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So, where was I?

Posted 10 February 2004, 8.37 am by Green Mamba

Oh yes, now I remember…

Free choice is an illusion. Any choice we make at any given point in time is determined by everything that has gone before. The information that we are exposed to is limited and controlled, so what we perceive to be free choice is merely partially predictable movements within set parameters.

Yes, I have elaborated on my previous statement and will do more so in an attempt to clarify my point. Maybe this time around I can actually bring it across in a more understandable manner.

Free choice is an illusion.
Firstly, what everybody failed to notice in the previous debate is that I never meant this literally. It is not really an illusion, because we as human beings do possess the ability to make choices driven by needs beyond pure instinct. In other words, I could choose to make the next word CAPS or whatever else I am allowed within the parameters of this site (remember that last part). Clearly I have made a choice, there is no doubt about that. But more importantly … why did I specifically choose CAPS for this example when there are literally hundreds of other examples I could have given.

The choices we make at any given point in time are pre-determined by everything that has gone before. In other words, our life experiences influence the choices we make. A simple example is when somebody offers me a choice between Smarties or M&M’s. Personally, I have tried both and will go for Smarties any day, because to me, it tastes better. Somebody else may prefer M&M’s. Clearly both of us made a choice and even though it wasn’t the same choice, it was influenced by our knowledge of the options at hand. Somebody who had never tasted either, might have declined or opted to try it before making a decision. Either way, choice is affected by the past experience and knowledge of the individual presented with the choice.

Another determining factor in choice is the parameters within which I am allowed to choose. Getting back to the whole CAPS example at the beginning of this thread. Since Alexander had set the front page up so that it strips all HTML … I couldn’t color the text or bold it. The only other option would have been to use mock tags like the now infamous tag, but once again I would only have done that because that is the only available option.

Going from AKpCEP to the bigger picture … society … modern culture … life. Instead of a web site, we find ourselves in a much bigger playground. The rules however, remain the same. Instead of the almighty Alexander, we have governments who set the parameters (laws) within which we are allowed to make choices and the media who controls the information that must assist us in the choices we have to make. It becomes even more complicated when you throw formal education, religion, peers, friends and whatever else I couldn’t think of into the mix … so much so that eventually these influences become so intertwined that we have difficulty distinguishing one from other. The sheer magnitude of the big machine called civilisation becomes so overwhelming that most of the data that we are exposed to are shoved into the back of our minds. Every time we have to make a “free choice” we in avertedly call on this information to assist us in making that choice. In other words, symbolically speaking … all our choices are made for us … pre-determined and limited by the information that is piled up in our subconscious minds. Information that we are being force-fed from the moment we outgrow the comforts of our mothers’ womb … maybe even before that…

Villager
on 11 February 2004, 2.52 pm
I can see where you're coming from but to suggest that all the external factors that influence us actually determine EVERYTHING is unfounded - nothing more than conviction separates your belief that you have no choice in your thoughts/beliefs/actions from my belief that I exercise a degree of choice.


Green Mamba
on 11 February 2004, 8.26 pm
Hmmm, yes maybe "everything" is too strong a word. I did afterall also say that "we as human beings do possess the ability to make choices driven by needs beyond pure instinct". Then again, I also said that these choices are limited by the parameters within which you are allowed to choose.

I'm not arguing that we have the ability to choose, I'm pointing out the origins/reasons for making specific choices. By controlling the information that drives the mechanisms of "choice" our choices become partially pre-determined. In other words we can only make a true "free choice" if we can distance ourselves completely from prior experience/knowledge.


Dragonfly
on 12 February 2004, 4.04 am
Sorry guys, I have to say I don't think "everything" is too big of a word. I can't think of anything that is not predominantly determined by my surroundings.

Hypothetically, I bought two 6 packs today: one Molson, one Heineken. Now I'm drinking one, and although I feel about as free as a fly right now (which for me happens to be a very good thing), my decision wasn't free. Because my freedom to drink beer is tainted by the countless other decisions I have made and have been made around me.

I might have had to skip lunch earlier, if my boss demanded overtime again out of the blue, and I don't drink on an empty or full stomach. I might not like alcohol or like it too much, maybe because my father was an alcoholic and that affected me as a child. So I wouldn't have bought it in the first place. My body could have felt sick, my mind could have fallen to depression through a random train of thought (which can lead to or away from drinking depending on the feeling). Or a million other things could have happened - both to stop me from drinking my purchase or stopping me from purchasing the thing in the first place.

And only one thing is under our choice: what we do with the present moment, and even then too often has the moment passed before we realise what we wanted to do with it. And when we catch that moment, make that choice, it is more affected by our feelings and subconscious tides, our endless sea of history that coats every thought we make... If we really are free, we are free from what may I ask?


Green Mamba
on 12 February 2004, 6.08 am
The consequences of our actions.

That is why small children have more freedom than we as adults will ever have, because they are not bound by the potential consequences of their actions. I call it the "What if" factor ... but that is another post alltogether I think.


Anton
on 12 February 2004, 12.38 pm
I guess in a way you're correct. Every thing we experience will help to mold our viewpoints and how we make future decisions. For example after reading this I might decide to do something completely out of character in order to "beat the system" but, if I had never read this the thought would never have popped up and if somebody knew me very well they could've predicted that I would be predisposed to making that choice.

I don't really see it as a lack of free will though, I see it more as a predictable predisposition to certain actions due to influence from previous experiences.


Green Mamba
on 12 February 2004, 7.40 pm
That's quite a hefty definition, Anton. Now, to take matters one step further. A major part of our experience revolves around our exposure to the media and formal education. If anybody (a government for example) controlled these (or exerted enough control over the people who control it), then we are indirectly being stripped of our free will i.e. the perameters within which we are allowed to choose are being manipulated and therefore pre-determine the range of choices we will make. Obviously there are always exceptions ... they are called the rebels of society.

Maybe I should hand the stage over to Fly ... this is more his domain than mine...


Dragonfly
on 13 February 2004, 2.48 am
I agree Anton, the argument lies in how far you define "free will". Which is exactly why discussions on free will appeal to my (ironic?) sense of humour; because whenever there's an argument, its invariably due to a slight difference in definition, nothing more.

Yeah, as Mamba was saying.... Most of the decisions we make are made fast, almost automatically, and we don't give much attention to them at all. What makes these decisions, I think, is more the surface mind that those annoying advertisement tunes stick into (like here the "0-800-Empire-Todaay!" tune that's so fucking catchy its probably embedded into my brain for the rest of my life.) than anything else. You've been watching a lot of coca-cola ads and there just might be a 20% extra chance that you buy coke. I mean, that's how ads work - otherwise they wouldn't exist.

This is the old archetype thing - my faivourite drink for a long time was Jamaican rum, because when I was a kid I watched Treasure Island 54 times, at least, and the phrase "Gimme sum rrum will ya, boy, therrre's a good lad" (pirates roll their arrs) was permanently drilled into my mind. This is an example of how well background advertising works - especially on kids, hell they're so malleable.

Peer pressure is a huge thing too. It doesn't end at highschool - I mean you have to look good to do good in the adult world too. More so in the adult world in fact.

To think of where we learn things from, things about people, about the world: we learn them from other people around us, from tv, from the news. And manipulating that box that reaches into almost everyone's livingroom can provide remarkable results. I mean don't forget that PR and news was originally developed as propaganda, as a device for mind control. And the definition for that is what Mamba just gave: conditioning our range of choices.

Good example is what happened here with Iraq. All based on a lie (or false info, pick your take) on womd, you were either for the war or against it, and if you were against it you were branded an enemy. Soon as you start complaining about the leadership and its choices, you were told "Why are you here then? Why don't you just move somewhere else?"
You got to think with the flock to be a part of it.


Dragonfly
on 13 February 2004, 2.49 am
That was waay too fucking long. Sorry guys.


Anton
on 13 February 2004, 11.33 am
"because whenever there's an argument, its invariably due to a slight difference in definition, nothing more."

I've been thinking this for years now, I think there was a debate on love a year or two ago in the Shed that got pretty heated but in the end it was all down to people taking a different meaning of love.

"Yeah, as Mamba was saying.... Most of the decisions we make are made fast, almost automatically, and we don't give much attention to them at all"

This annoys me, quite some time ago I read a book review on /. about how you can predict future changes in the stock market and such from the fact the impulsive part of the brain is engaged before the reasoning side. I really want to reference it but I can't find it anywhere. It gave an example kinda like this: If you were told that at random momnets in your life somebody is going to drop a bucketload of harmless snakes on your lap without without warning how long would it take you to convince yourslef not to throw the snakes off your lap despite knowing they were'nt dangerous?

"If anybody (a government for example) controlled these (or exerted enough control over the people who control it), then we are indirectly being stripped of our free will"

Yeah, knowledge is power afterall and not many people can be bothered to look up the real truth and are quite content in their happy bubble of spoon fed lies and mis-truths. In a way it makes sense, who needs free will if you have the perfect illusion of it? I can't answer that myself but there's something about it that's just wrong



Dragonfly
on 14 February 2004, 3.33 am
Yeah, I made a big deal over a thread that I turned into an argument about treating mental disorders with drugs, when it was mostly just a question of definition, again.

"This annoys me, quite some time ago I read a book review on about how you can predict future changes in the stock market and such from the fact the impulsive part of the brain is engaged before the reasoning side."
But Anton, doesn't your snake example just back up this idea? (I don't know about using a part of the brain to predict stock market variables though..)

"In a way it makes sense, who needs free will if you have the perfect illusion of it?"

Take into mind, that democracy seems to encourage people to stop thinking for themselves. I mean it is the rule of the majority (or that's what we're led to believe...), and after all, any big change has so many steps to it and takes such an incredibly long time that its almost like no change occurs at all. Its hard for the average person to even bother to vote - bloody hell, especially here in the States.


Anton
on 14 February 2004, 11.56 am
Yeah it does back it up, I was annoyed because I couldn't find it and I thought some people may have been interested in it.


news-
on 4 August 2004, 7.20 am


link-
on 4 August 2004, 7.22 am


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Props to Green Mamba for bringing the weirdness

Hmph

80s candy bars were pretty good

only because i traded it for a candy bar in the 80's.

lol we all know you don't have a soul ghoti

my soul for some carbs...

But of course!

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