Re: Free will (was: Re: Nucleus Accumbens Transplant)

Scott Badger (
Sun, 14 Feb 1999 11:28:46 -0600

J. R. Molloy <> provided us with some interesting text by Francis Crick:


>My first assumption was that part of one's brain is concerned with making
>plans for future actions, without necessarily carrying them out. I also
>assumed that one can be conscious of such plans -- that is, that they are
>subject at least to immediate recall.
>My second assumption was that one is not conscious of the "computations"
>done by this part of the brain but only of the "decisions" it makes -- that
>is, its plans. Of course, these computations will depend on the structure
>that part of the brain (derived partly epigenetically and partly from past
>experience) and on its current inputs from other parts of the brain.
>My third assumption was that the decision to act on one plan or another is
>also subject to the same limitations. In other words, one has immediate
>recall of what is decided but not of the computations that went into the
>decision, even though one may be aware of a plan to move. (Professor
>Piergiorgio Odifreddi has pointed out to me that one should also assume
>there is agreement between decisions and the resulting behavior.)
>Then, such a machine (this was the word I used in my letter) will appear to
>itself to have Free Will, provided it can personify it behavior -- that is,
>it has an image of "itself."
>The actual cause of the decision may be clear cut (Pat's addition), or it
>may be deterministic but chaotic -- that is, a very small perturbation may
>make a big difference to the end result. this would give the appearance of
>the Will being "free" since it would make the outcome essentially
>unpredictable. Of course, conscious activities may also influence the
>decision mechanism (Pat's addition).
>Such a machine can attempt to explain to itself why it made a certain
>(by using introspection). Sometimes it may reach the correct conclusion. At
>other times it will either not know or, more likely, will confabulate,
>because it has no conscious knowledge of the "reason" for the choice. This
>implies that there must be a mechanism for confabulation, meaning that
>a certain amount of evidence, which may or may not be misleading, part of
>the brain will jump to the simplest conclusion. as we have seen, this can
>happen all too easily.
>This concluded my Theory of Free Will. It obviously depends upon
>understanding what consciousness is about (the main topic of this book),
>the brain plans (and carries out) actions, how we confabulate, and so on. I
>doubt if there is anything really novel in all this, although some of the
>details may not have been included in previous explanations.
> ** ** **
>And there I was content to let the matter rest. I met Luis in New York, and
>subsequently he came to La Jolla, California, on a visit. he as also able
>discuss the problem with Paul Churchland (husband of Patrica Churchland). I
>had not intended to ponder more on the topic but once my interest had been
>aroused I found myself thinking about it from time to time.
>Where, I wondered, might Free Will be located in the brain?


Here is where I get a bit confused.

Didn't Crick just get done explaining that we are aware of the decisions to act but not aware of the computations which lead to the decisions to act? And consequently we confabulate to make meaning out of it all and reassure ourselves of our self-determination? There is only process and outcome. We observe the outcome and convince ourselves it is the product of our will.

Why then would he suddenly start talking about where in the brain Free Will is located? Doesn't he mean "where the computations are?"

Anyway, it's long been disconcerting to me that so much of my behavior is not actually under my control. This is one of the reasons I'm a transhumanist. Transhumanism to me is all about attaining Free Will and potentiating our intelligence. It may be the most important human limitation to overcome.

Scott Badger