Emergence: not understood (Evolution)

by dhw, Wednesday, August 14, 2019, 13:38 (117 days ago) @ romansh

ROMANSH: Just popped by to say hello … Hello
It has been fairly quiet at AI.org for a while now.
Anyway … I can't help thinking emergence is an over-rated concept.
In the quiet times I have started a blog and here is my take on emergence wrt free will (there's a surprise).

my blog …. https://romscorner.home.blog/2019/04/02/emergence/
Have fun guys

Hi Romansh. Great to hear from you again, and to see that you yourself are still so active, even if AI.org is not. And I see you are still preoccupied with the subject of free will. I must - as always - admire your breadth of learning, but frankly I have never known anyone who claimed that motor cars, snowflakes and billiard balls had free will. Why don’t you simply relate emergence to the subject itself: namely, how humans come to make their decisions. (I remember we had long discussions on the definition of free will, and this was always linked to the ability to make decisions when given a choice.) Some people claim that the mind/consciousness “emerges” from the interplay between the various cell communities that make up the brain and the rest of the body, the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, much like an ant colony producing structures no single ant could ever design. (I am only putting the materialist case, because dualism does not require consciousness to emerge; it is simply there and uses the cells as providers and receivers.) It could be argued, then, that all our decisions are predetermined by our cells. Other factors prohibiting free will have nothing to do with emergence as such, apart from the influence they have on what emerges from our cells: environment, upbringing, chance etc., all of which are beyond our control. One might even trace these influences back to the beginning of life, in a seamless process of cause and effect. No free will, then. A counter to these arguments is that the cells, regardless of their provenance and all the influences exercised upon them, are what constitute “me”, and this me and nobody and nothing else, makes my decisions. Obviously, though, this ability only operates within the confines of possibility. I am not free to decide to flap my ears and fly. Identity itself (“me”) could be called an emergent process, since it emerges from ongoing interaction between ourselves and the world, but again I can’t see how this proves that we do or don’t have the ability to make our own decisions once we are confronted with a choice, regardless of whether we are dualists or materialists.


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