A Turing test for free will
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Before Alan Turing made his crucial contributions to the theory of computation, he studied the question of whether quantum mechanics could throw light on the nature of free will. This paper investigates the roles of quantum mechanics and computation in free will. Although quantum mechanics implies that events are intrinsically unpredictable, the 'pure stochasticity' of quantum mechanics adds randomness only to decision-making processes, not freedom. By contrast, the theory of computation implies that, even when our decisions arise from a completely deterministic decision-making process, the outcomes of that process can be intrinsically unpredictable, even to-especially to-ourselves. I argue that this intrinsic computational unpredictability of the decision-making process is what gives rise to our impression that we possess free will. Finally, I propose a 'Turing test' for free will: a decision-maker who passes this test will tend to believe that he, she, or it possesses free will, whether the world is deterministic or not. This journal is © 2012 The Royal Society.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Mechanical Engineering
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
The Royal Society
Lloyd, S. “A Turing Test for Free Will.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 370, no. 1971 (June 18, 2012): 3597–3610.
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