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All the Perl that's Practical to Extract and Report

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  • I read, liked, and agreed with most everything. There were a couple of points that still have me scratching my head:

    Why do humans have "self awareness"? Basically the same reason -- if can't communicate a concept of self and aggressively protect it, our real, actual physical self would easily be lost and we wouldn't have offspring.

    Are you saying that self-awareness is necessary for self-defense and generating offspring? If so, it is an interesting perspective not restricted to humans. It makes m

    • It’s really very simple. If you extrapolate “survival of the fittest” (which people always confuse with “survival of the best” or “survival of the most advanced”, but that is a rant for another day), the logical conclusion is that under the given conditions, having self-awareness and free will (if we do have free will, which personally I am not so convinced of) has allowed us to survive better than ancestors that did not, at least at one point in the past.

      There wa

      • I had the same confusion as Limbic Region on these points, though I'm not "Christian".

        You say it's very simple. But you make the qualification that you're not convinced we have "free will". If we do not -- that is if we have no control over our actions but are, rather, subject to deterministic laws of physics -- then it's nonsense to say that "free will" would have anything to do with "our survival", since "our survival" would be just part of a kind of inevitable unfolding of events. And if by "free will",

        • I agree entirely. :-)

          Well, almost – I have to point out that our current understanding of physics is that there is no determinism at the quantum level. Determinism exists only at the macro scale as a probabilistic effect (essentially, there are so overwhelmingly many quantum systems interacting in any meso- or macroscopic system that all statistical deviations are wiped out in the aggregate). But since our brains are composed of parts that operate at small enough scales that quantum effects can contribute significantly, there is a possibility that the behaviour of a human truly is non-deterministic. Note further that ever since Poincaré we know that the behaviour even of completely deterministic systems like a 3-body gravitational interaction can be unpredictable.

          So the subject is much more complex than meets the eye.

          However, I think the problem with the idea of free will is much simpler than all of that: what does the term even mean? It doesn’t mean random action, does it? So if we don’t act randomly, how do we “freely decide” how to act? It seems obvious to me that it comes down to an accumulation of past experience, which informs our actions in the future. That is a certainly a deterministic process to some extent, if only probabilistically. It just involves so many feedback loops that the behaviour of the system is unpredictable and potentially wildly chaotic. Maybe there is a small random input due to quantum effects. So minute differences in circumstances may lead to drastically different reactions – though often only to minutely different ones.

          By and large, this concept fits my experience with how humans act quite well. (Of course it’s not even close to something you could call a theory.)