Sunday, May 1, 2016

News You Can't Use: Free Will Could All Be an Illusion, Scientists Suggest

Freedom! Horrible, horrible freedom! We are condemned to it, it is the heaviest burden imaginable and an endless torment as we face down the absurdity of nothingness and, according to lying scientists, it isn't real. What a relief! The grim existential slouch toward oblivion just got a lot more manageable, that's for sure. Thank you tenure-seekers who can't even adequately explain magnets for finally laying to rest the cruelest of all jokes.

Free will might be an illusion created by our brains, scientists might have proved.

The idea that you're likable and people enjoy hearing your rambling and unfunny stories is definitely an illusion created by your brain. Free will might have slightly better footing, but then again science has offered another barrage of useless speculation, so not so fast my friend.

Humans are convinced that they make conscious choices as they live their lives. But instead it may be that the brain just convinces itself that it made a free choice from the available options after the decision is made.

We're basically like autonomous cars with legs and arms. Stop sweating and stressing, your magic auto-pilot body will just keep on chugging along in a highly deterministic fashion.

The idea was tested out by tricking subjects into believing that they had made a choice before the consequences of that choice could actually be seen.

The idea to trick the subjects was also predetermined by the wind-up toy brains of the scientists, of course.

In the test, people were made to believe that they had taken a decision using free will – even though that was impossible.

I've always wanted to be in a psychological study (without wasting me time and energy on it, of course) so I could be that guy who goes off and quits after a profanity-laden tirade, ruining everything.

The idea that human beings trick themselves into believing in free will was laid out in a paper by psychologists Dan Wegner and Thalia Wheatley nearly 20 years ago.

They were forced to write that paper by our mechanistic universe and as such should receive no credit whatsoever for it.

They proposed the feeling of wanting to do something was real, but there may be no connection between the feeling and actually doing it.

In attempting to translate academic babble into normal English all meaning was lost.

The new study builds on that work and says that the brain rewrites history when it makes its choices, changing our memories so that we believe we wanted to do something before it happened.

It turns out the dirt bike punk I knew growing up who fell off said bike, bloodied himself, and then mumbled "I meant to do that" through dripping lips was actually being truthful. I'd feel bad about yelling "He's hurt, let's get out of here!" and then running off, but, again, free will is an illusion.

In one of the studies undertaken by Adam Bear and Paul Bloom, of Princeton University, the test subjects were shown five white circles on a computer monitor. They were told to choose one of the circles before one of them lit up red.

It's no giant maze, but it will have to do. 

Statistically, people should have picked the right circle about one out of every five times. But they reported getting it right much more than 20 per cent of the time, going over 30 per cent if the circle turned red very quickly.

This incredibly weak finding should now be used as a justification to tear down all our traditions and rebuild society from the ground up.

The idea of free will may have arisen because it is a useful thing to have, giving people a feeling of control over their lives and allowing for people to be punished for wrongdoing.

I mean, I guess it had some minor utility, but on the other hand some people exaggerated their circle-guessing skills so let's open up the prisons and let everyone out.

I had no choice but to post this lame image.

But that same feeling can go awry, the scientists wrote in the Scientific American magazine.

"Let's talk about our feelings," scientists wrote in Science Magazine.

It may be important for people to feel they are control of their lives, for instance, but distortions in that same process might make people feel that they have control over external processes like the weather.

One moment you have pride in something you worked hard to accomplish, the next moment you're trying to control the weather. It's a pretty natural progression when you think about it.

Aaron Zehner is the author of "The Foolchild Invention" available in paperback and e-book format. Read free excerpts here and here.

No comments:

Post a Comment