4 thoughts on “Do We Have Free Will? Computer Says No

  1. Six seconds seems such a long period of time. What a great experiment. Do you have any further details with regards to what questions he was answering during the experiment?

  2. Food for thought:
    Combine the conscious mind’s 6 second lag time with the fact that 95% of behavior is unconsciously motivated, and it makes for a very tantalizing prospect to anyone or agency wanting to take advantage of the human mind, individually or en masse.
    Include a Machiavellian will to control and manipulate, along with a deft knowledge of hypnosis, conditioning, and psychological defense mechanisms and one easier has the makings of dystopian nightmare.
    Thanks for posting!

  3. Trivially flawed experiment.

    Nice to see scientists getting interested in philosophy of mind though, even if they haven’t bothered to think the topic through very substantially.

    One crucial hole in this test is that the decision is arbitrary, and it makes no serious difference to the subject if he chooses left or right. Real-world decisions requiring _meaningful_ action within one second are everywhere, though. Tennis players during a game, for example, are clearly responding to new data and making decisions based on that data well within the one-second time frame.

    It should have been obvious to the programme-makers and/or the experimenters that we are not all governed by a five-second time delay on all our decisions.

    More subtly, both the programme-makers and the experimenters make a deeper blunder. This is to assume that a person making a decision that takes several seconds to become apparent to the person himself has not really “made” the decision. This mistake rests on conflating

    decision
    with
    conscious decision

    and then conflating

    lack of conscious decision
    with
    lack of free will.

    A few seconds’ thought, of course (for example, six), shows that neither of these conclusions follow logically. Nor does any of this seriously add to the free-will/determinist discussion. “Your consciousness comes in at a very late stage” reveals the crack in the logic. Since your consciousness – in those cases where a decision takes 5 or 6 seconds to unfold – is just the rest of your brain telling you what you’ve decided, there’s no problem here, as the researcher partly admits in his next sentence.

    Then comes his tendentious summing up (did the TV crew force him to phrase it like this?), when he says….

    “It seems that what our experiments reveal is that there’s a mechanism unfolding, a deterministic mechanism that leads up to your decision at a later point in time – and that was inevitable, it could only go one way.” Oh dear oh dear oh dear. _None_ of these results suggest anything deterministic at all. There’s no reason why the willing subject, the “decider”, cannot be smeared out over several seconds, and we don’t know if the six seconds is a waiting period while the brain reviews other data or reasons to override the original proto-decision – of course inside the scanner while making a meaningless decision, there will be no new reasons or data to interrupt the cumulative bias building up in favour of left or right.

    As opposed to on a tennis court….

    Honestly….. someone help that man to think a bit.

  4. You are absolutely right that to choose left or right is a very trivial decision, but that IS the point here: in this experiment random decision making has been predicted. This experience cannot be used anywhere itself but it can make a path to a deeper study of a human brain.
    When it concerns tennis players or any other sportsmen, it doesnt mean that when they play they make a conscious decision every time they hit the ball. They do it subconsciously. They do not think about how to move or what muscles to move. They just concentrate on the job and let their reflexes to take the lead. And reflexes are made with hours and hours of training. Am I being not wright?

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