free will

Free* Will

*Conditions Apply

The first documented appearance of the subject on the blog is in 2011, and I seem to have posted on the subject every alternate year, the last being in 2015. But it’s sheer coincidence and not really pattern following that led me to think, and write, about free will now.

Across my life, I have moved from having a faith and believing in predestination (will of God), to being agnostic and believing in karma, to being an atheist and believing in the influence of luck (random chance) in all the plans I make. In the last version, the view is that my free will is dominant – I make my own choices which dictate my future and nothing is predetermined. The luck explains the good and bad out-of-ordinary things that change my future, but it is random. Karma stories are a forced narrative based on hindsight. More

Wills and ways

It seems I never tire of writing about choices! Mad Men, and its reviews, is the reason for the latest bout of thinking on the subject. Very specifically, S7E6 and the review at AV Club. As the show nears its end, it is easy to see how each character’s choices have led them to a particular point. Much like our own lives. This, from the review, pretty much sums it up

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..the question remains

It has been more than a couple of years since I wrote on the subject of planning – the acceptance of destiny vs free will in The Uncertainty Principles and the balance between change and stasis in its follow up. In my mind, the debate continues to rage, with flash points on a regular basis, thanks to various life scenarios and the things I read. I also realised that the recent narrative posts (1,2) are also a different way of framing this debate. Like I wrote in the posts, some narratives are already chosen for us, and some we choose, but these are all our attempts to fulfill our sense of belonging. In other words, our endeavour to find the reason for our existence – our purpose. Does one find it by working towards something or by dealing with life on a real time basis?

A few days back, I read an article in HBR titled “It takes purpose to be a billionaire“, in which the author classifies ‘purpose’ into three buckets. Not that everyone’s idea of ‘purpose’ is to become a billionaire, but this is very clearly a planned path to achieve something that contributes to the sense of purpose. While the article does not mention it, the category I have always wondered about consists of people who have followed their passion – sports people, artists etc who have worked on a skill and honed it to near perfection. A very interesting perspective I read on that premise is the Scott Adams’ “Practice and Genes“, which takes a look at the theories on the subject and finally states that the critical element is luck. The most important skill involved in success is knowing how and when to switch to a game with better odds for you.

Which brings me back to purpose and how we find it, and my introspection. “Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes” ~ Carl Jung. (via) I thought about the ‘living in the moment’ perspective that finds a place in Buddhism texts and several other works of wisdom. At first, I thought it supported the destiny and real time approach, specially because it is difficult not to have baggage associated with the plans one makes. (literally and otherwise!) But then I realised that it was less to do with the planning aspect and more to do with how we deal with scenarios. Even if one works on a plan, how one deals with a setback to it is where the advice has value. In essence, that won’t help solve the debate.


There are profound statements that support both ways of looking at it. I continue to rack my brains to find the path that will fit me, or make it. I think there is an element of subjectivity involved. That does not make the job easier, in fact, it probably makes it tougher. After all, “He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened.” Lao Tzu

until next time, the clock ticks away in real time

God Plus

The thread that interested me most in Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver (Volume One of The Baroque Cycle) was on Predestination vs Free Will, something I’ll continue to read up on. The book has a conversation between Daniel Waterhouse, a fictional character and Gottfried Leibniz, in the chapter Daniel and Leibniz Discourse (II), in which Leibniz puts forward a thought that there is an incorporeal organising principle, which organises and informs the body. He calls it the Cogitatio, and later uses it interchangeably with Mind, but different from brain, which is a mechanical phenomenon. With this, he attempts to find a middle ground between free will and predestination by stating that Mind and Matter grew out of a common centre and “I have complete freedom of action… but God knows in advance what I will do, because it is in my nature to act in harmony with the world..” (seems close to Molinism)

While the recent exploits of humans would dispel this last thought in a jiffy, it did set me thinking on another subject of fascination – Singularity, “the hypothetical future emergence of greater-than human intelligence.” I still wonder whether it would be a ‘Skynet’ version (a superb post by Chris Anderson) or a an augmented human. (something I wrote earlier)

The thought is whether God’s design had anticipated a Singularity for humans. A state in which the human being will understand and create things far more ‘advanced’ than God can? What would be the relevance of the idea of God then? And in parallel, what would be the human’s role if machines are the way to technological singularity?

On the flip side, as i wrote in the earlier post, if augmented humans are the way to singularity, would the human mind as we know now exist then? Most probably not, and that would explain why if indeed God did make us in his form, we have no recollection of him or his idea of Singularity.

Or maybe, some among our species already have reached it, without artificial augmentation, and that’s what we call nirvana, when you can bend the spoon, if it exists. :)

until next time, the God complex is also a possibility :)