Free will

I had a interesting talk with a friend of mine about free will. At the time, I was thinking about dimensions of free will.. I was observing that free will consisted of two dimensions – the first being the number of possible actions you can think of (the box), and the second being the ability to pick any of them (the pointer). Of course, some of the actions are interesting – for example, you can iterate back to look for more actions, and you can change the definition of desirable outcomes, which is then going to change the box. But I feel like there’s at least one more dimension to it, and I’m not sure yet what that might be.

I do not feel particularly free. For the most part, I feel constrained by the fact that this world doesn’t have a particularly good safety net for taking actions that might be particularly economically or socially risky. And, as I’ve learned, it is entirely too easy to lose the friends you really want to keep, either through dating the wrong person, saying the wrong thing, thinking the wrong thing, feeling the wrong thing, or just random acts of fate. We spend a lot of time on Earth saying goodbye – and while I feel it likely that we’re all immortal beings, the world I see doesn’t offer a lot of reassurance that that is the case, and in fact seems to go out of it’s way to underline the idea that we’re not.

And yet – part of why I study IT is that I think that it offers the greatest chance of freedom humanity will ever know. There are so many ways this could play out – the first is that we could build the singularity, and it could decide to set us free. The second is that we could automate our society and no longer have to worry about working all our lives just to be able to continue eating and living indoors. The third is we may reverse engineer DNA and be able to modify it to give us a better experience. The fourth is that we may hook computers directly or indirectly to our neural nets and be able to do all sorts of amazing things including having just about any experience we could possibly want.

And, of course, a powerful enough computer could back up and restore us just like a hard disk.

But then there’s the question – surely this is not the first time we’ve built technology of this level – surely we’re not the first time computers have ever gotten this advanced. And it’s so easy to see that from here, 20 to 30 years leads to the real possibility of a utopia. So I can’t help but suspect that said utopia already exists, and that we’re experiencing this world as either a form of punishment or a form of entertainment. (Or possibly even both). Some aspects of it seem so comedically overdone that entertainment seems by far the more likely. I should enumerate my list of “Stupid things America does” sometime – it’s very hard for me to get through all of it without laughing my ass off. I mean, it hurts, it was not a lot of fun to go through, but it is also very, very funny.

We have a big problem with not seeing the forest for the trees. And a lot of the time our most destructive ideas are the ones we get into with the best intentions. Religion, organized education, I could enumerate a bunch of them.

I have no doubt that I’m as guilty of this as the next man. It’s part of why the singularity is such a desirable idea. But, we’re not going to build it with silicon any time soon. If we wanted to build it next week, or next month, the smart thing to do would be to network human minds, as they’re the most powerful computers we can easily get our paws on.

Now my experience with talking with $future-person leaves me with the distinct feeling I’m connected to some sort of network, as do things like vibe at raves and concerts, and the repeated experience of thinking of someone I haven’t talked to in a while and having them call or write me. And then there’s watching my playlist, which I swear is sometimes scheduled by the great DJ in the sky to clue me in to what’s going on. I often think that my neural network is partitioned (well, duh, I do appear to have DID) and that I am at times my own higher power, setting myself up for all sorts of surprises. Every time I sit down at a multitrack deck and record a song in several parts, and have each just *fit* – every time I go skating and look, there’s *always a hole*..

Synchronicity is a interesting beastie.

One Response to “Free will”

  1. sheer_panic Says:

    I am pleased to announce that apparently I am wrong. We *might* build the singularity out of silicon soon.

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