Now I must confess dear reader that the closet I come to donning a lab coat and acquiring some objective data is holding my hand out to check if it's raining. I am not a scientist, this is not a thesis, it is perhaps closet to the rants of a man who thinks bin bags are chic.
You may then be sat thinking 'How Jay do you expect to provide anything to a conversation that is so far over your head you could wear it as slippers?'. Well the simple answer is I don't expect to provide anything in the way of physical data, but I can provide a logical argument that I and my cat judge to be sound, at least I think she does. You see I don't believe in free will, which I can assure you is also a view held by many physicists with their own lab coats and less artisan approaches to weather forecasting. This lack of faith in my freedom to make choices is not, as you may suspect, because of my appalling track record in poker games but because of a simple logical thought that lead me to the conclusion:
What generates a thought? I believe it is our brains, and what are our brains made of? I would answer organic matter, and the experiences fed into them (willing or unwillingly). I don't believe in freewill because I believe my brain controls me with its wiring and the data fed into it. I'm a machine built for sex and hunting but corrupted by money and biscuits.
I did not build my brain, my mother did, and since she brought me online It has processed the world around me making decisions based on data and it's wiring.
From my first moments of consciousness to now my brain may have developed, gaining a richer data pool and stronger synaptic links (better wiring), but it has never split from the reality that dominates it. My decisions are as voluntary as the movement of a wind sock in a breeze. As are yours, unless you believe in an independent consciousness or soul. I do not.
As I grow older my brain's chemistry and efficiency may change but only according to the effects of my environment and DNA. Intellectually my pool of stored data increases (hopefully) but there is nothing in my head built by me independently from my reality.Yes it may appear I'm making the decision to eat a third slice of cake, but in reality the decision is made by the wiring of my brain, my body, and a life time of data that says:
'You may as well, I'm sure, this time, you won't be sick'.
The optimism for that third slice, the bravery in consuming it, and the confidence to eat it despite the fact it's on her plate is a result of a calculation made by my brain, based on all my remembered experience that: Extra chocolate cake is worth being expelled from a birthday party.
The interesting implications of such a view on Freewill is it can be applied to our universe. Let me explain. If we assume for a second there is only one universe, and relax knowing there's now only one instance of Simon Cowel, then our reality is a contained system from Big Bang to 'Big Splat' all things that happen do so following the convoluted chain of cause and effect or to put it in a more physical way: The governed laws of interactions between things (waves, particles, and their absence). We are governed by these same chains of cause and effect despite wanting to pretend we make decisions by plucking ideas from a mystical realm called 'my consciousness'.
In essence, like our brains, I see our universe and our reality as one stream of things causing other things. Now I must clarify: Our Reality may house more than one universe, I don't know, what I reject is the idea that our decisions, or chance, like that of a roll of a dice, would spur a new universe.
The many-worlds interpretation of Quantum mechanics at its simplest looks at the evidence of the slit experiment that observation determines a reality and suggests that all possible outcomes exist until one happens. The issue I have with this is that in all simple completely contained and controlled systems there is only one outcome. As 'simple' is a relative term we can extrapolate that all systems are predictable with enough data and knowledge. Push this idea yet further and like a circuit behaves as the sum of its parts so does our reality. Yes in more complicated systems this becomes very difficult, if not impossible, to predict but it does not change that if you reset the system with the exact same conditions you would see the same result.
Einstein taught us time and space are relative and so our position alters how we perceive these things but the many-worlds interpretation of Quantum Mechanics suggests our position changes reality. I believe changing our position changes how we perceive reality and being part of reality it changes it too, but there is still only one path. Like a 'And circuit' deciding to become an 'Or gate' our movements change the flow of the system of reality we are part of. Even now, by reading this, I am exchanging data with you that may influence your behavior, even if that behavior is concluding I'm an idiot.
So yes our observation could change reality. Evidently it does. My point is that this is part of the continued ebb and flow of one reality. We are not as humans creating new universes every time we choose a latte rather than a mocha. That choice is an illusion, and the idea sounds too self-important, too human biased, reeking of an old theory about earth being the center of the universe. Although now it's 'humans are the center of realities'. Yes our observation may change our reality, but our actions are predetermined by our reality. If we have no free will then despite the possibility of other paths there is only one we and our reality would follow. The path determined by reality itself.
Yes we may imagine alternative realities, dwell and linger on decisions, but without the wild card of free will our actions, like that of a few particles being heated in a vacuum, can be predicted. Our reality, however many universes it comprises of, is ultimately in a vacuum (by definition), it's path predetermined by its bits and their interactions, to follow one logical path.
As humans we may see, imagine, and dream of other paths, other realities, but we can't take them. Our reality is a path of all things and the logic between them, we are not the dream creators, the world makers, but rather a cog, a pretty cog. A cog that likes cake.
So that's my theory but seeming as I spend my time mixing science jokes with cat impressions I emailed a professional scientist: Professor Jim Al-Khalili who was kind enough to reply:
"Your description of the illusion of free will in a cause and effect deterministic universe is pretty much my take too... Whether it provides you with any material for your show is down to you!".
Proving that I really should write my Edinburgh show. Thanks Jim!