Day 005 - Quantum, chance and free will

Submitted by Sam on 25 May, 2011 - 23:59

Extrapolating the principles of a game of chess to produce the super-abundance of possibilities necessary to fuel an illusion of free will works neatly in a fully determined universe, where nothing whatsoever is left to chance. This rule-described model produces chance-like properties through the chaotic (yet ultimately determinable) interaction of a vast number of variables, a condition which is critically distinct from the pure chance which would exist in a non-determined universe. By definition, a non-determined universe must contain truly random elements which decouple cause from certain (i.e. infallibly predictable) effect.

The last point is worth some attention, so here it is again: a system which cannot be determined completely by rules must have components which are utterly, utterly random. If it didn't, then in principle it would be predictable, and therefore fully-determinable. “Rules” in such a system are affected on a fundamental level by chance, and all such “rules” can therefore only be considered probabilistic.

Our current understanding of quantum physics requires chance. For instance, as far as we know there is absolutely no way to predict how a quantum particle will behave when it strikes a surface – it seems to us in 2011 to be a genuinely random event as to whether it will be transmitted or reflected. Chance is crucial.

The corollary to this is bad news for free-will. If our mentation is predicated on by fundamentally chance events, then the choices we make must have a fundamentally random element to them. Choices tempered by chance, however infinitesimally, are not true choices at all.

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