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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2006 2:49 am 
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the Pirate's Daughter

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Whistler wrote:
Sorry for the osgiliation, but I felt predestined to post it.


:salmon:


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2006 2:57 am 
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I think destiny is a silly concept that has no basis in the real world. It might seem like you were predestined to post here for example, but I think people just misread chance. Though, not to say that everything is random . . . deterministic perhaps. You post here because you were feeling inquisitive today and wanted to know what others thought. I'd say that's about as far back as it directly goes, though everything is determined from what preceeds it because it couldn't have happened without the events that preceeded it.

Maybe I was just predestined to disagree, though.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2006 3:10 am 
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Ethel wrote:
It's not a photograph of Lali.


Ack! For the longest time Lali had that picture as her avatar on B77, and I thought it was a picture of her. When I met her in real life, my first words were, "You colored your hair!" because her hair was red. But she looked enough like that pic to pass and I continued to think it was her.

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Almost a definition of chaos theory, isn't it?


Oddly so. Things look nice and orderly for awhile, and then it goes all wacko, and then it gets orderly again and everyone looks around asking, "What was that?" :D

TED wrote:
Maybe I was just predestined to disagree, though.


Let's see if we can predict what socks TED will pick out to wear in the morning, and then check tomoroow whether he felt helplessly compelled to do exactly as we had predicted.

Hey, a game like that could be fun. :P

Jn

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2006 4:21 am 
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Whistler has risen even higher in my estimation, since he brought the name Ray Bradbury to this discussion.

Woot, Whistler. :D

Speaking of chance.

Remember the scifi story (maybe by Bradbury, but I'm not sure I recall that correctly) where the Martians learned that Earthmen were about to send a powerful rocket to Mars? The landing spot was fairly remote, some 100 miles East of the only city left inhabited on the dying planet but the Martians planned parties and celebrations of the event, planning to watch it on their TV-thingies. Some were going to stand on the city walls and watch the sky light up as the rocket arrived. This was bringing great hope to a dying civilization!

On Earth the scientists watched as the rocket burned through the thin Martian atmosphere. They were jubilant. The rocket had landed quite precisely, more precisely than they had dared hope: only 100 miles West of the intended landing spot.

So, ya see, no matter how much you know and plan it's never enough.

To quote someone in a story I read in high school: Choss rules.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2006 4:26 am 
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Dancing in the moonlight

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Sorry to osgilliate the osgilliations back to the original post :P but...

I do believe that there is free will, and I don't. I don't think that I was predestined to do anything or be anything or choose anything (predestined choice, seems a bit of an oxymoron :D ), but at the same time I don't think that what I do is the result of pure free will. It's hard for me to explain what I mean, but I'll try. The probability (using this term because my physics teacher always said that the universe was based on it, loosely) of my every action happening, looking at things from the beginning or very close to the beginning, was almost small enough to be considered impossible. But that probability doesn't really matter now, because it did happen. And because it did happen, it feels to me as though it was meant to happen. Not because some higher power or spirit decreed it to be so, but because it naturally happened. This is part of the reason why I have a hard time believing in moral absolutes, but it also relates to free will. I have no control over the past, and only a vague control of my own actions. If my arm itches and I scratch it, then I did so not so much because I chose to, but because it needed to be scratched. And if I didn't scratch it, it was because it didn't really need to be scratched. If I want to prove to myself that I have free will by doing five cartwheels in a row naked down Times Square, I'm only doing that because the issue was brought up in my mind by some outside connection, and because of my naturally skeptical ways, I wanted to disprove it. So I chose the action and I didn't choose it.

Make sense? No, it doesn't to me either. :P


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2006 5:01 am 
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Elsha, it actually makes perfect sense to me.

:help:

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2006 5:17 am 
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Dancing in the moonlight

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What's that in the distance?? *peers*

Oh, it's the men in the white coats come to take us awaaaaay! :shock:

I'm glad to know that I make sense to someone though. :D


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2006 6:28 am 
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Quote:
Let's see if we can predict what socks TED will pick out to wear in the morning, and then check tomoroow whether he felt helplessly compelled to do exactly as we had predicted.


C'mon people, let's get some guesses going! Color, type, and brand.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2006 3:30 pm 
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Ah, there's going to be trouble if Asimov is criticized! :D

Jn: 2. If there were mega-billions of humans, the range of possible outcomes would increase accordingly! You would have the same data shortage that you have now, relative to the question you were trying to answer. The mega-billions of humans would only help if their choices could be contained to exactly the choices we have right now. In such a case, by definition they would not be human.

The range of possible micro-state outcomes will change accordingly. But the range of possible macro-state outcomes will stay the same. And it was the macro-states that Asimov's Psychohistory was predicting. It is far easier to predict the macro-states of a gas when there are more molecules, even though there are more micro-states. In fact, it is the abundance of microstates that makes the macro-states so predictable.

But the hypothesis does fail at another, theoretical level, which is that the number of possible outcomes increases with the number of possible people. You don't really draw closer to predictability by increasing the number of people unless the people are mere automatons.

The range of choices a human has isn't proportionate to the number of humans living, though. The range of choices may well increase as the number of humans increases, but not without limit, I think. Each of us can only have so many neighbors.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2006 6:06 pm 
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Time, and therefore the twin illusions of free will and predestination, which require it, are functions of our perception of the universe as beings whose consciousness is fueled by physical processes.

This WILL NOT HELP YOU if you try to use it as a defense in court. :D

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2006 6:45 pm 
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Elsha wrote:
If my arm itches and I scratch it, then I did so not so much because I chose to, but because it needed to be scratched. And if I didn't scratch it, it was because it didn't really need to be scratched.


But what does it mean if you feel an itch, inspect the spot, find nothing that needs scratching, tell yourself firmly that it really doesn't itch, and the itch goes away? Then you didn't need to scratch, did you? :suspicious:

Yes, I do that regularly. I get poison ivy far too often, it's a useful ability.

Faramond wrote:
The range of possible micro-state outcomes will change accordingly. But the range of possible macro-state outcomes will stay the same. And it was the macro-states that Asimov's Psychohistory was predicting. It is far easier to predict the macro-states of a gas when there are more molecules, even though there are more micro-states. In fact, it is the abundance of microstates that makes the macro-states so predictable.


You should really read "Generations : The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069" and "The Fourth Turning:An American Prophecy" by William Strauss, Neil Howe. The authors analyze previous historical cycles and make predictions about how those cycles will repeat and when. It's very interesting, and they don't make specific predictions, just macro ones, like we are entering into another "Crisis" phase, and the next 20 years will be as bad or worse than the 20 years that included the Great Depression and WWII. :shock: What they say makes sense, but I never realized the resemblance to Asimov's psychohistorians until just now. :D 8)


I think there's a general plot to events in this world of ours, but specific actions are entirely up to the individual.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2006 7:17 pm 
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Maria wrote:
specific actions are entirely up to the individual.
And that's the question I pose. There is much talk, started by me I guess, talking about humans interacting with eachother and the predictability of the outcome. I also think that on a more basic level any human body including the brain, since it just a bunch of molecules and (electro)chemical reactions, is also (on the macro scale) reacting in a very, very predictable way to its stimulae, and choice is a mirage.

We're just part of the clock.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2006 8:19 pm 
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Some complicated behaviors do arise directly from biochemistry, but they are also predictable behaviors—a bird does such and such a mating dance, a school of fish cuts sharp left when something startling happens to the right, paper wasps build a particular kind of structure. The same thing happens in response to the same stimulus. But that isn't true of human life and creativity; people from the same background, the same family, even identical twins with identical genetic complements turn out to be different people who often react differently to the same stimulus.

I maintain that there is something more going on than a chemical process. Even if we had all the input values for a particular event, I don't believe that the output, the subsequent human behavior, would be predictable from them. We do have the power of choice.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2006 8:22 pm 
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But if you go all the way down to the atomic level?

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2006 8:37 pm 
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Looking at the atomic level can't even predict what happens on the molecular level. Atoms themselves are just probability clouds ruled by quantum phenomena.

If we are driven by something so simple, how do we create such a variety of cultures and behaviors, and such a richness of immensely complicated art? And why is the system so wasteful and inefficient—why aren't we all happy? Animal behavior works better than that!

Something about being human breaks that predictable chain of events.

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2006 11:34 pm 
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Primula Baggins wrote:
Looking at the atomic level can't even predict what happens on the molecular level. Atoms themselves are just probability clouds ruled by quantum phenomena.
Yes, but taking trillions of these particles together, the results are predicable to an incredible level of accuracy.

It's a bit like tossing an unbiased coin.

If you toss it 10 times, the number of times that heads appears at the average +/-10% (in other words between 4 and 6 times) is 66%.

If you toss it 100 times, the number of times that heads appears at the average +/-10% (in other words between 40 and 60 times) is 95%.

If you toss it 1000 times, the number of times that head appears at the average +/-10% (in other words between 400 and 600) is 99.99999998%.

Translating that last one, if you tried to get a result outside of the 400 - 600 range, and you tossed the coin once a second, it would take you, or should I say your descendents, on average 70,000 years to achieve it.

The higher the population, the higher the overall predictability.

If you want some fancy-dancy math, if you toss the coin a billion times and want heads to appear more than 100,000 times different to the average (500,000,000 times), it would take you more than four times the current guestimate of the age of the universe to do it - 62 billion years.

Or in pictoral form, here is the probability graph for a billion throws. Note the very narrow range of probabilities that are, for all intensive purposes, non-zero.

Image

You don't see plant pots suddenly move a foot to the left because all the atoms decided to go in that direction at the same time.

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Last edited by Lidless on Thu Jun 15, 2006 2:38 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2006 11:55 pm 
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A lot of these conundrums are fueled by temporal bias. This bias is the perspective whereby we view the past as completed and the future as uncertain, or yet to be determined. But this is a human perspective, created by the way our minds work, by the way our memory works.

Free will must be released from any temporal perspective to be understood, in my opinion. I do not want to ask: given that the past has happened, is the future involving me invariant? For this question betrays a temporal bias. The future and the past are treated differently, and yet according to physics there is no difference between the two. Even according to God ( if God is understood as being outside of time ) there is no difference between the two.

I think free will is closely connected with awareness, which is another mystery of the human mind, along with free will. Suppose we do appeal to the chain of chemical reactions in the brain to explain away free will as illusory ... but why then is my awareness of color and taste and light part of this chain of chemical reactions? Surely my awareness isn't necessary for my body to accept the stimuli and produce the action that results?

Awareness may well be the temporal opposite of free will. Or, if we abandon the biased temporal perspective, awareness and free will are really the same. Only our perspective makes them seem different.

I need to say more, and clarify, I know ... unless this is too far afield from what anyone wants to talk about.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 15, 2006 12:00 am 
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Quote:
... unless this is too far afield from what anyone wants to talk about.


Not for me. :D

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 15, 2006 12:15 am 
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Anyone seen Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead? In which the coin always lands on "heads" :D

Concerning your graph, Lidless, I need to point out that that curve will never go to zero - it is asomptotic. As unlikely as it would be, it is not impossible to get those results.

And each time you flip the coin, it is still 50-50 that that flip will be heads. The trend applies to the group as a whole, and does not reflect any constraint on the individual.



    Éomer: "What doom do you bring out of the North?"
    Aragorn: "The doom of choice."


Men have free-will. We are designed, forced to choose ;). Sometimes, we behave quite predictably, especially when we are ill. But when we are healthy...we can have surprises up our sleeves. We cannot break, or even bend, the laws that govern the physical world - we are constrained by physics and chemistry and biology. But we do have a will. I can decide to move my arm. When I do so, surely all that happens is that the signal from my brain travels through my nervous system to my muscles, and, assuming I have an iota of ATP left, they obey ;). But I decided that...it is not an illusion.



Think of the alternative...that we are all puppets. I reject that not only because I want some control over my own life...but also because it makes my life meaningless. There is no point to the story if the characters are all constrained to act as automatons. And I think my life is a story, and it does have a point, and so do other peoples....

Also recall that the Mule threw a cog in the wheels of psychohistory....by being an individual, not a social trend.

Basically, it is important to remember that we are not the masters....we have many, many restraints upon us, whether at the social level, the level of the physical world, or the biochemical level. We are not free agents, able to do as we please (again, think Neo in the Matrix, who is able to order time, physics and even death to his will) But amidst all these constraints, we are not tied. We still have the power, the ability, the responsibility to choose.

That is why I say that there are two poles, and they blend. On one side, we have fate/destiny/doom/inexorability...and on the other we have freedom/choice/will/chance/whim. Neither fully describes what it means to be human (in the absense of the other). But both, together, explain how we are caught and free, shaping our own destiny, and yet being shaped by our world (environment and genetics, if you will).

So, I think I agree with you elsha ;)


Last edited by MithLuin on Thu Jun 15, 2006 12:25 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 15, 2006 12:15 am 
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Faramond wrote:
but why then is my awareness of color and taste and light part of this chain of chemical reactions?
Because an accidental miscopying of the then-current set of DNA gave it an edge over the competition, thus it successfully propagated and dominated the old version.

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