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Amazingly, Time Magazine is not just directly undermining free will, for once

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Neuroscience writer David Disalvo writes there:

In a recent study published in Cognition, researchers tested the question with hundreds of undergrads at Georgia State University in Atlanta. The students were first told about a high-tech cap that allows neuroscientists to predict decisions before people make them, based solely on brain activity. The students were then given an article to read about a woman named Jill who tested wearing the cap for a month, during which time neuroscientists were able to predict all of her decisions, including which candidates she’d vote for. The technology and Jill were made up for the study.

The students were asked whether they thought this technology was plausible and whether they felt that it undermines free will. Eighty percent responded that it is plausible, but most did not believe it threatened free will unless the technology went beyond prediction and veered into manipulation of decisions. Only if the neuroscientists had somehow changed Jill’s mind to make decisions she would not have otherwise made did most of the student’s think her free will was jeopardized.

A bit different from here,

Science writer Michael Lemonick announced in Time (1995), ” … consciousness is somehow a by-product of the simultaneous, high-frequency firing of neurons in different parts of the brain. It’s the meshing of these frequencies that generates consciousness … just as the tones from individual instruments produce the rich, complex and seamless sound of a symphony orchestra.” Actually, Francis Crick and Christof Koch, who put forward that concept, considered it highly speculative. And Crick prudently hedged his bets anyway by saying that Darwinian evolution did not equip our brains for such tasks as understanding consciousness.

What’s remarkable (to some of us) is how few educated people see that undermining free will is a direct assault by totalitarians on society. It always means, in practice, that instead of us making decisions, they will. They don’t care if they don’t have free will. They just want to be the ones making all decisions, and then they are happy.

On the other hand, the decision to cater to traditional thinkers could have to do with questionable profitability of big media in the age of the Internet. Hard to say.

See also: The Science Fictions series at your fingertips (the human mind)

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3 Replies to “Amazingly, Time Magazine is not just directly undermining free will, for once

  1. 1
    ciphertext says:

    So in the quote from Lemonick, is the term frequency used to describe a quantity or a wavelength? The context clues I”m reading seem to indicate that it is measuring a quantity, but the metaphor is one strictly of wavelength (specifically sound).

    I don’t know whether to take the quote as meaning my consciousness is the result of some grand calculation (frequency as quantity) or it is literally the resultant sound from a biological “Hi-Fi” that sits between my ears.

    At first blush, the former seems to be more “palatable”. The later would relegate consciousness to simply being an by-product of some prime function (or collection of functions).

    In the later case, we could simply disrupt our consciousness by generating an interference frequency and projecting that into our minds.

    Surely they jest!

  2. 2
    Mark Frank says:

    What’s remarkable (to some of us) is how few educated people see that undermining free will is a direct assault by totalitarians on society. It always means, in practice, that instead of us making decisions, they will.

    What’s remarkable to me is that an educated person could write such a confused sentence. I don’t see totalitarians or politicians of any stripe making any pronouncements on free will. This is the province of academic philosophers and scientists which the rest of the population cheerfully ignores.

    By “undermining free will” do you mean

    a)discovering that there is no such thing as free will


    b) implying that there is no such thing?

    If (a ) then there is no such thing as free will; the totalitarians have no free will either and are no better off than anyone else.

    If (b ) is anyone going to seriously stop acting as though they have free will just because some scientists/philosophers imply they haven’t?

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    believing you have no free will has negative consequences:

    (Materialistic) Scientists say free will probably doesn’t exist, but urge: “Don’t stop believing!” -2010
    Excerpt: Studies found people who were told there is no such thing as free will were more likely to cheat under experimental conditions. “One of the most striking findings to emerge recently in the science of free will is that when people believe—or are led to believe—that free will is just an illusion, they tend to become more antisocial.” For example, in an experiment involving money, some participants were randomly assigned to what was called a determinism condition:
    They were asked to read statements such as, “A belief in free will contradicts the known fact that the universe is governed by lawful principles of science.” Those participants stole more money than those who had been randomly assigned to read statements from what was called a free-will condition–who had read statements such as, “Avoiding temptation requires that I exert my free will.”

    fortunately, contrary to what materialistic scientists believe, i.e. that we are merely victims of our genes and/or brain states, the truth is that free will is found to be a real ‘tangible’ part of reality that is ‘axiomatic’ to quantum theory:

    What Does Quantum Physics Have to Do with Free Will? – By Antoine Suarez – July 22, 2013
    Excerpt: What is more, recent experiments are bringing to light that the experimenter’s free will and consciousness should be considered axioms (founding principles) of standard quantum physics theory. So for instance, in experiments involving “entanglement” (the phenomenon Einstein called “spooky action at a distance”), to conclude that quantum correlations of two particles are nonlocal (i.e. cannot be explained by signals traveling at velocity less than or equal to the speed of light), it is crucial to assume that the experimenter can make free choices, and is not constrained in what orientation he/she sets the measuring devices.
    To understand these implications it is crucial to be aware that quantum physics is not only a description of the material and visible world around us, but also speaks about non-material influences coming from outside the space-time.,,,

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