Physicist Sabine Hossenfelder is also confused about randomness:
I wish people would stop insisting they have free will. It’s terribly annoying. Insisting that free will exists is bad science, like insisting that horoscopes tell you something about the future – it’s not compatible with our knowledge about nature. ...Lubos Motl rebuts this, and endorses this comment:
There are only two types of fundamental laws that appear in contemporary theories. One type is deterministic, which means that the past entirely predicts the future. There is no free will in such a fundamental law because there is no freedom. The other type of law we know appears in quantum mechanics and has an indeterministic component which is random. This randomness cannot be influenced by anything, and in particular it cannot be influenced by you, whatever you think “you” are. There is no free will in such a fundamental law because there is no “will” – there is just some randomness sprinkled over the determinism.
In neither case do you have free will in any meaningful way.
Hossenfelder: "I wish people would stop insisting they have free will."Motl cites the Free Will Theorem and argues for operational free will, but I don't think he gets to the heart of the matter.
Stor: How could they, if they have no free will! :)
People are really confused about probability and randomness.
Hossenfelder argues that our physical theories do not allow for free will. But if one did, what would it look like? For one thing, certain microscopic processes would be unpredictable. Just like quantum mechanics.
So how is quantum mechanics not the perfect theory for allowing a belief in free will?
Hossenfelder has her own proposal for a physical theory with free will. She says:
we need a time evolution that is neither deterministic nor random. ...It is hard to make any sense of this. She seems to have in mind an F that is determined by knowledge that is only known to the person with the free will.
What we need in order for this evolution to not be random is a function F(ti) hat we can call the “free will function” that at any time ti returns a specific choice, ...
The function F should not be forward deterministic itself, otherwise we would be back in the block universe with Laplace’s demon. Neither should it be a random
All examples that allow for free will have in common that the free will function cannot be a solution (at least piecewise) to a differential equation for if it was it could be evolved forward by use of this equation.
The sensible consequence to draw from this "free will theorem" is of course that neither particles nor humans have free will. I don't know why you believe their argument implies I am wrong. The very opposite is the case, it supports my argument. Do you really want to argue that particles have free will? Seriously?The authors of that theorem (Conway, Kochen) say that the sensible conclusion is that both humans and particles have free will. Electrons seem to have free will in the sense that if you align their spin in one direction, and then measure spin in a transverse direction, the electrons seem to decide on their own whether to have spin up or down. When we try to predict, all we can say is that we see a 50-50 chance of each possibility. Some people say that this is proof of true randomness, but it makes just as much sense to say that the electron has a mind of its own.
Saying that an electron has free will is essentially the same as saying that the electron appears to make choices that are not predictable by any external data. It does not mean that the electron has consciousness, and physicists do not know how to define that concept. Quantum mechanics textbooks do not say that the electron makes choices, because that would be anthropomorphizing it. But they make equivalent statements about it being unpredictable.
Update: More comments:
George Musser said: Many people may seek free will out of religious (not political) motivations, but in most cases I think it's simpler: we observe we have free will, and the purpose of science is to explain observations. Our observations might be illusory, but then we need to account for the illusion.
Hossenfelder: Since this comment section is suffering from an extraordinary influx of mostly ill-informed, impolite, and entirely superfluous submissions that clog my inbox, I am closing this comment section.