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Human Functional Freewill

By Nanook - Posted on 14 November 2010

[This section draws heavily on the concept and terminology of awareness levels. These are discussed in the section on Two Human Species. Nanook is talking with Father Vincent. Nanook is italic type.]

Functional free will divided into social and personal

“So, now let’s look at functional free will for HUMANS. From the individual’s viewpoint, it relates to an EMOTION they feel related to their ability to make choices and take actions without external constraint. From a society viewpoint, the need to define the concept of individual free will is related to assigning responsibility to people for actions they take. These are separate concepts. So let’s talk about them separately.”

***Personal functional free will - making choices

Rand on Choice

“First, consider the process of individual choice. Ayn Rand gave us a summary of how free will appears to work for humans. Let me read that from Atlas. Page 1012.”

“Given the appropriate conditions, the appropriate physical environment, all living organisms - with one exception - are set by their nature to originate automatically the actions required to sustain their survival. The exception is man.
Man, like a plant or an animal, must act in order to live; man, like a plant or an animal, must gain the values his life requires. But man does NOT ACT AND FUNCTION BY AUTOMATIC CHEMICAL REACTIONS OR BY AUTOMATIC SENSORY REACTIONS; there is no physical environment on earth in which man could survive by the guidance of nothing but his involuntary sensations. And man is born without innate ideas; having no innate knowledge of what is true or false, he can have no innate knowledge of what is good for him or evil. Man has no automatic means of survival.
Man's basic means of survival is his mind, his capacity to reason. Reason is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by the senses. . . To remain alive, man must think - which means: he must exercise the faculty which he alone, of all living species, possesses: the faculty of abstraction, of conceptualizing. The conceptual level of consciousness is the human level, the level required for man's survival.
But to think is an act of choice. The key to. . . human nature is the fact that man is a being of volitional consciousness. Reason does not work automatically; THINKING IS NOT A MECHANICAL PROCESS; THE CONNECTIONS OF LOGIC ARE NOT MADE BY INSTINCT. The function of your stomach, lungs or heart is automatic; the function of your mind is not. In any hour and issue of your life, you are free to think or to evade that effort. But you are NOT FREE TO ESCAPE FROM YOUR NATURE, from the fact that reason is your means of survival - so that for you, who are a human being, the question 'to be or not to be' is the question 'to think or not to think.'"


"Yeah. I think we need to split a few hairs with her to clarify some points. Your current point is that, even though humans have a level of consciousness above animals, that level is also just a biochemical machine. While it appears to us humans that our thinking process is under, quote, ‘our’ control, this is just an illusion. We just can’t visualize that illusion because WE ARE PART OF IT.”

“Precisely! The human mind creates for itself, the illusion that it has “free will’. I say illusion because the mind is just a biological computer running in our head. This creates a big problem for free will because we don’t even understand how to define free will, in an absolute sense, for such a machine. A decision made by our brain is, in fact, not an isolated event, but a reduction of options through weighing according to our experience. But in producing the result, as long as EXTERNAL RESTRICTIONS are not imposed on what ‘choice’ we make, we PERCEIVE the decision as freely made.”

"OK. Now this all comes together. From a classical, absolute viewpoint, to call this free will, humans need a supernatural ability that is NOT constrained by material cause and effect. We’ve rejected that. But for what you call FUNCTIONAL free will, all we need to allow is that the human brain can run and come to a conclusion WITHOUT EXTERNAL CONSTRAINTS.”

“Precisely! But now, think how a human would describe ‘mental constraints’.”

"Hmmm . . . Funny. I think a person would describe a mental constraint as anything they didn’t want to do.”

“Precisely! Doesn’t this sound like seeking pleasure, avoiding pain?”

"Right. And it also sounds like a process that is largely ruled by the Seven Deadly Sins.”

“Ah yes! All of the loose ends in your head are being tied together. AND, thanks to the multi-brain and multi-level awareness concepts that George has given us, we can now understand the human ILLUSION OF FREE WILL a lot more clearly.”

Role of Hulk, Grim, Thinker and A2 in functional free will

“Level A2 awareness is characterized by the ability to monitor and summarize results of both level A1 AND ITSELF, looking for patterns. One of the patterns that the level A2 brain has learned to recognize is principles or rules it has been told by others that it has to follow. It knows actions that it is allowed to do, and those it is NOT allowed to do. All of these patterns it associates with a concept it interprets as ‘ME’ or ‘ I ‘. But, just as the dog, at level A1, is not AWARE that it is perceiving things, so humans, at level A2, are not AWARE that they are processing all these patterns. However, the level A2 processes, in fact, do all the things we would expect to create the illusion of free will.

For example, consider being asked, ‘do you want to go eat?’ Hulk brain continuously scans body functions for low sugar levels. If they are found, it issues ‘feelings’ of hunger. Grim and Thinker brains scan our perceptions to determine where our body is located in space. They can scan memory for locations of places to eat. They can decide if they have other time commitments or priorities. They can then make the choice to take action to go get food. They can also detect patterns which indicate that an outside force is preventing them from taking actions they want to take. If, for example, there was a company rule that they couldn’t leave during certain hours, or they were on a strict diet, they might conclude that they were constrained from taking action. This observation would be issued by Grim brain as an EMOTION of RESTRAINT. Thinker, acting at level A2, using its awareness of its perceptions, would then interpret the emotion as proof that the person does not have ‘free will’ to choose to go to eat.”

"You’ve just pointed out an important process. The Grim brain, because it can monitor perceptions and stored patterns, can make all the observations and decisions needed to generate the feelings of freedom or restraint. If learned patterns labeled ‘restraint’ and ‘freedom’ were seen, the emotions of ‘restraint’ or ‘freedom’ could be generated. If the emotion of ‘freedom’ was generated, Thinker brain, operating at the A2 level, could recognize a pattern it has been taught was making a free CHOICE based on its own freewill. Thinker could then generate positive emotions and flash related positive images. If the emotion of ‘restraint’ was recognized, Thinker could generate negative emotions and flash related negative images. These images, if tied to learned patterns titled ‘free will’ in our memory, could give us the feeling of free will. But the person is probably not even AWARE that the decision processes are going on.”

“Precisely! The A2 level is all that is needed to guide a person to sense whether they are acting with functional free will or not. It has the advantage of being on ‘one level ABOVE’ perception as I described in the Zeus example. Thinker brain, at the A2 level, can know whether its own THOUGHTS and decisions are being done with or without outside constraints. The same logic applies to an individual taking ACTION. Thinker, at the A2 level, can monitor this.”

‘Almost absolute’ free will - Recursion and error sets ‘free will’ free

"This seems like we’re actually getting quite close to absolute free will.”

“Sorry. Not yet at this point. Everything I’ve stated is just pattern processing. But there is another step that does bring us pretty close to absolute because of three processes: RECURSION, ERROR and SUBCONSCIOUS THINKING.”

Error creates confusion and interbrain struggle

“Mr. Grim and Thinker learn a lot of concepts that are either limited in detail or filled with misinformation. Grim doesn’t sense this. But Thinker, at level A2 does. Thinker senses this as confusion - as things not being completely logical. George told me that at times of decision about important things, if a logical explanation is not available, the two brains will STRUGGLE within themselves and between them for a solution. Most of this struggle will go on at a SUBCONSCIOUS level, other than getting a headache from it. Here’s an example using prime subject Mr. Nanook as the guinea pig.

Thinker starts things off with an idea: let’s go out tonight and party. Grim will play an old tape about the need to do homework and issue a guilt emotion. Since there is a lot of uncertainty in how long it will take to study and how well you know the material, the struggle starts up to find a ‘logical’ solution. Then, out of the blue, you get a phone call from your girlfriend. She invites you out. What do you say?”


"I should have picked a more mature brain as my example. This story can, obviously, only have one outcome.

In any case, Hulk now joins the process. The phone call from your girlfriend woke Hulk up. So he fires some hormones into your blood. This REPROGRAMS both Grim and Thinker. Grim’s homework fears are strongly suppressed – the love blind thing. But he manages to play a few conflicting tapes. Some reinforce the homework story. Other’s add in wild fantasies about where the evening might go. Thinker also reviews a number of old memories in detail, one item at a time, trying to understand what to do. These new, stronger images get sent back to Grim and Hulk as new inputs. Grim plays new tapes, both pro and con. Hulk fires more hormones. The process goes round and round at lightning speed. In the end, Hulk wins, as usual. But, let’s ask, where was free will in all of this?”

"Assuming that I could think at the A2 level in such a circumstance.”

"Which is not a foregone conclusion with Hulk around . . .”

"Ugh. . . yeah . . . As I said, assuming Thinker is working at the A2 level, Grim would be rapid firing a bunch of conflicting Single Sentence Logic: I haven’t seen her in a hundred years; you saw her last night; I can do my homework tomorrow; idiot, the test is tomorrow morning; but I really do know the material; you didn’t even read the chapter; you’re going to flunk out – it will destroy your mother; but you might be killed by a meteorite and never see your girlfriend again . . . And Thinker, at level A2 is trying to sort all of this out.”

"The wonders of the adolescent brain with testosterone poisoning!”

Information Cause and Effect

"So, you’re trying to tell me, that in such a situation, cause and effect, in an absolute way, is in control of my brain chemicals. But the mishmash of information flowing around, old memories with lots of errors, distortions due to hormones, and a continual reprogramming of the decision circuits based on their own processes, points to the need to distinguish between INFORMATION CAUSE AND EFFECT and MATERIAL CAUSE AND EFFECT.”

"You got it! From the view of ‘free will’, the A2 brain, which is being bombarded with Single Sentence Logic, is so disconnected from TRUTH, i.e. cause and effect, by randomness and error, that it might as well be living in it’s own universe. Therein lies the key to understanding ‘ALMOST ABSOLUTE’ functional freewill.

Humans have a very limited ability to know the true state of the world. It is limited by detail, false perception, cultural simplification, intuition, hunches etc. And while the brain computer executes its mechanical calculations with precise determinism, the information it has to work with is such an inaccurate description of the true world, most decisions are no more than guesses and poor approximations”

"I’m digesting this. It’s interesting that you are explaining functional free will based on errors.”

“Alice in Wonderland all over again. And where do we find this functional free will?”

"Hmmm . . . In Thinker at the A2 level.”

“Precisely! And this is also where the notion of self identification will reside in an A2 person.”

Morals still not applicable at A2

“BUT! There is also a very big problem with this explanation. Remember, this is still only functional free will. It’s not absolute. So, humans at this level are still not truly acting with free will.”

"This could be a good thing, no? These lucky A2’s could just go bouncing off the walls, doing whatever they want, and still not be committing sin because they don’t have true free will.”

“Ah. The old ‘ignorance is bliss defense. Unfortunately, it’s not so simple. What A2s are actually doing, when it comes to action, is obeying or defying rules set up by other A2s. At the A2 level, it is still about authoritarianism; it’s still about power.”

"Do you mean, it’s like a master – slave game?”

“Precisely! Because, at the A2 level, A2s in power don’t have the ability to understand the wider principles of free will either.”

Morals at the A3 level

"So, does something change at the A3 level?”

“Yes. Because the A3 level can perceive what is happening at the A2 level. Because it can intuitively understand systems, it has the ability to come much closer to truth. If it does that, that is, describe some human behavior in a way that really matches reality, then a very ironic thing happens. Once truth is known, then rejecting that truth can easily be seen to be an immoral act.”

"Whoa! That’s ironic for sure. What you are essentially saying is that understanding truth, as a system, is a way to find absolutes. Once you find them, rejecting those absolutes could be called being immoral. Furthermore, the concept of ‘almost absolute’ free will, instead of getting more ‘almost’, goes the other way. An A3 level thinker has almost no free will. This is back to Ayn Rand again.”

“Precisely! Let me find that part again.”

“That which his survival requires is set by nature and is not open to his choice. What is open to his choice is only whether he will discover it or not, and, whether he will choose the right goods and values or not. He is free to make the wrong choice, but not free to succeed with it. He is free to evade reality, he is free to UNFOCUS his mind and stumble blindly down any road he pleases, but not free to avoid the abyss he refuses to see.”

"This now has a new message for me when we consider it from both an A2 and an A3 perspective.”

“Right. I don’t think she understood this distinction. Now that we have identified the A3 level, I think it especially applies there. And we can better understand her frustration with the human race because there are so few A3 thinkers.

But let me challenge one thing you said: that an A3 level thinker has almost no free will. Ironically, this does apply to the morality of focusing a person’s mind toward truth. There isn’t much leeway there. But when it comes to envisioning the variety in nature, and the paths open for exploration, the A3 mind has a great advantage in that it can know, with better accuracy, where truth is still ripe for exploration.”

External input can stand in for A3 thinking – social morality and free will

“But don’t give up on the A2s. I think there is a way to give every A2 access to this higher level of exploration.”

"Are you sure you want to tell the world about this? I mean, give those guys a break. Let them suffer in peace and just enjoy playing baseball.”

“The important thing I figured out is that the KEY to being able to perceive free will patterns is getting a VIEW of level A2 from OUTSIDE of level A2. BUT, it doesn’t have to be at a higher level INSIDE THE SAME PERSON. Once A3 level humans appeared on earth, Socrates, Plato etc., who, as scientists figured out some concepts for moral principles, they were able to break those principles into patterns that an A2 brain could learn. So, if an A2 person was being tied up with ropes, they could learn that it was a BAD thing. If the A2 person was denied the ability to speak, they could learn that it was a BAD thing. They could learn a whole raft of patterns about themselves using just Single Sentence Logic. Once this was in place, ANY A2 HUMAN, who also learned these patterns, could provide the equivalent of A3 level monitoring FOR EACH OTHER.”

"Hang on now. Let me make sure I understand this right. You’re saying, with regard to free will, A2 thinkers, as a society, can provide A3 level awareness for each other?”

"Precisely! But to be exact, it is NOT actually A3 awareness. It is A3 concepts of free will, figured out by an A3 thinker, that has been reduced to a collection of A2 Single Sentence Logic.”

"Sure. I got it. So, if a teacher told you to sit in the corner, and you did that because you had been trained to be obedient, then another person could come up to you and tell you not to put up with it because your free will was being compromised.”


"MAN! This is amazing.”

“Neat huh. However! And this is a BIG HOWEVER. There is a HUGE potential nightmare that goes along with it.”

“What do you mean?”

“By moving the oversight element for thinking outside the individual doing the thinking and deciding, the opportunities for abuse and mind control are horrific! In this external oversight case, the role of our conscience to keep us on the straight and narrow, goes to another person.”

"Hmmm.. . I see your point. And, in society, this has been the role of religion using government power and peer pressure as enforcement.”

“Precisely! Once again, the idea of God being the party responsible for enforcing morality is not supported. It is society, and particularly organized religion. And now we have a mental model to explain in detail how this works.”

"Wow. This is a lot to think about.

A3 needed to discover system principles

But let’s go back to the details for a second. First, are you saying that without A3 level thinking, A2 humans would never know about free will?”

"Correct. A2 humans would learn that they like certain things; that some things bring pleasure; some things bring pain. But they would not have been able to form a concept for an overall system, like a religion, or a government, that required a higher level concept like free will. They’d essentially still be a hunter-gatherer society.”

"So, your theory is that A2 appeared in evolution early on and was responsible for the advance in traits that we observe in early man - tools, fire and things like that.”

"Right. Neanderthal man who arrived on the scene 700,000 years ago may have had an A2 brain. In fact, the average brain size of modern man is SMALLER than Neanderthal man. So, brain size alone is not the issue. But Neanderthals were never observed to live in groups with more than a few members, like packs of wolves. It was only about 50,000 years ago that modern man emerged with distinct body and head shapes. This new ‘modern man’ may also have only had an A2 brain. But around 10,000 years ago, over a relatively short period of time, large civilizations started forming. So, sometime during that period, the A3 brain must have emerged.”

Single Sentence Logic is fragmented logic

"And you’re saying that’s why we have big cities, and nations: because they had A3 thinkers in the population. They figured out the advanced patterns. They then explained these patterns to the rulers who were mostly A2 thinkers who learned them as Single Sentence Logic. The world then started to run on fragmented logic.”

"Hey. I like that term: FRAGMENTED LOGIC. Single Sentence Logic IS fragmented logic.”

"Yeah, but fragmented logic is not complete logic. So, it is easy for error to creep in. I mean, who knows what route an A3 concept took on its way from philosopher to Emperor. And if the TRUTHS of an A3 concept get corrupted with superstition, we end up with contradictions.”

“Right. Because the superstitions are not founded on broad consistency. Sure, every once and awhile, some prediction turns out to be correct. These few correct predictions lead A2 level people to believe all the rest of the predictions will also be correct. But eventually, there will be failures that they can’t explain.”

“Ah ha! The old denial defense mechanism at work. And once society is filled with such confusion, people can be told anything and will believe anything.”

"Unfortunately true. That’s the saga of human society. It was that way for the cavemen. It’s still true today. People still largely by superstition.”

"Yeah. Scary.”

Irony of science in relation to free will

“As an aside, science plays an ironic role in the psychology of free will. This irony comes about because science forces us to throw off superstition and pay attention to reality. This brings humans into closer alignment with cause and effect. So, on one hand, for humans who accept existence and reality, and are able to see the endless expanse of space and time, science becomes a tool to learn about the universe and mold it to our needs. On the other hand, for humans who live in a world of superstition and ILLUSION, which includes most humans, science essentially reduces their ability to maintain their illusions. Science seems scary because it RESTRICTS what they can believe. It appears to limit their free will. So they fear it.”

"Scary is the right word. The thought that people would fear being saved from illusions.”

"This is why George talks about us living in an insane asylum. Because of the intense control that fear has on Mr. Grim, people would rather believe in illusions than reality. So, this is a good time for me to reread Ayn Rand’s very famous quote:”

“[Man] is free to make the wrong choice, but not free to succeed with it. He is free to evade reality, he is free to unfocus his mind and stumble blindly down any road he pleases, but not free to avoid the abyss he refuses to see.”