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Tiiba2 comments on Righting a Wrong Question - Less Wrong

70 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 09 March 2008 01:00PM

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Comment author: Tiiba2 09 March 2008 07:23:10PM 6 points [-]

I think there is a real something for which free will seems like a good word. No, it's not the one true free will, but it's a useful concept. It carves reality at its joints.

Basically, I started thinking about a criminal, say, a thief. He's on trial for stealing a dimond. The prosecutor thinks that he did it of his own free will, and thus should be punished. The defender thinks that he's a pathological cleptomaniac and can't help it. But as most know, people punish crimes mostly to keep them from happening again. So the real debate is whether imprisoning the thief will discourage him.

I realized that when people think of the free will of others, they don't ask whether this person could act differently if he wanted. That's a Wrong Question. The real question is, "Could he act differently if I wanted it? Can he be convinced to do something else, with reason, or threats, or incentives?"

From your own point of view that stands between you and being able to rationally respond to new knowledge makes you less free. This includes shackles, threats, bias, or stupidity. Wealth, health, knowledge make you more free. So for yourself, you can determine how much free will you have by looking at your will and seeing how free it is. Can you, as Eliezer put it, "win"?

I define free will by combining these two definitions. A cleptomaniac is a prisoner of his own body. A man who can be scared into not stealing is free to a degree. A man who can swiftly and perfetly adapt to any situation, whether it prohibits stealing, requires it, or allows it, is almost free. A man becomes truly free when he retains the former abilities, and is allowed to steal, AND has the power to change the situation any way he wants.

Quantum magic isn't free will, it's magic.

Comment author: cousin_it 27 January 2018 09:36:08AM *  1 point [-]

What a beautiful comment!

Every once in a while I wonder if something like Eliezer's Lawful Creativity is true - that creativity can be reduced to following rules. And then I come across something like your comment, where a non-obvious "jump" leads to a clearly true conclusion. For humans trying to create new stuff, practicing such "jumps" is at least as important as learning the rules.