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Sunday, December 01, 2013

FOOLs

Arnold Kling describes an acronym:
I like to use the acronym FOOL, which stands for Fear Of Others’ Liberty. I think that many of us are FOOLs. I count myself a FOOL, at least to some extent. 
Once you are a FOOL, then you may be willing, yea, eager, to delegate the job of constraining someone else’s liberty. We don’t all want to be policemen or prison guards, but most of us are glad that there are people doing those jobs. 
If I delegate the job of constraining someone else’s liberty, then, unless I happen to be a despot, those who have the power to constrain someone else’s liberty have the power to constrain my liberty as well. That is roughly what we mean by equality before the law.
Yup, we're FOOLs we are, one and all.  Some more than others.

14 comments:

Clovis e Adri said...

Fear Of Obamacare and Liberals: that's a more frequent FOOL around this corner :-)

Bret said...

Yes, there are many ways to be FOOLish, I suppose. :-)

Clovis e Adri said...

Talking about Freedom, Bret, how much thought did you give to the concept of free will?

There is the possibility that free will is an illusion, in which case your fundamental principle in life is illusory too.
How about that?

This is usually a question in the realm of philosophy, but it touches our present knowledge (or lack of it) concerning complexity, computability, human brain, physics and the universe :-)

Annoying Old Guy said...

Presuming free will is the only reasonable position. Either we do have it, in which case obviously we should presume it, or we don't. But if we don't, what we "decide" or "presume" is not only completely irrelevant but not even under our control. Therefore it doesn't matter, so why not presume free will?

Bret said...

Clovis,

I've given almost no thought to the concept of "free will." Indeed, my eyes have glazed over when I've seen various debates about it. It doesn't seem like I would do anything differently whether or not I knew that free will existed or not.

As far as my "fundamental principle in life" (choice) goes, whether or not I have free will, I still have to go through decision processes and those processes, to me, are life.

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

From a practical point of view, I can only agree. At least for now.

The question may not be so useless to you, who works with robotics. The question if computers will ever achieve self-consciousness still lingers on. If, and when, we get there, there may be important consequences on how we organize ourselves as society. The debate between freedom and control, or libertarianism and colectivism, will be upgraded to take account of that.

I've got myself thinking more about free will by watching my son. He is now 8 months old, and the evolution in his self-consciousness is so clear. He used to have very few choices to make, and now you can see him processing dozens of new ones, it is quite interesting to try to foresee which ones he takes. And progressively more difficult to guess it right.


AOG:

---
But if we don't, what we "decide" or "presume" is not only completely irrelevant but not even under our control. Therefore it doesn't matter, so why not presume free will?
---
Again, I agree with you too - for now.

If it turns out that conscience is just an emergent system obtained from many - but finite and computable - degrees of freedom, and within our future computational power, it will matter a hell of a lot.

Howard said...

On the matter of free will, the practical and straightforward take is nailed by aog. Roy Baumeister offered a pretty good article recently. It actually covers some deeper knowledge questions as well.

Annoying Old Guy said...

If it turns out that conscience is just an emergent system [..] and within our future computational power, it will matter a hell of a lot.

Why? If we don't have it, our machine creations won't either. If we do, then I think it not only possible but almost certain we will create machines that do as well. Therefore...what?

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG,

It is the other way around: if we build machines with conscience, within our present silicon based computational technology, it may well imply we do not have free will. [I am aware of caveats here, hence my use of "may"].

As for the implications, well, take for one the fact that I could then use a computer to foresee choices you will make, before you make it. If I can change the object over wich you would make your choice, I am effectively manipulating your will. How much importance your choices have then? Quoting Bret, "I still have to go through decision processes and those processes, to me, are life" - if I can control your life, where is your freedom? Or, where is your life?

In a more subjective level, it is difficult not to feel that our life is diminished in absence of free will. If in future free will is no longer free, that abstract and useless feeling suddenly becomes quite real.

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "...take for one the fact that I could then use a computer to foresee choices you will make, before you make it."

Given sensitivity to initial conditions and other limitations of chaos applied to an inherently non-perfect snapshot of a brain coupled with unpredictable events makes predicting others' decisions with perfect accuracy an impossibility - even if every last atom in the universe were dedicated to computing that at a quantum level. And that's assuming there are no quantum effects that could cause thinking and decision making to deviate.

Clovis wrote: "If in future free will is no longer free, that abstract and useless feeling suddenly becomes quite real."

Perhaps it would for you. For me, it would make absolutely no difference.

Annoying Old Guy said...

To add to Bret's point, even beyond that you have what is called the "halting problem" which tends to preclude even on a theoretical level achieving that level of prediction. That applies to systems as complex as a Turing Machine, which is less complex then a sentience. In order to have an "oracle" for me, you would have to have a computer that was not just sentient, but sentient at a fundamentally higher level of abstraction.

Remember, AI is a crapshoot.

But I will ask a different question - how is this different than socialism, where the government controls my life? One that can "change the object over which I would make my choice"? E.g., which insurance policies I can buy. Where is my freedom then?

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

You may be overstepping the role of chaos here. The computer you already uses is under heavy influence of non-linear physics, still, you are satisfied enough with the physical states it can present every time you turn it on. It is never in the same condition as the last time you used it, but nevertheless your Windows initial screen looks pretty much the same for you.

You certainly will have problems to simulate long term outcomes of a mind, but I was not talking about long term, weather forecast is awful in the long term, but works pretty well for the next hours.

Now, your remark over quantum influences is a whole other thing. This raises the possibility of conscience being not computable, which means we have indeed free will. But if quantum physics can achieve this role in our brains is highly controversial. A very good point, anyway.


AOG,

You raise very good points too. The halting problem is one of the caveats I mentioned before. But it is only a problem if our brain is indeed a Turing machine. You Wikipedia link touches that point.


Anyway, I do not want to give the impression I am losing my sleep with this. It is just something interesting enough to take my attention here and then.

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG,

Forgot to answer this one:

---
[...] how is this different than socialism, where the government controls my life?
---
The difference is in fairness.

You can easily discover/understand the manipulation in the socialist case. Hence you can fight or adapt to the manipulation in the socialist case, probably not in the other one.

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "You may be overstepping the role of chaos here."

It's 5:00 AM here, and I think not.

To have predicted that I'd be awake and writing this, you would not only have to have known my complete "system state" and been able to accurately simulate the evolution of that state, but you would've had to have predicted that the dog would've rolled into me, so you would also have to simulate the dog perfectly. And the dog probably rolled in to me because the wife rolled over, so you'd have to simulate her perfectly. And she probably stirred because of the specific pattern of rain, so you'd have to accurately simulate the rain. And since the specific pattern of rain is affected by nucleation of droplets, which is in turn affected by cosmic rays, many of which have been traveling for untold eons, you'd have to accurately simulate a substantial fraction of the entire universe, starting eons ago!

Good luck with that!

I may or may not have free will, but you'll never be able to simulate the lack of it.

Clovis wrote: "...your Windows initial screen looks pretty much the same..."

I only use Linux. :-)