- The free will that humans enjoy is similar to that exercised by animals as simple as flies.
- Animals always have a range of options available to them...perceived as conscious decisions.
- The idea tackles one of history's great philosophical debates.
- What has been long established is that "deterministic behaviour" - the idea that an animal poked in just such a way will react with the same response every time - is not a complete description of behaviour.
- Even the simple animals are not the predictable automatons that they are often portrayed to be.
- However, the absence of determinism does not suggest completely random behaviour either.
- Experiments has shown that although animal behaviour can be unpredictable, responses do seem to come from a fixed list of options.
- Free will is not that lofty metaphysical thing that it was until the 1970s or so.
- It is a biological property, a trait; the brain possesses the freedom to generate behaviours and options on its own.
- The exact mechanism by which brains - from those of flies up to humans - do that generation remains a matter for experiments to more fully prove.
- There is no way the conscious mind, the refuge of the soul, could influence the brain without leaving tell-tale signs; physics does not permit such ghostly interactions.
- Brembs and others have used mathematical models to simulate brain activity on a computer, finding that what worked best was a combination of deterministic behaviour and what is known as stochastic behaviour - which may look random but actually, in time, follows a defined set of probabilities.
- Tethered fruit flies proved their choices to be neither deterministic nor random.
- The strong, Cartesian version of free will—the belief that if you were placed in exactly the same circumstances again, you could have acted otherwise—is difficult to reconcile with natural laws.
- There is no way the conscious mind, the refuge of the soul, could influence the brain without leaving tell-tale signs. Physics does not permit such ghostly interactions.
fredag 20 maj 2011
Free Will and Finite Precision Computation 5
The question if animals have some sort free will is addressed by BBC in Free Will Similar in Animals, Humans - But Not so Free based on the article Towards a scientific concept of free will as a biological trait: spontaneous actions and decision-making in invertebrates by Björn Brembs:
In short, free will seems to be expressed through a combination of goal-oriented determinism (as concerns big things) and indeterminism (as concerns little things), with a clear connection to finite precision computation.
It seems that the discussion has passed from sterile metaphysics into a more constructive analysis of finite precision computing minds...