A couple of weeks ago I read a really interesting article regarding a recent study carried out to examine how people made decisions. The outcome of the study shocked the researchers to the point where they now question whether we really have free will. Basically in the test participants where asked to choose either their right hand or left hand to push a button, while being simultaneously monitored (their brain) by an MRI. What they discovered was:
The conscious decision to push the button was made about a second before the actual act, but the team discovered that a pattern of brain activity seemed to predict that decision by as many as seven seconds. Long before the subjects were even aware of making a choice, it seems, their brains had already decided.
Taking it to a real life situation, you may have thought you decided whether you wanted a cup of tea or coffee to drink, but actually your brain had already made the decision several seconds before you even thought about it! So the obvious question is who or what is making our brain make this decision for us?
It is a pretty freaky thought. Someone or something else is actually making the decision for us, but then making us believe that we are making the decision. So do we really have free will or not? I guess more studies will show us.
In a quick Google on the subject, I found another interesting article that showed that generally people believe that they themselves have more free will than other people. I.e. that we personally are not influenced by a situation (but can use free will to decide what to do), whereas other people are more influenced by a situation to act in what we believe is a “predetermined” manner.
“Of course she got into Harvard, she’s from a really smart family”, “Of course he’ll do X, it’s the way he was brought up”
When you think about it, we often hear it (and many believe do believe it) every day. E.g. the sports announcer who states that a batsman is one score away from a record, and then the sportsperson gets out, and the other announcer says that the first announcer “cursed” the player by talking about the record. As if what he said could somehow influence the outcome of the game. As the article points out, you’ll also see it with the sportsperson (or even sports fan) who will wear a favorite piece of clothing game after game believing that somehow it is influencing “free will” to provide a predetermined outcome.
Today I read a related article about whether we are all living in some giant simulated computer environment, aka the matrix. That is, we believe we everything is real, when really we are just a part of some giant computer program. I guess it doesn’t really matter in the end. We all believe that we have free will and are not part of a simulation (whether we are or not), so we live our lives accordingly.
Do let me know if you manage to slow down time.