Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Do we live by freewill?

Years ago, I read an article suggesting that if man has freewill, so do electrons. I don't know exactly why I find this so fascinating. I make decisions, I act on them and look for the results. Every keystroke on this computer is the result of a decision I made. Or is it? The comments on the article linked to above provide an interesting exploration of the question of whether or not we truly have freewill. I honestly don't know, but I can tell you that I want to believe that I do.

I want to believe that the choices I made up to this moment are mine, and mine alone. You probably do, too. I mean, what is the meaning of life if none of the choices we make are ours to be made? What if we're just descending through the Pachinko game of life to our ultimate demise, all through cause and effect, with no choice in the matter?

As fascinating as I find that, here's something that will really blow your mind (as it is happening to my mind right now): if matter has freewill, does it cooperate?

The random number experiments started in the 90s seems suggestive that the particles we know of as matter do cooperate. What were those experiments all about? They started with sitting people down in front a computer that displayed a 1 or a 0 at regular intervals, with the digits selected at random. Then they instructed the subjects to make more 1s than 0s appear. The results showed a statistically measurable deviation from random - more 1s than 0s appeared when the subjects thought about it.

Then they scaled it out to servers dishing up 1s and 0s at random, 24x7, across the world. They found major deviations from random just before the OJ Simpson verdict was read. The big one occurred about 4 hours prior to the September 11th attacks. In all of these events, millions of people had their attention focused on one major cultural event, either consciously or subconsciously.

These scientists were seeking to establish a connection between coherent consciousness and the behavior of matter. That could be seen as a form of cooperation. After reading about those experiments, I felt that my own conviction was confirmed, that being nice to your computer will yield a more pleasant user experience. It doesn't matter if you're using Windows, Mac or Linux. Be nice to your computer and it will be nice to you.

Your computer relies upon quantum mechanics to function. I suspect that the brains of all animals requires quantum mechanics to function, too. In other words, while it is true that much of our existence is supported by chemical reactions, there is something more going on that can't be explained by chemical reactions alone. The random number experiments suggest that consciousness can affect other systems that employ quantum mechanics to function, you know, like computers.

Looking around me, I see that matter cooperates. From protons, to atoms to planets, I see cooperation. From microbes to humans, I see cooperation. The only way that I see matter staying together is through some sort of cooperation. Electrons and protons have opposite charges. Were they to meet, there would be instant annihilation. To compose an atom together suggests some form of cooperation. Whether that cooperation comes from a great creator or the individual will of the particles themselves is one of the great mysteries in my mind.

The takeaway for me in all of this is that in order to live, we must cooperate. We must cooperate with other people and our environment. The point at which we die is the point at which the cells in our body no longer cooperate. The point at which civilization dies is the point at which we refuse to cooperate with each other, freewill or not.

If we have freewill, then we still have a choice. Or do we? If we fail to cooperate, we might just survive, but to truly live, we must cooperate in some way with our surroundings - the environment, the people and the culture.
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