Willpower depletion debunked

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Re: Willpower depletion debunked

Post by Blaidd Drwg » Tue Sep 27, 2016 9:10 pm

Because YID is a bitch who can't answer a direct question, lemme help him out.....Here's my favorite (yes favorite...I'm not clever enough out-think this argument by any stretch it just feels like he might be going somewhere new) argument in favor of a mechanism for free will that avoid the causality problems.
"How can something cause its own physical basis? It is this 'you can't pick yourself up by your own bootstraps' idea that has been the main argument against the possibility of free will," Tse says.

The way around this problem, Tse says in his new book, The Neural Basis of Free Will: Criterial Causation, is to understand that information is realized not only in neural firings in the present. Information is also realized in the strengths or weights of connections between neurons, called “synapses.” Neurons can change the weights of other neurons’ synapses very quickly. These “rewired” neurons will now fire differently upon future inputs than they otherwise would have.
"The solution is that the brain can set criteria for future mental activity that will be met by future inputs." This can follow a long period of consideration, or playing things out virtually in one’s mind, before an optimal set of criteria gets wired into synaptic weights so that the system is ready, should the right car comes along."
https://news.dartmouth.edu/news/2013/03 ... -free-will


I encourage anyone interested to comb through the reams of absolute bullshit arguments in favor of free will...you'll not find much solace there..this is a good one.
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Re: Willpower depletion debunked

Post by Sangoma » Tue Sep 27, 2016 9:43 pm

Sua Sponte wrote:
At a different level of abstraction is the question of whether the human brain is a Turing machine. If it is, no free will. If it isn't it requires a new computing paradigm of which we are not yet aware.
This opens a massive can of worms. Free will is the concept of consciousness, and we have no clue where consciousness starts, ends or where it comes from. In this area anybody can take any position, as there are plenty of "evidence" for whatever point of view you choose to take. I choose to believe (for now) that we are more than just our brains. Curiously, believing one way or another doesn't solve the debate of free will. You can be a heavenly spirit and still be constrained by the boundaries of responses to events.

I have been dabbling in the forum called Skeptiko (with a "K"), which is the satellite of the Skeptiko podcast. Both are devoted to the nature of consciousness, Reality etc. Interesting at the beginning - fresh ideas, bold stance against scientific dogma - but then it quickly becomes old. The host is fixated on near death experience research, a lot of which should be put in quotes. Still, some phenomena discussed there are very interesting and thought provoking - remote viewing, pre-sentiment research, deviations of random numbers generators in response to major social events (e.g.announcement of OJ Simpson's verdict) etc. It points to the possibility that our minds may be more than a brain.
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Re: Willpower depletion debunked

Post by Sangoma » Tue Sep 27, 2016 9:47 pm

Sua Sponte wrote:
Blaidd Drwg wrote: Bucket, that's what I'd use as a jump off point, or one of his other books, if for no other reason than how well the mathematical and physical underpinnings are laid out. If these phenomena are soluble, then I think that the answer will come from computer scientists and other applied mathematicians, physicists, with biologists playing a supplementary role, and cognitive scientists of the psychologist or pseudo/soft science persuasion was well as pure philosophers having little to contribute.
Irreducible Mind by Edward Kelly is the book I would recommend. Very systematic and comprehensive work (of 800 pages). I haven't read the whole thing, and it does get wordy at times, but they do a good job summarising less known research on consciousness.
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Re: Willpower depletion debunked

Post by Sangoma » Tue Sep 27, 2016 10:03 pm

Sua Sponte wrote: The brain is computing device. The fact that its physical incarnation is biological rather than silicon circuit is, for now, irrelevant. Leaving aside for the moment the epistemological question of whether the brain is capable of studying itself or if the problem is soluble at all, most believe, whether they say so or realize it or not, that the brain is a Turing machine of such size and complexity that we are not yet capable of producing such a machine. That's a practical issue, not a fundamental one. The emergent phenomena of consciousness and free will don't seem compatible with this view and, therefore, lead some to believe that the ideas of consciousness and free will are artifacts of this complexity and sophistication. The computing device is a slave to its algorithm and that leaves no room for alternative outcomes.

The only other computing paradigm is that of quantum computing. As quantum mechanics is a probabilistic theory, one in which many outcomes are possible, some say an infinity of outcomes, it allows for alternative results from the computing process. Meaning it can solve problems that Turing machines can only do so in principle, given large amounts of computing powers and time. Sounds brain like to me. The trouble is that any known quantum effect requires a physical manifestation that is not compatible with how life exists. As always, people get more clever and laboratory qubits operate at higher temperatures and under higher levels of complexity while physical models get presented that could ascribe some quantum effects to room temperature biological organisms. None presently are entirely plausible or provable but no other known paradigm consistent with the known laws of physics is plausible to explain what is viewed as a complexity-driven emergent phenomenon.

To that point, there is a mathematical physicist of some note by the name of Roger Penrose. He wrote a book some long time ago titled "The Emperor's New Mind". He's written others since. The premise is that the presently known laws of physics would need supplementation in order to explain aspects of what we term the mind. There are deep flaws in the theory that would need to be addressed but it's a treatise orders of magnitude more intellectually satisfying than the wannabe science of most popularizations on the subject. While written as a popularization it's mathematically and physics dense and would take some effort to penetrate for those without some background in the subjects.
The question that cannot be answered is what role does the brain play in consciousness? Is it the generator of consciousness? Or is it the receiver - and to some degree a transmitter - of the fundamental quality of the Universe that is consciousness.

The trouble with quantum mechanics is that it still doesn't explain that much. Its lingo is often used to make the discussion somewhat more meaningful. I am not saying this is what you are doing, and there are phenomena of consciousness that have some similarities with the phenomena of quantum physics - entanglement, observer effect to name a few (I know very little of quantum physics to give more examples). Even then, quantum mechanics doesn't get us closer to solving the Hard Problem.

Unless you agree with Dennet and Susan Blackmore, who insist that consciousness is an illusion and therefore Hard Problem doesn't exist and there is nothing to solve. The can of worms I mentioned earlier. Another view is that all there theorists should be shot, and you have to sit down in silence and look at your own mind to understand its nature. Direct observation, the way Buddhists and Hindus have been doing it for a while.

I am also a compatibilist and panpsychist. Aristotelian binary logic is limited, but Nagarjuna's four-way tetra lemma where things can be simultaneously true and untrue is difficult to internalise without spending considerable time. Buddhists believed for a long time that everything happens because of something else, the cause and effect thing. Yeah you are fully responsible for your own actions. Go figure. I suspect meditation or strong drugs can be of help here.
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Re: Willpower depletion debunked

Post by Blaidd Drwg » Tue Sep 27, 2016 10:15 pm

Seems to me, exploring the potential for and against the idea of free will (a notion that is not remotely confusing to most of us in an outside of the sciences) is easier to get to than even getting to an agreement as to what "consciousness" is.
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Re: Willpower depletion debunked

Post by Sangoma » Tue Sep 27, 2016 10:35 pm

I don't know. Is figuring out one giant problem easier than solving another giant problem? I don't know. On a fundamental level, whenever I mention to someone that free will most likely free will doesn't exist their response is laughter and something along the lines: "Look, I moved my finger! I decided to move it and I did it! That's free will, ha-ha!", to which I ask: "Would you move your finger if we didn't have this conversation and you didn't have to demonstrate your free will to me?" About half of people get the point.

When you spend time thinking about this in more detail it becomes interesting, in a dark kind of way.
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Re: Willpower depletion debunked

Post by nafod » Tue Sep 27, 2016 10:45 pm

I've always thought what separates us from most other critters is our ability to repeatedly step outside our current decision loop and look at the larger problem. Then step outside that. Then step outside that. While flying in Sunday, I thought about changing my control handling while on approach. That sort of thing. A simple decision at the highest level (be "good") can ripple down and result in epic changes to a possible future.


All the really cool stuff happens with systems that are self referential. Chaos, godels theorem, etc.
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Re: Willpower depletion debunked

Post by buckethead » Tue Sep 27, 2016 10:54 pm

Sua as coincidence or providence dictates, I have Penroses book in the mail. I've been digging into his and hammeroffs theories on microtubules and I'm quite interested. However hammeroff still seems to jump to quantum indeterminacy = free will and it's frustrating

YID, I for one have been pulled to holding this radical view kicking and screaming. The felt sense of choice is so clear and consistent, it has taken me a decade to understand how we can have such a fundamental illusion at the core of what we do every day. Still, if your goal is truth and not what feels right, I don't see how you end up with free will based on everything we know. Along with Sua, I will gladly jump off this train at the first sign of a new theory

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Re: Willpower depletion debunked

Post by buckethead » Tue Sep 27, 2016 10:58 pm

Nafod, I too feel self referential activity is an interesting field. If you can show how it doesn't have prior regressive dependencies and isn't random, you'd have something

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Re: Willpower depletion debunked

Post by Yes, I'm drunk » Wed Sep 28, 2016 11:24 am

For those of you who're more well-read on this subject, I'd be interested in getting an answer to the question I posed earlier:

-what is/are the specific hypothesis/hypotheses being tested in the actual experiments on free-will?

There has to be some proposition that is being examined. How do the scientists doing the lab-work, and writing up the papers, formulate this?

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Re: Willpower depletion debunked

Post by nafod » Wed Sep 28, 2016 12:19 pm

Yes, I'm drunk wrote:For those of you who're more well-read on this subject, I'd be interested in getting an answer to the question I posed earlier:

-what is/are the specific hypothesis/hypotheses being tested in the actual experiments on free-will?

There has to be some proposition that is being examined. How do the scientists doing the lab-work, and writing up the papers, formulate this?
That was kind of the purpose of my thought experiment, which of course is unrepeatable. I have no idea what would be evidence for or against.
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Re: Willpower depletion debunked

Post by buckethead » Wed Sep 28, 2016 12:54 pm

You're offering a straw man but I'll bite. Libet had some foundational yet possibly flawed tests showing the brain deciding up to a few seconds before the subject consciously decided. These were repeated later under better conditions showing the same.

But I called it a straw man because it is the history of all science that shows every action to have a precedent cause, except indeterminate quantum stuff. Free will would break that causal chain and can't rely on randomness. That's why the scientific community is putting the burden of proof on free will proponents. And rightly so

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Re: Willpower depletion debunked

Post by Yes, I'm drunk » Wed Sep 28, 2016 4:46 pm

From an entropic perspective, if I ran an experiment where I predict that I will do something very specific at a certain point in the future, and I do it, the chances of that thing happening randomly, and not because I choose to do it, is very small.

So, the null hypothesis here is: I have free-will, and because of that I am able to perform X event on Y date.

I don't see how that hypothesis could ever fail to be vindicated.

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Re: Willpower depletion debunked

Post by Sua Sponte » Wed Sep 28, 2016 5:45 pm

The reason you'd want to start with the Turing machine as the paradigm is because it's the simplest universal computational tool we know and unless one can find something that it cannot do that the brain can, then there's no reason to look elsewhere. Since free will seems to have no basis then we needn't concern ourselves with whether a Turing machine can replicate such. While consciousness is likely required for the execution of free will were it shown to exist the two aren't the same. The question then is can a Turing machine show consciousness. Open question. Since there's no evidence or mathematical proof that it can't, and since the brain is a physical incarnation and further that it acts very much like a digital computer (synapses are on/off, for instance), there's no reason to conclude that a computer, digital or otherwise, can't show consciousness. There's no argument to be made that because the brain is organic matter and the digital computer silicon that a priori this implies it will have special properties. Quite to the contrary, DNA has been shown to be able at least to perform Turing-like computation, as an example. Certainly Information Theory applies, and equivalence of that theory to Thermodynamics has been shown, so this result should come as no surprise. It would only come as a surprise if it didn't.

Again, I remain surprised at all those who think such things are too esoteric to apply to biological organisms and especially to people. The belief that people and our brains are somehow different and outside such laws just because we're people is religion until proven otherwise. Just because the typical medical doctor doesn't know that the transport across cellular boundaries is well described by the the drift-diffusion equation or that synaptic firings follow well known circuit and electrostatic principles doesn't mean that it ain't so.

Then again, let's conjecture for our entertainment, that the brain is different, a computational device of a description for which we have no model or understanding. This is Penrose's view. Certainly it's easy to think of other brain functions outside of free will and consciousness that a Turing machine of any level of complexity may not possess. Intuition, where we can synthesize a solution to problem, doesn't on the face of it seem algorithmic, nor does innovation seem like it is. Could a Turing machine syntactically be shown a a car and a set of skis and come up with a snowmobile? Dunno but if it could but I would imagine it could do so only by trying a large number of possibilities and then comparing the function against a prescribed number of success criteria. I don't think it could do so of its own, though, but I cannot prove such nor can anybody else. For now. At a higher level, since Godel's theory was brought up, I don't see a Turing machine being able to step outside of a sufficiently complex system and determine its completeness. As an aside, I would bet, however, that anything that might be capable of so doing would be of such complexity that Godel's Theorem could be applied. At least as a necessary but not sufficient condition.

Then let's take that a step further and conjecture to say that the brain is special because it came into being via evolution. No real basis for those assumptions but they provide some distinction of the physical incarnation of the Turing machine with which we are familiar and, to be clear, we need only find some non-superficial characteristic of the brain that is not shared by a Turing machine to make the brain something special. Here again though we have to allow there are ways to make a Turing machine also evolve and update itself as it goes. The real question there, deeper than it sounds, is if in so doing the Turing machine evolved is still a Turing machine. Which would lead one to question whether early brains were really Turing machines that evolved into something else. This is interesting. Is consciousness something that comes on all of a sudden or slowly-do our kids one day wake up conscious or do they so become slowly through some intermediate state, discrete or continuous, of some description. Worth much more thought. Certainly parts of our brains must be Turing-like, at least those that run the autonomic functions. All that said, any which way you look at it, there must be some physical mechanism (and we have to identify and understand how it works) by which this achieved, whether through the hypothesized microtubules that Bucket mentioned, or through some interaction of the same for if all evolution does is tweak the algorithm, we're back to a Turing machine.

As to books written by psychologists and psychiatrists, knowing nothing else, the default reaction is don't bother. While there are some psychologists and psychiatrists of great erudition who can engage deeply on the subject most are just a few steps away from the thought processes behind Freud's explanation of human behavior asserting it manifests because every guy wants to bend mommy over a piece of furniture or Greek philosophers who explained away gravity by giving inanimate objects agency to desire to be nearer other objects. Neuroscientist seems of late to be a relabeling of the psychologist.

Quantum mechanics is an extraordinarily powerful description of the world and this very conversation over the internet owes its existence to this theory. Whether some smacked ass somewhere cheapens it by throwing around jargon he doesn't understand in the same way that Einstein's Relativity Theory is abused as "even Einstein says everything's relative" doesn't diminish in any way its explanatory power.

Circling back to the Turing machine question, rephrasing it in a way, the problem may be re-framed by asking if suitably complex syntax can mimic even simple semantics. Have to think about that.

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Re: Willpower depletion debunked

Post by Sua Sponte » Wed Sep 28, 2016 5:48 pm

Yes, I'm drunk wrote:From an entropic perspective, if I ran an experiment where I predict that I will do something very specific at a certain point in the future, and I do it, the chances of that thing happening randomly, and not because I choose to do it, is very small.

So, the null hypothesis here is: I have free-will, and because of that I am able to perform X event on Y date.

I don't see how that hypothesis could ever fail to be vindicated.
This would only hold, and even then not completely, if you could show that your predictive statement was made of your free will. Recursive.

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Re: Willpower depletion debunked

Post by buckethead » Wed Sep 28, 2016 7:01 pm

If you don't think a squirrel has free will then stop with your "common sense" arguments and toss in some science. That is the worst null hypothesis I've seen. A Commodore 64 would pass that test if I put a chron job in

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Re: Willpower depletion debunked

Post by Blaidd Drwg » Wed Sep 28, 2016 7:12 pm

Sua,

Your argument/defense of the Turing machine metaphor tends to strengthen the logic behind the no free will theory but I take your point. It only really makes sense in studying complex systems to start from what we understand reasonably well and move forward. The Turing model lets us do that.

Otoh, the quantum theory business is almost a non sequitar.
As a model for understanding very tiny things and possibly very big things in the physical universe it's a roaring good bit of science but no one who uses and understands quantum theory would ever attempt to apply it to a complex biological system. We don't know enough about either to say anything useful. It's ludicrous. In this situation it's tantamount to throwing up our hands and saying "there's a lot we don't understand "....

Point taken but not really the point at hand.
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Re: Willpower depletion debunked

Post by buckethead » Wed Sep 28, 2016 7:36 pm

BD, check out penrose and hammeroff on microtubules. They're gaining ground on quantum effects in biology with macroscopic effects. Early but with some test data

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Re: Willpower depletion debunked

Post by Blaidd Drwg » Wed Sep 28, 2016 7:55 pm

buckethead wrote:BD, check out penrose and hammeroff on microtubules. They're gaining ground on quantum effects in biology with macroscopic effects. Early but with some test data
Thx. Brief look taken, does look fascinating. I stand corrected. Appears quantum theory may not be being abused as badly I thought.
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Re: Willpower depletion debunked

Post by buckethead » Wed Sep 28, 2016 7:59 pm

To be clear, they are the first I've heard not using quantum woo, and yet they also have their fair share of critics so it is worthy to be skeptical

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Re: Willpower depletion debunked

Post by Sua Sponte » Wed Sep 28, 2016 8:00 pm

Blaidd Drwg wrote:
Otoh, the quantum theory business is almost a non sequitar.
As a model for understanding very tiny things and possibly very big things in the physical universe it's a roaring good bit of science but no one who uses and understands quantum theory would ever attempt to apply it to a complex biological system. We don't know enough about either to say anything useful. It's ludicrous. In this situation it's tantamount to throwing up our hands and saying "there's a lot we don't understand "....

Point taken but not really the point at hand.
I'm in partial agreement with this. See Bucket's statement above.

Otherwise, it was not my intent to suggest the answer will ineluctably be found in quantum mechanics only that quantum phenomena is to present understanding the only path of which I'm aware that could lead to mental constructs such as free will or even consciousness. There is desperately little evidence to support free will and I desperately wish it to be something real. Quantum phenomena writ large is an area of very active research in the field.

As to my method of inquiry I refer to the quotation Feynman left on his last blackboard at Caltech before his death: "What I cannot create, I do not understand."

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Re: Willpower depletion debunked

Post by Blaidd Drwg » Wed Sep 28, 2016 8:06 pm

Whatever else is to be gleaned from reading Penrose, criticism of his theory yielded this gem...
the "warm, wet and noisy" argument.....
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Re: Willpower depletion debunked

Post by buckethead » Wed Sep 28, 2016 8:19 pm

That was my favorite too. I tried to figure out how Shape's mom was involved

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Re: Willpower depletion debunked

Post by nafod » Wed Sep 28, 2016 9:57 pm

Sua Sponte wrote:
Blaidd Drwg wrote:
Otoh, the quantum theory business is almost a non sequitar.
As a model for understanding very tiny things and possibly very big things in the physical universe it's a roaring good bit of science but no one who uses and understands quantum theory would ever attempt to apply it to a complex biological system. We don't know enough about either to say anything useful. It's ludicrous. In this situation it's tantamount to throwing up our hands and saying "there's a lot we don't understand "....

Point taken but not really the point at hand.
I'm in partial agreement with this. See Bucket's statement above.

Otherwise, it was not my intent to suggest the answer will ineluctably be found in quantum mechanics only that quantum phenomena is to present understanding the only path of which I'm aware that could lead to mental constructs such as free will or even consciousness. There is desperately little evidence to support free will and I desperately wish it to be something real. Quantum phenomena writ large is an area of very active research in the field.

As to my method of inquiry I refer to the quotation Feynman left on his last blackboard at Caltech before his death: "What I cannot create, I do not understand."
I think in order to have free will you'd have to have a universe in your head wholly disconnected from the universe we live in, independent of it causally, but that observes the universe we live in. If you could replicate consciousness in a number of distinctly different formats like neurons, computer chips, PURE ENERGY like on Star Trek, or like how an abacus can do math without any connection to quantum mechanics. maybe that would be necessary but not sufficient.

I have Penrose's book on my shelf, and actually saw him speak in the 90s on it (visiting Physics prof here) but the ideas didn't take with me at the time. Super smart dude, though.

Saw another big brain talk about nonlinear and chaotic systems, and one snippet of his talk stuck with me. He gave an example of a simple function that did "significant digit mining", so for example if X is the input, the output is 1000*X with the digits to the left of the decimal point removed, so X is always between 0 and 1. Now if the initial value X is an observation, it means you only observe it to a limited precision, let's say a 1000 decimal points. We want to use our observation and our knowledge of the function to predict the future.

But X is a real number, so it has an infinite number of digits to the right of the decimal point. At each iteration, we essentially just shift the number to the left and toss the digits to the left of the decimal point. So in this case, after just 10 iterations of the function, we have chewed up and spit out all 1000 digits of precision and the last output is completely unknown us. We have zero predictive power 10 iterations into the future. Chaotic systems tend to behave this way, mining significant digits.

This seems like something important. Deterministic yet unknowable in a world with finite measurements.
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Re: Willpower depletion debunked

Post by Turdacious » Wed Sep 28, 2016 10:24 pm

Sangoma wrote:I don't know. Is figuring out one giant problem easier than solving another giant problem? I don't know. On a fundamental level, whenever I mention to someone that free will most likely free will doesn't exist their response is laughter and something along the lines: "Look, I moved my finger! I decided to move it and I did it! That's free will, ha-ha!", to which I ask: "Would you move your finger if we didn't have this conversation and you didn't have to demonstrate your free will to me?" About half of people get the point.

When you spend time thinking about this in more detail it becomes interesting, in a dark kind of way.
Keep going down that rabbit hole and you pretty much have the gist of the classical free will arguments.
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