Free will and the game of Life...

Thread Starter

cmartinez

Joined Jan 17, 2007
7,335
Extremely interesting article about the conflict of physical determinism and the existence of free will. @nsaspook. not to be deterministic, but I have a feeling you will enjoy this one as well. ;)

Yes, researchers have created many cellular automata that incorporate quantum effects, including nonlocality. There are even quantum versions of the Game of Life. But, predictably, experts disagree on whether nonlocal cellular automata bolster the case for free will.
 

nsaspook

Joined Aug 27, 2009
8,390
IMO this tells us nothing about free will. Wolfram's ideas about cellular automata are a combination of good food and dog crap.
 

Thread Starter

cmartinez

Joined Jan 17, 2007
7,335
IMO this tells us nothing about free will. Wolfram's ideas about cellular automata are a combination of good food and dog crap.
In other words, it's a good looking meal that happens to be poisoned?

He notes that many cellular automata, including the Game of Life, display the property of “computational irreducibility.” That is, you cannot predict in advance what the cellular automata are going to do, you can only watch and see what happens. This unpredictability is compatible with free will, or so Wolfram suggests.
I don't like most of his arguments either. My question is, just because something is unpredictable proves the existence of free will? ...

Their analysis leads Conway and Kochen to conclude that the physicists possess free will—and so do the particles they are measuring. “Our provocative ascription of free will to elementary particles is deliberate,”
I think that last statement is too outlandish to be true. Free will, IMHO, pretrains to one's freedom to make a deliberate choice, and not a random choice. And that, by definition, requires consciousness... A particle does not have the ability to act like that.
 

ZCochran98

Joined Jul 24, 2018
141
From my experience of reading Wolfram's stuff, he's overly-obsessed with cellular automata, to the point of thinking it can explain everything in the known and unknown universe. However, his arguments, as have been observed, are frequently flimsy and tend to rely on leaps of logic. He knows cellular automata REALLY well, but he's also taken it to the point of overuse - the "everything's a nail if you only have a hammer" kind of thing.
 

michael8

Joined Jan 11, 2015
137
What impresses me about Conway's game of life is that the rules are very simple, however the implications of the rules
are not. So saying you know the rules doesn't at all imply you know the implications ("lifeforms") they imply.

It seems to me that this applies to real life too -- it's easy (or hard) to make rules, but the implications (results?) of
the rules so made are much harder to determine.
 

Thread Starter

cmartinez

Joined Jan 17, 2007
7,335
What impresses me about Conway's game of life is that the rules are very simple, however the implications of the rules
are not. So saying you know the rules doesn't at all imply you know the implications ("lifeforms") they imply.

It seems to me that this applies to real life too -- it's easy (or hard) to make rules, but the implications (results?) of
the rules so made are much harder to determine.
And yet, trying to apply "rules" to free will is a contradiction in terms.
 

bogosort

Joined Sep 24, 2011
674
I don't like most of his arguments either. My question is, just because something is unpredictable proves the existence of free will? ...
He says unpredictability is compatible with a theory of free will. In other words, unpredictability is a necessary (though not sufficient) property of any theory of free will. I think this is a standard line of thought.
 

Thread Starter

cmartinez

Joined Jan 17, 2007
7,335
He says unpredictability is compatible with a theory of free will. In other words, unpredictability is a necessary (though not sufficient) property of any theory of free will. I think this is a standard line of thought.
That was (more or less) my point. I should've used the word "only" instead of "just" to make my idea more clear.

OTH, this discussion is fun, but it will probably never end since we cannot prove to one another that we're conscious beings in the first place, which is a condition required for anyone (or anything) to have free will. IMO
 

bogosort

Joined Sep 24, 2011
674
From my experience of reading Wolfram's stuff, he's overly-obsessed with cellular automata, to the point of thinking it can explain everything in the known and unknown universe. However, his arguments, as have been observed, are frequently flimsy and tend to rely on leaps of logic. He knows cellular automata REALLY well, but he's also taken it to the point of overuse - the "everything's a nail if you only have a hammer" kind of thing.
He's pretty much given up on cellular automata in favor of directed graphs.

The consistent aspect of Wolfram is his bottom-up approach, which I think has merit. If nothing else it adds another perspective (and given the walls we've hit, we desperately need new perspectives). There really does seem to be something fundamentally important going on at the edge between simplicity and complexity, between stability and chaos, and the bottom-up approach seems better suited to exploring that edge. We know that there's only a slight difference between a thermodynamically inert universe and one that's full of stars, just as there's only a slight difference between a trivial cellular automaton and one that is Turing-complete. Interesting things happen at those boundaries.

I don't know if Wolfram's graphs are the best tool for the job -- personally, I believe that feedback is a fundamental, not emergent component -- but I'm glad for the different perspective it brings.
 

bogosort

Joined Sep 24, 2011
674
OTH, this discussion is fun, but it will probably never end since we cannot prove to one another that we're conscious beings in the first place, which is a condition required for anyone (or anything) to have free will. IMO
I don't have any problem believing that other people's experiences have a similar flavor to my own, and so don't need "proof" that other humans are conscious. The challenge for me is where to draw the line -- does a dog have consciousness? I think so. Does a mosquito? I'm less convinced, but certainly possible. Awareness of self seems to be a natural step in complexity after simple awareness.

Free will, on the other hand, seems intractable. Short of direct evidence that everything I do can be predicted, I have no meaningful evidence either way. People believe/disbelieve in free will for emotional reasons. Oddly, arguments about free will don't seem to inspire as much passion as arguments about religion and politics, which are also emotionally derived.
 

MrAl

Joined Jun 17, 2014
8,253
Extremely interesting article about the conflict of physical determinism and the existence of free will. @nsaspook. not to be deterministic, but I have a feeling you will enjoy this one as well. ;)

We are still using what we call reality to understand reality. We can only understand what we decide in advance about what reality is.

The way i understand it is that the existence or non existence of a deterministic reality today depends on your interpretation of quantum mechanics. Since there are different interpretations each will give you a different answer to this more or less assumed binary decision, i dont see this being resolved too soon. It could even be that there is not a binary resolution to this question to begin with.
Even questions regarding the Schrodinger Equation have come up recently for example with a new type of Hamiltonian that before was either not known or considered to not exist or not be valid.

So the way it seems at least for now is that these kinds of questions border on pure philosophy and we all know how much arguments differ when we go there.

An analogy i like to use is the proverbial "hole in the ground" and its relation to how we interpret reality. Does a "hole in the ground" really exist? It is a physical interpretation of reality, yet there is nothing there that we can call the bulk of the 'thing", Is it an object? If it is, then what it is made of?
Since it is "made of" material that is not actually a part of itself, is it real?
Some will say that it is real and some will say it is not. We can interact with the hole as if it was real, but we cant find any material that it is actually made up of.
There are some that will "declare" that the hole "should be" called real for various reasons. But to me that is just a convenient functional definition that should not be considered conclusive.

Determining the reality of something about quantum mechanics may be a little different. The binary reasoning being hoped for is more like a pinching function where we look for a limit to some measurement as something else keeps narrowing down the possibilities. But since we dont yet fully understand reality, we cant know if this process actually leads to a binary decision making. We are looking at something we dont understand to begin with which involves parts that make up the whole where we dont understand the parts yet and understanding the parts is what allows us to understand the parts (and thus the whole) so it's a paradox of sorts that may or may not come to a single outcome. There is always the chance that it will never lead to a single outcome simply because that may be the way reality really works.
A simpler way to state this may be to say that we "really" dont understand "reality" as we are using reality to try to understand reality and since we dont know what reality is yet it is up to us to decide what is and what isnt reality. Classical physics is sort of like this too as we have created definitions that depend on other definitions that in turn depend on the original definitions so within that set of definitions it is all exact even though it really isnt, it's just a statistical overview of everything which does not allow us to dig deeper.

So as we get down to the building blocks of reality we have to consider that the building blocks will have to not only explain the whole of reality they will also have to explain the building blocks themselves and this i think is either rare or impossible. At best i think we decide what the building blocks are so they can always explain the larger scope of reality while accepting that they can never explain themselves. Can we even consider a (rare) fractal nature of the universe solving this paradox which would probably be the only solution or would that still be just one possibility.
 
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Teljkon

Joined Jan 24, 2019
184
So as we get down to the building blocks of reality we have to consider that the building blocks will have to not only explain the whole of reality they will also have to explain the building blocks themselves and this i think is either rare or impossible.
In other words, and I agree, the universe or perhaps consciousness depending on which one you belive is observing the other is a klien bottle.
 

MrAl

Joined Jun 17, 2014
8,253
In other words, and I agree, the universe or perhaps consciousness depending on which one you belive is observing the other is a klien bottle.
Oh there you went and brought up consciousness dang you :)
I really didnt want to go there ha ha we have enough of a problem assuming that is already real.
There we have for one the "Evil Genius/Evil Demon" argument which just adds mystery to mysteriousness, fogginess to an already cloudy atmosphere.

Woe is us, with our feeble understanding of anything at all when all things great and small are considered simultaneously. We do however get some practical applications that stem from all the thought that goes into all of this. Some interesting inventions that are very useful to humanity, although some that are obviously very bad for humanity as well. Strangely in nature randomness seems to work better than intelligent control.
 

MrAl

Joined Jun 17, 2014
8,253
And yet, all of that "randomness" in nature leads in general to the progress and betterment of life ... why do you think that is?
Because the average of random behavior impacts nature less than intelligent control which seeks to maximize some outcome at the expense of others. This maximization leads us to an imbalance in nature sooner than the average would.

Could it be that intelligent control is just something nature had in mind all along? Perhaps an intelligence that is advanced enough to realize all the consequences of any maximizing action will prevail in the end, but i dont believe we are anywhere near that point in our own civilization.
 

ApacheKid

Joined Jan 12, 2015
388
Free will has been a subject of discourse for thousands of years, and has puzzled philosophers and scientists alike for centuries.

Deterministic systems - almost by definition - cannot posses free will, they may appear unpredictable and often are but that's not to be taken as free will, free will pretty much means not deterministic.

The problem then is that our laws of nature are deterministic, physical processes appear to be deterministic thus implying that a physical system cannot ever possess free will. The mathematics of general relativity and quantum science are deterministic models.

But does that means free will does not exist or does that mean that universe is not actually completely deterministic?

If you want to listen to a fascinating round table discussion among experts, this is worth a try BBC - In Our Time.
 

MrAl

Joined Jun 17, 2014
8,253
Free will has been a subject of discourse for thousands of years, and has puzzled philosophers and scientists alike for centuries.

Deterministic systems - almost by definition - cannot posses free will, they may appear unpredictable and often are but that's not to be taken as free will, free will pretty much means not deterministic.

The problem then is that our laws of nature are deterministic, physical processes appear to be deterministic thus implying that a physical system cannot ever possess free will. The mathematics of general relativity and quantum science are deterministic models.

But does that means free will does not exist or does that mean that universe is not actually completely deterministic?

If you want to listen to a fascinating round table discussion among experts, this is worth a try BBC - In Our Time.
Well as far as i know the current prevailing argument boils down to your interpretation of quantum mechanics. One view allows changes in the time line another doesnt.

Now can we say that any change is really free will or is it just a random process perceived as free will. A computer will not always make the same chess move from the same position given the same amount of time if there is a random factor built in when it comes to a point where two or more lines of play calculate out to a similar score.
I dont think that is free will so is that the way we all are we just dont realize it. I think most of us choose the most intelligent path for most things but then again there are things that are harder to define like for example "love" or even maybe "desire" where seemingly irrational functions kick in. OR is it that we just dont understand these things good enough yet. Perhaps given a deeper level or wider scope of analysis and the deterministic nature of that too would surface.

Then i like to question what randomness really is too. If i flip a coin an dont show it to anyone and ask them to tell me what came up heads or tails, to them it is a random decision but for me i already know the result so it's not random for me at that point in time. One man's randomness is another man's determinism :)
 

djsfantasi

Joined Apr 11, 2010
7,693
Then i like to question what randomness really is too. If i flip a coin an dont show it to anyone and ask them to tell me what came up heads or tails, to them it is a random decision but for me i already know the result so it's not random for me at that point in time. One man's randomness is another man's determinism
The flaw in this argument is that you are claiming determinism based on your knowledge of the coin flip result. However, if you flip a coin and cover it with your hand, isn’t the result also deterministic? You don’t know the result, but the coin does! Substituting the coins knowledge for your knowledge doesn’t make the event deterministic.
 
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