Sean Carroll: We might solve free will one day. But here’s why I doubt it. Subscribe to Big Think on YouTube ► 🤍🤍youtube.com/channel/UCvQECJukTDE2i6aCoMnS-Vg?sub_confirmation=1 Up next, The great free will debate ► 🤍youtu.be/3O61I0pNPg8 Debates about the existence of free will have traditionally been fought by two competing camps: those who believe in free will and those who don’t because they believe the Universe is deterministic. Determinism is the thesis that every event — from when a volcano erupts to what cereal you buy at the supermarket — is a theoretically predictable result of the long chain of events that came before it. Free will, it was long thought, cannot exist in a world where all events are already causally determined. But free will and determinism aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. As physicist Sean Carroll told Big Think, the compatibilist conception of free will argues that it makes sense to conceptualize ourselves as able to make free decisions, regardless of whether the Universe is deterministic or indeterministic. Why? The main argument centers on the phenomenon of emergence. 0:00 Free will vs. determinism 0:27 Determinism 0:51 The biggest mistake in the free will debate 1:07 Libertarian free will 2:39 Compatibilist free will 4:01 Objection to compatibilism 5:06 The experience of free will Read the video transcript ► 🤍bigthink.com/series/devils-advocate/3-free-will-arguments/ About Sean Carroll: Dr. Sean Carroll is Homewood Professor of Natural Philosophy — in effect, a joint appointment between physics and philosophy — at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and fractal faculty at the Santa Fe Institute. Most of his career has been spent doing research on cosmology, field theory, and gravitation, looking at topics such as dark matter and dark energy, modified gravity, topological defects, extra dimensions, and violations of fundamental symmetries. These days, his focus has shifted to more foundational questions, both in quantum mechanics (origin of probability, emergence of space and time) and statistical mechanics (entropy and the arrow of time, emergence and causation, dynamics of complexity), bringing a more philosophical dimension to his work. Read more of our stories on free will: Why free will is like whiskey ► 🤍bigthink.com/thinking/free-will-mixed-straight-alfred-mele/ Do the laws of physics and neuroscience disprove free will? ► 🤍bigthink.com/13-8/physics-neuroscience-free-will/ Superdeterminism: To better understand our Universe, ditch the idea of free will ► 🤍bigthink.com/hard-science/superdeterminism-free-will/ About Big Think | Smarter Faster™ ► Big Think The leading source of expert-driven, educational content. With thousands of videos, featuring experts ranging from Bill Clinton to Bill Nye, Big Think helps you get smarter, faster by exploring the big ideas and core skills that define knowledge in the 21st century. ► Big Think+ Make your business smarter, faster: 🤍bigthink.com/plus/ Want more Big Think? ► Daily editorial features: 🤍bigthink.com/popular/ ► Get the best of Big Think right to your inbox: 🤍bigthink.com/st/newsletter ► Facebook: 🤍bigth.ink/facebook ► Instagram: 🤍bigth.ink/Instagram ► Twitter: 🤍bigth.ink/twitter
Sean Carroll is a brilliant physicist, but - when it comes to compatibilism - I gotta agree with Immanuel Kant who labeled it "a petty word-jugglery." You can get lots of amazing stuff through emergence, but not something that's fundamentally against the nature of the underlying processing.
I like the video, gives more people the opportunity to think about topics like these.
But I think you missed a crucial part.
Well, rohgVwQ57uM&t=5m06s 5:06 . I think you need to differentiate first, how decisions are made. The argument of anti-free will is not:
"I had every information available to think about, so i chose this way of acting because it was the only way i could react properly", but rather:
"the constellation of our particles in our brain only follow the flow of physics, and therefore create a thought, a decision, and because it was based on physics the particles could not have ended up in a different places, resulting in a different decision." .
The underlying question you have not answered, is whether or not the world and particles create our thoughts, or the other way around, whether our metaphorical mind with its thoughts can physically alter reality, by shaping the flow of the particles in our brain. How are these effects correlated? That is what it comes down to.
Also rohgVwQ57uM&t=4m01s 4:01 , you contradict yourself, saying that if we could measure every microexpression, then the concept of free will might no longer make sense and seize to exist. But, that would only be possible if the theory was wrong in the first place?
It doesnt help that we "probably will never be able to measure everything at the same time", because our technology isnt good enough, this is about theory. And if it was theoretically possible to measure everything and predict behaviour, what you stated, then yes, your theory about free will collapses in itself.
Now, I do think that in the meantime, before we prove or disprove anything, we should act like everyone has free will. Otherwise, this whole kindness and civilisation thing wouldnt work, if we were to act as we were just machines made out of meat and electricity.
So, be kind, civilised, and act as you are responsible for your actions.
His argument basically is "I know everything is deterministic, but I feel like we have free will"
There is a very good reason why people object to the notion that they "could not have done otherwise”. It’s called “cognitive dissonance”.
Suppose, you tell your child “I have two ice cream cones, chocolate and vanilla. You can choose either one, and I will have the other.” Then the child chooses the chocolate. Now, if you say to the child, “You could not have chosen the vanilla”, and your child is bright, she will say, “Either you were lying at first, or you are lying now. You told me I could choose the vanilla. Now you are saying I could not have chosen it! One of those must be false, because they directly contradict each other.”
And the child is correct, of course.
You’ve made a small error in your logic. You’ve equated what “can” happen with what “will” happen. You’ve assumed that if something “would not happen", then it “could not have happened”.
To eliminate the dissonance, try replacing “could not” with “would not”. If you say to your child “You would not have chosen the vanilla”, she will accept that. She knows that she prefers chocolate, and that given the same options, she would always choose chocolate. So, “you would not have chosen vanilla” does not produce any cognitive dissonance.
But she will not accept the notion that she “could not” have chosen the vanilla, because, after all, you just finished telling her that she could choose the vanilla, just before she chose the chocolate.
And this is always true whenever choosing shows up in a causal chain. In order to make a choice, we must first believe that we actually have two things that we can choose between. From the two things we “can” choose, we select the single thing that we “will” choose.
Thus, at the end of any choosing event, we will have the single thing that we “would” choose, and at least one other thing that we “could have” chosen, but didn’t.
The logical blunder has unfortunately become ingrained in the common definition of determinism, as implying that we “could not have done otherwise”, when all that is truly implied is that we “would not have done otherwise”.
When we say that we “could have chosen vanilla” we are implying that (a) we did not choose it and (b) that we only would have chosen it if circumstances were different. And this comports with the facts of the matter.
She could have chosen vanilla, but she would not have chosen it. This statement is TRUE in both its parts.
If there are factors then there is something. If there is something (laws of physics) interacting with each other, then there is no such thing as free will.
For free will to exist, you'd have to remove all life and be in non existence because if something is an effect of something else (even if random) then there is no free will.
The illusion of free will comes from not being able to accurately predict the future because there's too many factors and it would take someone that could calculate everything in the entire universe to map out everything but this is impossible.
So we feel we make choices that are free or at least some of us feel free.
I love this information.
Old stuff that doesn't hold up to scrutiny. People have agency, but agency comes in many flavors. A robot has a type of rudimentary agency. Free will is, perhaps, the ultimate form of agency where individual decisions or behaviors are not the result of a chain of events related by cause and effect and initiated by causes other than free will. Human intelligence, and hence free will, derives from the interaction of neurons. A neuron itself has no intelligence. It's simply a switch. When it fires (turns on), it can effect (cause) a cascading flow of other neurons to fire. The brain is constantly awash with these cascading flows of signals in which the firing of every neuron is subject to natural laws of cause and effect. Truly free will requires that something happen that is not subject to natural laws that changes the course of one or more of these natural cascading flows. A theory of free will has to address that question. Emergent systems fails to do that. The discussion here also fails to consider how emergent systems arise. They arise from natural law. They do not violate the physics of cause and effect. Emergent systems is not simple a digression that is irrelevant to free will. It is sophistry about the concept. There is no compatibility between Compatibilism and physics without explaining how free will, unencumbered by physical law, affects neuron firing.
He conflated two different meanings of the phrase "free wills." I.e., he's being dishonest.
Emergence hasn’t been demonstrated though
It’s just a belief. A theory, if you will, but like multiple worlds, one that can’t be disproven
I would define free will as consciousness affecting matter and energy through the mind having some minimal control over thought patterns and body movements. Driving cross country is a prime example of cognition's ability to control the movement of matter and energy in a non random way.
I had no choice but to stalk my ex and call him 10000 times
This is dumb Sean. Let me just give you a not too far in the future example - shirts. Every time you pick the "red shirt" your mind has a certain set of physics things happening (there is a collection of signals happening). We can record those with real time sensors. We record enough of them, we know the formula for you that means "red shirt." Then, so you never need to feel that internal conflict again, we attach a neural-link to you that sends the "red shirt" signal to your brain, every time. Never again do you chose the blue shirt. You are just a robot made of meat that we don't understand ALL of the code for yet. One step at a time, we can learn the code of you. And with your permission, use that code to dictate the best actions every time.
here is a good scientific term now: LOOSEY-GOOSEY :)
A very simplistic explanation for one of the most important questions we as the human race want to answer
This 6 minutes and 44 seconds of absolutely nothing cannot possibly even begin to explain the concept let alone oppose it
What happens when you do the double split experiment on light coming from a distant star? 1 billion light years away so a billion years ago? Will the state of the photon acting as a wave or a particle reach back into the past depending on what choice I make now? I believe that the only way you can resolve such paradoxes is not even superdeterminism. It's to see the universe as a closed loop recursive system and our idea of time as illusory.
Isn’t the point from the likes of Sam Harris, not that our choices don’t matter but rather that the freedom to make any choice is itself an illusion, that whatever we choice, was pre-determined by our exiting and prior conditions? Therefore: Free Will is illusionary.
So the compatibilist position is "we don't know, therefore free will"?
"There is no randomness" sounds nonsensical. Perfection is an abstraction, so we live in an imperfect universe wherein, for one example among many, matter won out over antimatter and there is "something" rather than an abstract state of perfection of "nothing", and to say there is no randomness in the universe is akin to making a statement that we're in a "perfect" universe.
Emergence does not negate determinism. That’s like saying a building is an emergent property of bricks, but is not subject to the laws of physics. No amount of emergence will change the fundamental nature of how those bricks will behave and those behaviors will affect the building as a whole — ie. entropy
If a person were truly free to choose from any thought or action, then that person would have to know EVERY possible thought or action to choose from. The fact that we are limited to only things the universe allowed us to know, dictates we are subject to the laws and choices the universe determines. This we are not free to decide anything.
I am not free to violate the theories of relativity, even though I want to, because I have no idea how I could violate those laws. I can’t choose to visit the sun, because the universe has not provided me with the knowledge of how to get there.
More importantly, no matter how much might want a thing, there is absolutely nothing I can do to “unwant” it.
— every day I want to believe in Jesus. I ask and I ask for signs. I get nothing. Am I free to believe in Jesus? Is it my fault if I can’t find faith, even though I search for it daily? I cannot choose to believe anything, because the universe has made me and my MIND the way it is and there’s nothing I can do to change my beliefs. Where’s the free will?!
I respect Dr. Carroll in many levels, but I think this is s case of simplicity confusing the wise. You sound like a religious person saying my lack of faith in god is because I have a choice to believe or not — ergo it’s my fault for not believing Preposterous.
For free will to exist, then we must have infinite options to choose from at every moment in Planck time. Anything less means our actions are governed by physics, regardless of how minuscule those governance might be.
Now, could someone explain, with intelligent debate, why I might be wrong. Because I see no other way around this. We cannot know anything the universe will not divulge. We cannot know anything that doesn’t exist in the universe. Therefore, the universe determines our choice, regardless of how much we think otherwise.