….does what my mind tells it to do.
The section I just read from Homo Deus talks about free will. We as humans pride ourselves as unique amongst all beings on Earth because our free well, our ability to choose. Harari argues that free will is an myth, as much a fiction as any Disney fairy tail. How do we choose? How do we make any decision? It’s all based on algorithms we go through in our heads (mostly unconsciously). Things we like. Things we avoid. All of it has a reason behind it. I choose to do certain things because the story I tell myself about myself says I should do it. That story is informed by my experiences, which are decided by my previous story. Every word I’m choosing to write at the moment is based on my personal story of who I am, which was created by my past experiences, which were based on my personal story at the time, etc. etc. from the time I was born.
To further the argument Harari describes experiments currently being done on rats. Using implanted electrodes, scientists have been able to basically remote control rats to go through mazes, climb ladders etc. This may seem cruel to some, but supposedly the rats don’t experience any pain or discomfort, in fact they feel rather euphoric. They don’t feel as if someone is controlling them, rather the electrodes stimulate the brain in such ways that the rats want to do “as they’re told.” Are we as humans much different? We are encouraged to act according to our true selves. To do what feels good. Are we not just responding to electrical impulses in our brains?
All that being said, not all algorithms are not definite. Existence is not predetermined. Our “choices” have a random component to them and are partially influenced by random events outside our control. That uncertainty/ randomness is where our feelings of choice and will comes from. Perhaps humans do not have “free will” in the sense of complete autonomy. But what really is the difference between my brain telling me to do something and my self telling me to do it. If nothing else at least we can take solace in that our fates are not predestined, maybe, though of course there is no way to see one way or another with absolute certainty.
When’s all’s said and done, this is kind of a useless discussion for various reasons, but it’s interesting to think about.