I’ve always been vocal against the theory that humans have free will. I want to believe otherwise because it’s only human to do so, I don’t want to feel like everything has been determined already and just waiting for the time. I don’t want to feel like what I think are decisions am making are actually not, rather in the background they are mathematical equations and solutions are already determined. However, what I feel is irrelevant. What matters is what agrees with evidence. For centuries humans felt the Earth is at the center of the Solar System. And since forever humans have felt that their is life after death despite the lack of evidence or at least a theory that aligns with observation. So let’s put feelings aside for now.
Last Sunday evening I realized I had been at my computer the whole weekend programming. I decided to go out for a few drinks so it didn’t turn out to be one of those weekends that just passed by. They had football on. It was a match between some two European clubs I can’t remember which. When it comes to sport I hardly know anything outside Formula 1 and MotoGP.
Anyway, I’m sipping away at the usual(Smirnoff Ice – I know it’s a girly drink but beer tastes whack), I’m watching football and kind of enjoying it even though I didn’t know which team to root for. At some point I couldn’t help myself but think scientifically, and my second bottle made me a little philosophical too. I start to wonder what are the chances of a footballer making a move that is completely independent of what he’s been trained to do, his talent, his hormonal situation, his genes, his intelligence and his past experience. The answer is nearly nil. In fact every single move depends mainly on these factors. So at this point nothing seems random to me anymore. I almost want to look at the history of both teams to calculate the odds of which team will win, but then that would kill the element of surprise. Interestingly enough I still enjoy the game even though now it’s like observing Brownian motion (the presumably random moving of particles suspended in a fluid resulting from their bombardment by the fast moving atoms or molecules in the gas or liquid). Everything looks random even though looking closer you see patterns that help you predict outcomes. And that didn’t make watching football less fun, it’s still fun just in a different way.
This seemingly random but not quite random human behavior goes beyond football into our daily lives. Almost every action and inaction can be attributed to one of three things: biology, history, environment. I stay up late because I had a coffee earlier. I go for a drink because am thirsty. I get out of bed because I have to go to work. I take this route because I have a bad experience with that one. I use Safaricom Network because they provide the fastest internet etc. There’s an explanation to why everything is happening the way it is. When I ‘decided’ to got out for drinks last Sunday evening their was factors that led to that. Factors that with the right equations wouldn’t have predicted any other outcome.
Some people say that Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight blog is the real winner of the US presidential election of 2012. While everyone else thought it was too close to call before election night, Nate crunched his data and predicted a 92% chance of an Obama win. Reelecting Obama was a collective choice the American voters made. Nate used math to predict the outcome of that choice accurately. And this is not the first time he’s done it. He’s also not the only one in the game. It’s actually a whole field of study.
Most people think the ultimate Artificial Intelligence life form will be that with free will. But do we ourselves have free will? I think if we create something with free will we would have created something far more advanced than us humans. I think just because we think we make decisions doesn’t mean we actually do. I think we just react to situations, and our reactions depend on our genetic makeup, history and environment. And we have no more free will than a rock that just sits there.