While some dispute the very existence of free will, others claim to know how to build a computer with free will (so, presumably they think free will, or something like it, exists). From physicist Mark Hadley at The Conversation:
Strangely, the philosophical literature does not seem to consider tests for free will. But as a scientist, it was essential to have a test for my model. So here is my answer: if you are right handed, you will write your name holding a pen in your right hand. You will do so predictably almost 100% of the time. But you have free will, you could do otherwise. You can prove it by responding to a challenge or even challenging yourself. Given a challenge you may well write with your left hand. That is a highly discerning test of free will. And you can probably think of others, not just finely balanced 50:50 choices, but really rare events that show your independence and distinguish you from an automaton.
For free will, we add one more goal: to assert independence. The computer program is then designed to satisfy this goal or desire by responding to challenges to do otherwise. It’s as simple as that. Test it out yourself, the challenges can be external or you can generate your own. After all, isn’t that how you conclude that you have free will?
In principle the program can be implemented in today’s computers. It would have to be sophisticated enough to recognise a challenge and even more so to generate its own challenges. But this is well within reach of current technology. That said, I’m not sure that I want my own personal computer exercising free will though … More.
His argument sounds somewhat confusing. First, right-handed human beings can easily learn to use their left hands. Otherwise, how do right-handed women learn to polish all of their nails deftly without assistance?
In general, we do not bother to train both hands for a task unless both are required (in which case the training is usually developed as a relay). For most of us, the right hand is dominant. But it’s not clear how the question involves free will as such. That is, of course, a right-handed person might be “free” to be left-handed but it just isn’t convenient. For one thing, most societies assume right-handedness as the norm so an incentive to change late in life exists only for people who actually cannot use their right hand.
Dr. Hadley does not explain exactly how the computer program could have free will. Wouldn’t it need to have a self and desires first? If we are exploring these regions, it would make more sense to ask whether a cat has free will than whether a computer does.
See also: Researchers: Neuroscience has not “disproved” free will: “To be clear, we’re not taking a position on free will,” Dubljevic says. “We’re just saying neuroscience hasn’t definitively proven anything one way or the other.”
Do cats have free will? Do they need it?