Free will is an illusion - a biologist explains | Michael Levin and Lex Fridman | Summary and Q&A

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October 2, 2022
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Free will is an illusion - a biologist explains | Michael Levin and Lex Fridman

TL;DR

Organisms under metabolic constraints develop the concept of agency and free will to navigate their environments efficiently.

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Questions & Answers

Q: How does the lack of energy resources affect an organism's perception of agency?

When an organism is under metabolic constraints, it must conserve energy and become efficient in its actions. This necessitates perceiving the world in terms of coarse-grained agents that either align with its goals or are to be avoided.

Q: Is free will an illusion?

Free will can be seen as a useful adaptation that emerges from the need to simplify and create a narrative about oneself and the environment. While the debate on whether free will truly exists continues, the belief in free will is likely present in all self-constructing agents.

Q: Do primitive organisms have a sense of agency?

Primitive organisms may not possess complex metacognition or long-term planning abilities, but they still exhibit a sense of agency. This basic understanding of agency is essential for accomplishing tasks, simple or complex, in various spaces.

Q: How does human perception of agency differ from other forms of intelligence?

Humans excel at detecting agency in medium-sized objects moving at medium speeds in the three-dimensional world, which is our primary training set. However, if we had innate senses of our internal physiological processes, we would be adept at detecting intelligence in physiological space as well.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Organisms that lack energy are forced to create narrative models of agents in their environment to determine their own actions.

  • Free will emerges as a result of simplifying and creating narratives about one's environment.

  • The belief in free will is likely present in all self-constructing agents, regardless of biological or non-biological nature.

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