2021-07-24 Bouncy Castle
I had prepared a blog entry about how the Free Will vs. Determinism is a false dichotomy, but I won't waste time on it here. Look, if you have free will then the obvious conclusion is you are not bound by causality and you can literally do whatever you want. That is magical thinking. And determinism requires there be some kind of past, present, and future which you are walking through like an automaton. The truth is in the middle in that there is no past or future. A machine programmed with a past would experience it the moment they were turned on as if it was really a past life and act accordingly, this is no different than if it had lived that life. And what is the future? Models.
The future is a model you build to help guide next actions. But do you take "next actions"? There is no way you can selectively edit the past or the future, there is only a flow of the current moment. You can't separate this one from the next or chop out the last ten minutes because it didn't go the way you wanted. So this sounds like an argument for Determinism. But from what I understand that requires an unfolding of the future. What I have come to realize is that everything has happened and we are simply experiencing it. The way we are able to perceive this is as "now". We don't have perceptions of the past or future, only records of what happened and models of what might happen. So it's not a matter of us making decisions or executing the next tick of a machine.
What does this mean for us as people? Nothing, really. There's really no way to use this information. Even acknowledging there is a kernel of truth requires the admission that our brain can't even really perceive or model that which you are agreeing to. So we can live our lives and forget this insight. It is an insight many people experience after a deep meditation practice. I'm 49 and have been meditating since I was about 10 years old, off and on. I have come to realize certain things about existence which are interesting but not very useful. That is the joke of meditation. You see more of how we unfold the future (mindfulness) but you also see there's no escape from it. You just have to accept it.
But this lifelong practice has helped me to really enjoy watching my son and his friend play on this Bouncy Castle Water Slide thing we got him. I could be worried about the environment or bills to pay or why I need to see a doctor more than the average person, but I set it all aside and enjoyed this day and the kids laughing and the dog trying to climb the slide and all the rest of it. Those kids don't think about determinism and they don't think about free will either. Instead they play, and make up stories that they act out, and eagerly dig into snacks when they are brought out, without a care in the world. That's where you want to be.