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How New Default Consensus Realities Instantiate

11 March 2024

Free Will as a Spectrum of Agency

by metavalent

Reflecting on Gregory Bateson’s work,1 what if Free Will is a kind of delicate and precious Ecology of Mind natural resource that requires, deserves, and even demands comprehensive ecological protection?

Watch 3 ways to defend your mind against social media distortions if the embed does not behave nicely.

(10:33) “What we pay attention to is our life.” — Amishi Jha.

Stanford Professor Robert Sapolsky’s latest book, Determined: A Science of Life Without Free Will, has successfully re-ignited the conversation about the nature of free will with the wonderfully click-baity, “I don’t think we have a shred of free will,” based upon the argument that all human behavior is a response to sensory experience. Fun, right?

This one confuses me because it’s from such a highly respected source. Maybe Sapolsky is tossing the grain of sand in the oyster to get a process started, or to see what happens.

My question is, why would free will not exist across a wide spectrum, significantly influenced by causes and conditions, with powerful circumstantial, environmental, and situational factors at play? Why would free will, an aspect of human cognition, not be self-similar to the spectrums of intelligence, agency, and personality traits? What an odd topic on which to flip so acutely binary with such a seemingly atypical, zealous misinterpretation of the data. Of course, it could be a touch of conscious histrionics for effect; somewhat of a sad necessity for monetization in the Distraction Economy. 🤷

Meanwhile, social media keeps on doing what social media does to convince us that we cannot possibly change ourselves. Seems to me that, simply because Skinneristic interventions and meddling in people’s lives in a way that effectively and preemptively robs them of informed consent and agency, aka, their free well is overwhelmingly effective, that does not provide compelling proof of the complete absence of free will. It simply means that some particular tribes of human-dabblers have successfully created experimental conditions that confirm that thesis. Cui bono?

Compare and contrast with Daniel Dennet’s take.

[1] See Gregory Bateson’s Steps to an Ecology of Mind: Collected Essays in Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution, and Epistemology.

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tags: metavalent