Free Will — macro and micro.
Often when people try to explain that there is no Free Will, that there CAN’T BE any Free Will in the physical Universe as we know it, they describe events in our daily life; the choosing between vanilla and chocolate ice cream, turning left or right, moving a finger, etc. For me this is like pointing at the moving car when it’s actually about a carbon/oxygen chemical reaction in a cylinder, redistribution of energy, ball bearings, spindle, shafts and wheels.
Often they also talk about the lack of Free Will because of the fact that we don’t choose our parents and where and when we are born, what events we are going to meet, our DNA. For me that’s to “macro” for my taste. It’s not false, but it’s to shallow and “meta”. It’s like explaining a process from a far distance and focusing on attributes, not the complex patterns of causality behind the event. It’s like — and here comes the car analogy again — explaining why the car is moving by describing the wheels that spin over a passive road, while I’m talking about the chemical behavior of gasoline that are ignited in a hermetic cylinder, a gas that expands and pressing a piston downwards, the easiest way it can move. And the electricity to the spark plug that made the flash that ignited the gasoline. And the car is moving also because of the paved road under it and that’s another ”story” of causes and effects; the story about political decisions and mass organising of labour that constructed that road and paved it. Zillions of “threads” from the Big Bang meets where the rubber meets the asfalt. Nothing is ”passive”.
Many respectable scientists and philosophers can’t accept that there is no Free Will. Some explain that even though an action is decided on a subconscious level before our conscious Self — half a second later — experience the sensation that it is executing the action by choice; they suggest that also the subconscious decision was made by Free Will. In some magic way — they imagine — we have control over things we don’t know anything about and that we make free decisions without knowing it. For me, that’s NOT Free Will. I refuse to consider Free Will outside of consciousness. For me this is like saying that we are controlling our dreams. Like we are controlling reflexes. It’s like EVERYTHING is Free Will, that the whole Universe is based on Free Will and every atom — or sub-atomic particle — have Agency, that the earth is spinning around the Sun by its Free Will.
For me this is even more un-intuitive that to say that we have NO Free Will. If I can’t even conceive Free Will WITH consciousness, how could I conceive it WITHOUT consciousness?
So, some say that of course a pianist can’t play Chopin on the piano by executing every finger movement by Free Will, but it was by Free Will the pianist booked that event, planned that evening, took a taxi to the concert hall and entered the piano bench. The playing itself though, is heavily rehearsed motor patterns automaticly executed on time.
I say it’s all patterns executed by causes and effects. Everything. For me there can’t be ”a little” Free Will in the Universe, there can’t be pockets of Free Will in a Universe of causality. If ONE event since the Big Bang was the result of an Agent with Free Will, microscopic or huge, the whole thing totally breaks down. For me the notion of Free Will is absurd and the clame that there can’t be ANY Free Will in Universe is much, much less absurd.
Imagine a robot made by us. A quite advanced man-like robot with a super-computer as a brain. We have programmed it to do many things. One of the programs is that when the temperature in the room hits plus 30 degrees Celsius, it will prepare to lift a glass of water on a table; it calibrates the system, calculate information from sensors and starts a hydraulic motor that create pressure in the hydraulic system that drives all mechanical parts in the aluminium body. This takes half a second. The program also — milliseconds before that the event is executed and the mechanical series of motions actually lifts the glass of water, which is the next step in the program — sends an inpuls to another program that triggers an “agency-lamp” on the head of the robot. That “agency-lamp” is our Consciousness and it has an built-in chip that runs an algorithm that interprets that the trigger it got milliseconds before the event, actually was a decision ”itself” made to execute that event. The Conscious Self gets a tip-off about what is going to happen, and it interprets the tip-off as an order to execute the event. Something like that.
I imagine that Consciousness is always a timeframe after Reality. There is a latency between Reality and Consciousness, whether it’s internal or external Reality. When we move our bodies through life with the intuitive notion/feeling of Agency and control, our Consciousness is actually just processing events and puts a layer of imagined Agency over it. If the delay is an hour or one millisecond is irrelevant; it’s there, our Self never lives in the Now.
Thoughts pops up because of electro-chemical causalities, patterns emerge and disappear, sometimes short flashes of fragmented information, emotions, feelings, sometimes long coherent series of bits that can result in a narrative, like when I’m right now writing this text.
Those respectable scientists and philosophers may say that those small day to day actions may be automatic beyond any Free Will, but what about long term planning? When we think about the future in the longer run? Planning for the Hollidays? Move to another city next year? Staying with or leaving a partner? How to vote in a coming election? When we drift away in thoughts and temporary surpress the sensory flow generated by the Reality? This must be decisions made by Free Will? This must be neuro-processes controlled by the Self, the conscious Agency? This narrative must be “written” by ourself and we can chose what to “write”?
For med this is magical thinking. A faith in a super natural brain-function that can alter the flow of neuro-electrical causality by Will. I wish this could be true, I really want to believe in this magic. But I can’t. The causal processes in my brain manifesting as a pattern that don’t believe in that. My Self is aware of the fact that ”I” am an ”illusion” and that “I” am just ”looking” at a movie playing out ”infront” of ”Me”. That’s a causes and effects manifestation in a bio-system — my brain — at this exact moment. Causality make most believe in Free Will and causality make a few — like me — NOT believe in Free Will.
For me it’s meaningless to separate action and events regarding their timeline. For me there is no difference between the action to lift a finger and the action to plan a moon-landing and finally land there. Not regarding Free Will.
Either those respectable scientists and philosophers — I earlier mentioned — are emotionally blocked to the terrible fact that there can’t be any Free Will in the Universe, or they just think to shallow and don’t comprehend — for us humans — the extremely complex structure of the causality web that rolls out since the Big Bang. Maybe they just don’t have the “fantasy”, the ability to very abstract thinking (this have nothing to do with “intelligence”). Whatever; they are just executing causalities in their brains, they didn’t choose to believe in Free Will by executing Free Will, like I didn’t choose my disbelieve in Free Will by executing Free Will. It is what it is and it has to be exactly this way. Now. At this millisecond.
First you have to bring down the speed in the Universe to even touch any notion of what I’m trying to explain. We can fast forward everything from the Big Bang to Now, but then let us bring down the speed of events to extremely slow-motion. Then you imagine a super microscope and take a close look at the brain. The brain is a storm of activity and this storm — of course like every other storm — is generated by earlier events stretching back to the Big Bang.
Now let us slow down the speed even more and focus on one single neuron. That neuron — and every other object down to quarks — act on forces from the past, from what happened a billionth of a second ago, and that event was acting on forces from one billionth of a second before that, and that…and it all goes back to the Big Bang. Think of trillions and trillions of causality “strings” blooming out from the Big Bang, like a firework that explodes and hundreds of fiery “strings” cascade out from the high energy main detonation.
Those “strings” of causality interacts and creates new patterns as time “passes by” (or actually creates Time). All this energy redistribution can result in a star, a planet, climate and weather on that planet, DNA, homeostasis, information patterns in a mammal brain. It’s all the same to me. It’s all causality played out as it HAVE to play out and NOTHING can change the course of the “strings” of events — big or small. It’s all the same. A big explosion still going on.
Zillions of zillions energy redistributions in the neuro-system happens every millisecond and it’s all causality playing out since the Big Bang. When two brains — two Conscious Selfs — meet, they do not influence one and other because of Free Will, it’s just two biological energy systems interacting and new events will be the result of that. It’s like two electromagnetic fields come close enough to interfere and change each internal electromagnetic state and maybe some surrounding states. When two brains meet the interactions can start with optics, visual inputs (direct or via symbols like the text you read right now) , tactile input (e.g. touching of the “shell” — the body), audio input (e.g. music can dramatically change the receiving brains emotion-production), etc.
Causality on micro-level also — of course — produce dreams when you are asleep and result in alternations in your Conscious state when you wake up.
You may explain the light from a bulb with concepts of a switch, wirings, a thin thread with resistance in a vacuum glass bowl. I’m talking about the electrons bouncing and crashing inside that thread and that every single electrons behavior and path is the result of previous causations.
Weather: A thunder-storm. Our atmosphere is the result of causality since earth young age, and the causality soup we call weather has been active since. Warm air. Cold air. Winds. Clouds emerge and dissolve. A thunder-storm is generated. Energy gather and releases. A flash. Why did that flash burst exactly when it did? Was it Thor executing Free Will with his hammer? Or was it an astronomic amount of microscopic causes and effects bouncing around — and the casual state of the earth below at exactly that moment — that resulted in the flash? Not to mention the surrounding air density and humidity?
The brain is zillions of those flashes every millisecond and forming patterns — or “states”. The brain is like the weather. A storm.
Every thought that pops up in your brain is a result of previous series of energy redistributions. If you sit calmly in your chair an evening and planning your next day, it’s all just neuro-activity playing out the inevitable. The illusion of Self and Free Will is also a result of Domino tiles falling, and this phenomena makes the Self totally convinced that it produces those thoughts — the planning — by Agency, by ItSelf, by Free Will. Right now, typing this text on my laptop, is a result of causality since the Big Bang, it “feels” like I chose every letter I type, every thought I think, it “feels” like I’m doing everything by Free Will. It’s just an illusion, and my thought that it is an illusion is also the result of causalities since the Big Bang.
Let’s say you HAVE Free Will. Where and how are your thoughts generated? Close your eyes and relax. Notice the thoughts that emerges. Where do they come from? If you “decide” to think about an apple, where did that thought — the decision — come from? How did you — the Self — rearrange and interrupt zillions of particles — who all were on the path of causality and under the law of Nature — to generate a new pattern that is the thought ”you” chose to think? And the ”you” who can modulate and create novel thoughts by Free Will at command — out of a cluster of neuro-activity otherwise under the forces of causality; what is ”it” made of? Where does ”it” come from? And…who or what decided that you decided what to think that exact moment?
All honest music composers knows that they did not really create all that music, not in the sense we normally give to the word “create”. They testify that they rather just “collected” music that popped up in their brains. Some say it came from gods or cosmic beams. The later — “cosmic beams” — is less crazy. It’s all causality and patterns in the brain emerges by necessity based on earlier events, millisecond by millisecond until you are back in time and meet the Big Bang. The “cosmic beams” can — with generous paraphrasing — describe all those zillions of causalities — the series of events — that meet up in the brain and generated a pattern that was interpreted by Self inside consciousness — as music.
The “collection” is also — of course — causality. We “feel” like we collect and that ”feeling” is also a series of electro-chemical causalities. We ”feel” like we collect and assembly, but it’s all automatic and the ”feeling” is also automatic.
The main problem to grasp all this is the complexity and the speed.
Focus on ONE particle of energy at the Big Bang moment. Follow it as it affects another particle, and that particle bumps into another particle that generates an effect on another particle, that…and so on…
Imagine ONE line of causes and effects from the first particle all the way to ONE particle in a neuron in your brain.
Now imagine zillions of zillions of zillions of those lines from the Big Bang to all your particles in all your neurons in your brain.
Now, speed up the time from the Big Bang to now, so it’s just one second; imagine that Big bang was one second ago.
So, don’t forget to notice that any event in universe is not an isolated reaction, it’s the result of a meeting — or meetings — between many events. Every effect have many causes. When two people meet and start talking to each other, the event and all its effects is caused by booth arriving there at exact that moment. “Influence” is not what we may intuitive think it is, wether we talk about two people talking too each other or two atoms interact. The “cause” that gave the “effect” is always the result of all participations in that space and time. Nothing can “influence” anything without the predisposition of the object that are supposed to have been “influenced”. All objects in a “meeting” are “responsible” for the effect the meeting result in. And all this is fluid, there is no “pauses”. It’s all just enormous energy redistributions, unimaginable amounts of sub-atomic causes and effects, that “rolls out” like a stream, a stream we can call “Time”.