Here's a fascinating essay by Scott Aronson that is a really scientific, operational
exposition on the question of 'free will'; one which takes my idea that if you solve the
engineering problem you may solve the philosophical problem along the way and does much
more with it than I could.
He also discusses how the entanglement of the brain with the environment affects personal
identity as in Bruno Marchal's duplication thought experiments.
He also discusses Stenger's idea of the source of the arrow of time (secton 5.4) and
The Ghost in the Quantum Turing Machine
(Submitted on 2 Jun 2013 (v1), last revised 7 Jun 2013 (this version, v2))
In honor of Alan Turing's hundredth birthday, I unwisely set out some thoughts about
one of Turing's obsessions throughout his life, the question of physics and free will. I
focus relatively narrowly on a notion that I call "Knightian freedom": a certain kind of
in-principle physical unpredictability that goes beyond probabilistic unpredictability.
Other, more metaphysical aspects of free will I regard as possibly outside the scope of
science. I examine a viewpoint, suggested independently by Carl Hoefer, Cristi Stoica, and
even Turing himself, that tries to find scope for "freedom" in the universe's boundary
conditions rather than in the dynamical laws. Taking this viewpoint seriously leads to
many interesting conceptual problems. I investigate how far one can go toward solving
those problems, and along the way, encounter (among other things) the No-Cloning Theorem,
the measurement problem, decoherence, chaos, the arrow of time, the holographic principle,
Newcomb's paradox, Boltzmann brains, algorithmic information theory, and the Common Prior
Assumption. I also compare the viewpoint explored here to the more radical speculations of
Roger Penrose. The result of all this is an unusual perspective on time, quantum
mechanics, and causation, of which I myself remain skeptical, but which has several
appealing features. Among other things, it suggests interesting empirical questions in
neuroscience, physics, and cosmology; and takes a millennia-old philosophical debate into
some underexplored territory.
Comments: 85 pages (more a short book than a long essay!), 2 figures. To appear in
"The Once and Future Turing: Computing the World," a collection edited by S. Barry Cooper
and Andrew Hodges. And yes, I know Turing is 101 by now. v2: Corrected typos
Subjects: Quantum Physics (quant-ph); General Literature (cs.GL); History and
Philosophy of Physics (physics.hist-ph)
Cite as: arXiv:1306.0159 [quant-ph]
(or arXiv:1306.0159v2 [quant-ph] for this version)
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