April 20, 2013
I’m sorry for sounding like a stuck record, but I’m going to share more thoughts on free will. I was thinking more about love, and whether I’m controlling what I say, what I do, and all of that sort of thing.
If you’re saying “I” am free, that means somehow I’m controlling what’s going on inside my brain. To move my body, to control my thoughts, to control the words I’m speaking, I must be controlling all those complicated processes within my body and brain — all those atoms, all the chemical bonding, all those electrical pulses — I’m somehow directing it all.
Just watch this next video and look at a single synapse for a single neural connection. In an everyday moment, such as me waving at you in the hallway, I had to control and direct billions of these neurons and connections. Just look at it.
“I” did all of that? What is this “I” you’re referring to? If “I” am anything, “I” am those neurons firing. Those neural processes are what constitute my thinking, my emotions, my memories. They direct my moral reasoning, my desires, my perception of the world. Somehow that insane process (and it is insane) builds up my subjective experience of being alive.
Do I feel that I’m sitting in my study, typing up this post? Sure. Do I feel hungry at the moment? Sure. Do I feel that I can control where I move my body, whether to walk to the kitchen and grab something to eat? Sure. But am “I” in control of this? Just think about it.
When I study quantum physics and chemistry, atoms aren’t free to just do whatever they want. Electricity follows physical laws. Those atoms, when they come together and move about, they’re following electrical processes of repulsion and attraction, and when they get close together, the electrons are shared between the different positive nuclei and you get these overlapping clouds. There’s a probability function which describes that it’s almost certain that the electron is within that cloud, within a certain region of space.
Now when you tell me “I” am making this reality unfold, that “I” am thinking my life into existence, that “I” am in control, you’re telling me that “I” (whatever that is) am collapsing all those electron clouds and other quantum processes into different configurations, which cascades into this super complicated firing of neurons, which then moves my arm, directs my thoughts, or controls my speech.
Forgive me for being a bit skeptical. I’m not saying you’re wrong. If that is what’s happening, I simply want to you to realize how much power this “free will” has. But think about it some more. You’re saying that “I” made all of those complicated things happen, yet I wasn’t even aware that most of these things were even going on for the vast majority of my life. I never “felt” all those different options present themselves to me consciously, asking me each planck-length of time, “Will you move this atom here? This other atom here? This electron here? This electrical pulse here?” Imagine how slow and boring life would be if you did have to do all that! It’s obvious that we’re not the ones making all those small events happen, so when a large scale event happens (which is simply the sum of all the small events), such as a movement, a thought, or something else, we somehow believe that “we” made it happen? Why? How much of this process are “we” responsible for? How much of it can be automated before we say “we” did something?
And another question. If I’m controlling “me”, as in this body and this brain, then why can’t I also control your body and your brain? Why do I only have control of myself and not you as well? You’re made of the same stuff. Why am I confined to this brain alone? To this body? To this personal perspective in this place and time?
This problem drives me to insanity sometimes. Why am I experiencing this? What’s going on? What is all of this? Am I even taking part in this, or am I just watching? What am I? Where are we? Is there something greater going on?
As I said before in my post ‘Why I’m Not Married’, part of me thinks that maybe some sort of divine being is making all those wave functions collapse and is reaching out to me, “I love you Jason. I want to be with you. To experience you and what you are.” I’m totally taken back. Of course I want to return the feeling. To reach out, to connect with all of you. This divine being (I’m talking about all of you) is using this universe as a medium, stretching out to me, communicating with me. The other half of me thinks that it’s all just randomness popping out of nothing, full of pointless suffering mixed in with random spurts of joy. Freedom? Give me a break.
Half of the time, I just turn my mind off and say, “Hey, let’s play some Mario on the Wii.” I hop on turtles as I dive through green pipes as a little red plumber and think sure, why not. I enjoy it. Then, after goofing off for a while, I find myself back in a serious mood, I go out for a walk and all these thoughts plague me again. I think about this all the time, but I never make any progress.