstract reads:
Josep Call and Michael Tomasello wrote:
Does the chimpanzee have a theory of mind? 30 years later
Abstract
On the 30th anniversary of Premack and Woodruff’s seminal paper asking whether chimpanzees have a
theory of mind, we review recent evidence that suggests in many respects they do, whereas in other respects they might not. Specifically, there is solid evidence from several different experimental paradigms that chimpanzees understand the goals and intentions of others, as well as the perception and knowledge of others. Nevertheless, despite several seemingly valid attempts, there is currently no evidence that chimpanzees understand false beliefs. Our conclusion for the moment is, thus, that chimpanzees understand others in terms of a perception–goal psychology, as opposed to a full-fledged, human-like belief–desire psychology.
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Re: Free Will

#4677  Postby ughaibu » Jan 15, 2017 12:40 am

romansh wrote:The problem with free will, it is an incoherent concept when defined in terms of indeterminism, determinism or mixtures thereof.
The most that is meant, by philosophers, by "free will", is the ability of some agents, on some occasions, to make and consistently enact a conscious choice from amongst realisable alternative courses of action. Notice that free will is not defined "in terms of indeterminism, determinism or mixtures thereof", so you seem to be attempting to build a strawman.
Determinism is the stance that: 1. at all times the world has a definite state, that can, in principle, be exactly and globally described, 2. there are laws of nature that are same in all places and at all times, in the world, 3. given the state of the world at any time, the state of the world at all other times, is exactly and globally entailed by the given state and the laws of nature. By "indeterminism" I assume you mean the stance that a world is not determined.
So, you have the relevant definitions, please demonstrate that free will is an incoherent concept.
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Re: Free Will

#4678  Postby archibald » Jan 15, 2017 1:11 am

VazScep wrote:
archibald wrote:As you say, at the moment, our prehistoric brains do a half-decent enough job (enough to have helped in our survival so far, perhaps)
You've got a long way to go from noticing that humans have survived to saying that humans have any particular feature.

The organisms that have survived to this day survived to this day through all that weather. So what?


Fair enough. I'm speculating (hence the perhaps). And it's true that different features and abilities may allow different species to survive in certain (often niche) habitats or conditions. We may not be the only species to have managed to survive for a while, and some may have survived longer than us, but at the same time it would seem a stretch to me to suggest that the unusual features and abilities that come with a human brain have not played a part in our own 'success'. I'd like to hear the case for that alternative before changing my mind. :)

After all, we have managed to survive in a much wider variety of habitats than most (or any) other creature and if some reports and prognoses are correct we have proliferated to the point that we may be causing a mass extinction of other species.

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2011/03/ ... extinction
"That's the conclusion of a new study, which calculates that three-quarters of today's animal species could vanish within 300 years"
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Re: Free Will

#4679  Postby VazScep » Jan 15, 2017 10:22 am

I am not arguing a case, and I won't since we're not on the same page. This began with ughaibu postulating an infallible human prediction machine, which Cito suggested might just amount so solving an intractable problem, while I mentioned sensitivity to inputs. I could have gone further. ughaibu notes that humans are happy to set themselves up in situations where they aim to confound prediction.

I could also suggest that the problem of infallibly modelling humans has yet to be properly defined. One neat idea from the behaviourists is that the complex behaviours of animals is to be found in the environment: you're just moving along a gradient. This isn't something I'd like to take too far, but it does suggest the problem is yet to be properly specified.

Can humans predict each other sometimes? Jesus. Of course. Cue trivial examples, some involving keeping appointments years in advance. Where do these examples fit in our understanding of human evolution and our ability to survive? You can make up a story, but I won't pretend it is either science or philosophy.
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Re: Free Will

#4680  Postby archibald » Jan 15, 2017 12:16 pm

VazScep wrote:Where do these examples fit in our understanding of human evolution and our ability to survive? You can make up a story, but I won't pretend it is either science or philosophy.


I think saying it's not science is stretching things a bit. It's possibly not entirely a hard science, but then I don't know if it ever could be entirely that when it comes to evolution. But if a scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment, then it would seem to be demonstrable that certain features and abilities confer survival advantages, and being able to better predict what another competitor is about to do would appear to be an obvious one. In short, I think anyone who would suggest that it isn't has a much longer and trickier way to go.

As for the rest of your post, I'm not clear how this informed your initial reply at post 4675?
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