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Boas Bamberger

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A Quantum Computing Approach to Test for Free Will in Humans.

Assuming the Big Bang to be the starting point of quantum entanglement, we now have the situation of a seemingly infinite number of entanglements that make our universe what it is. From this point of view every decision we make forms new entanglements and is due to prior entanglements. If that is so, there is no free will, but merely the consequence of prior entanglements.

To test this assumption quantum computers could do the trick. An algorithm (AI) that draws on a subjects personality, life-history and some environmental factors to predict future binary decision could give an insight on how prior entanglements are predictive to new entanglements. To train the algorithm several subjects are needed to verify on binary decisions the computer clone of each subject made.

Thanks to quantum computing such an algorithm could be able to finish computing within our lifetime. There are several more advantages that come along with quantum computers for this kind of machine learning.

Now: If the accuracy for binary decision making predictions of this algorithm is significantly greater than 0.5 (pure chance for any binary decision), it can be said, that there is no free will.

I think to resolve the question of free will in humans is essential in understanding the purpose we are serving. This approach is relatively cost effective, as a small number of subjects would suffice to test the hypothesis. The costs would reside with the time to develop a proper algorithm as well as the hardware. Nevertheless there are ethical constraints to this approach, as the subjects would have to share a lot of very personal data. Furthermore if the hypothesis was tested to be true I assume there would be tremendous effects on society.

I would love to hear your opinion on this topic. Maybe someone can point out similar experiments or approaches I missed so far in my research.

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    Apr 24 2013: Once you "prove" there is no free will we can stop holding people accountable for their actions, repeal all laws and close all prisons. Eat, drink and be merry, after all, why would we be accountable for doing something The Entanglements forced us to do? When we ask if our universe is merely a petrie dish we prove it is not. The big advantage of quantum methods is to be free from the classical requirement for absolute, repeatable, measurable precision.
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      Apr 25 2013: Hi Edward, you are right: If there is no free will, some people will take it as reason to reject being accountable for their actions. But those people would take anything as reason to argue that way, I believe. "Eat, drink and be merry, after all, why would we be accountable for doing something [external circumstances socioeconomic status, education, society in general] forced us to do?", this is how some persons argue already (!).

      The petrie dish reminded me of the problem of a fish to discover water. However, we discovered that there is air around us. Is it really impossible to discover the structure of our universe then? A nice non-scientific illustration can be found in the movie 'The Truman Show'.

      There has never been an absolute, repeatable, measurable precision in measurements to begin with. The time axis has to be taken into consideration. The exact same experiment in some specific place in universe would have had different results some billion years ago, I assume. Thus I think we can use quantum mechanics for "precise" measurements as well.
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        Apr 25 2013: You will have to take-up the idea of precise quantum measurements with Mr. Heisenberg. But, hey, isn't free will a matter for philosophers and theologians to squabble about? Natural science might confirm supernatural truth but it will never discover it. Thank you for a thought-provoking post sir!
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          Apr 25 2013: Thanks for the hint on Mr. Heisenberg! I will take a look at his precise quantum measurements.
  • Apr 24 2013: Such an algorithm is just impossible (or at least imparctical) to develop. Even assuming everything in the universe is deterministic, our lives change in just one second, in ways we did not plan or expect, by things that seem to be random and which cannot be predicted with even the most powerful computer physically possible, because in order to be able predict anything accurately you need to code a model of the whole universe. Imagine the guy who met his wife because a flat tire, just a small nail in the middle of the road was all what's needed to change the life of two persons for ever, their children wouldn't exist if that nail wouldn't have been there at the right moment. Whether we like it or not our decisions are influenced in some measure by the people around us, meeting someone can have a tremendous impact in our lives in the long run. Life is plenty of those things we call "accidents", that seem to happen randomly and can change our situation and decisions dramatically in just a blink of the eye. So without all the information required to predict those accidents no accurate result can be achieved.
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      Apr 24 2013: I agree with this answer, life is too serendipitous for us to be able to assume predictability. Basically you are attempting to find the entanglements - or at least to analyze what data (life) we have now to discover congruencies, which I think is a great idea in fields other than sociology or psychology.

      For example we do this sort of thing I've noticed with inventions - what has worked here in time for the ancients may be formidible nowadays with a minor change. I guess I don't see the point in trying to find what little congruencies or entanglements that we can through study of people's lives - that is the one area where there actually is free will and I think we should leave it alone.
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        Apr 25 2013: Hi Kendl, I think it is a great idea to also pay close attention to non-human, non-living entities in regards to entanglements. However to test for free will, only humans subjects are applicable.

        I do not agree to 'leave alone' any topic, because it stops me from learning.
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      Apr 25 2013: Hi George, I agree that it is impractical to reconstruct the universe from scratch with current technology and resources! Nevertheless I think we are capable to remodel parts of the universe in a way that predictions higher than chance can be made. Personally I think there is no true randomness. Assume an aparatus that tosses a coin in a controlled, stable environment. If the aparatus acts the same, the coin will always show for example head. My point is, that perceived randomness of an event is always the result of a number of known and unknown factors. The more unknown factors that contribute to an event, the more 'random' the event appears to us.
      • Apr 30 2013: Maybe the universe is deterministic, may be not. But if you are familiar with the chaos theory you may know that even in fully deterministic systems, long therm predictions are impossible. Knowing all the facts, causes and consequences does not make you able to forecast any future state of the system, beyond certain point in time. In other words the accuracy of your predictions depend on the time span between the initial conditions and the point in time which you want to predict, which means you loose accuracy as you grow the time span. The point in which you reach zero accuracy may be years away or just few hours depending on the complexity of the system.
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          Apr 30 2013: You are bringing up an important aspect, thanks! Do you think that predictions for an immediate response to a problem / decision making process would be sufficient - if accuracy is higher than chance - to make a case against free will and for determinism?
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    May 1 2013: nothing is impossible
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    May 1 2013: Similar experiments :
    1. Behavioral psychologists :emphasis was on environmental determinism
    2. Humanists : emphasis was on freewill
    3. Probability learning - Brunswick
    how would you explain sudden insights that individuals show when they are encountered by a problem?
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      May 1 2013: Hi Atul, thanks for making the connections to similar experiments. Very helpful!

      I would describe a sudden insight as a connection current data with stored data. The 'sudden' part is due to the fact that we sometimes need more information before we can actually grasp a concept.
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    Apr 30 2013: Twin studies have always been useful to scientific research for understanding nature and nature. Let's consider the "Jim Twin."

    "Jim Lewis and Jim Springer first met February 9, 1979, after 39 years of being separated. Both were very nervous at first, but now consider the reunion "the most important day of my life." Amid the euphoria over their rediscovery of each other, they came across astonishing similarities in their lives and behavior. Both had been adopted by separate families in Ohio, and had grown up within 45 miles of each other. Both had been named James by their adoptive parents, both had married twice; first to women named Linda and second to women named Betty. Both had children, including sons named James Allan. Both had at one time owned dogs named Toy."
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      Apr 30 2013: What you describe is not as miraculous as one might think. You consider only the event for 'Jim Twins' but do not consider all the cases of not-'Jim Twins'. The later number and probability is way higher, which in turn makes the first event more probable for each case of not-'Jim Twins' observed - or better said not observed because those cases simply are 'normal'. Pure statistics.
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        May 1 2013: Did you ever read, "The Foundation" by Isaac Asimov? In it he introduces the idea of "psychohistory."

        Psychohistory depends on the idea that, while one cannot foresee the actions of a particular individual, the laws of statistics as applied to large groups of people could predict the general flow of future events. Asimov used the analogy of a gas: an observer has great difficulty in predicting the motion of a single molecule in a gas, but can predict the mass action of the gas to a high level of accuracy. (Physicists know this as the Kinetic theory.) Asimov applied this concept to the population of his fictional Galactic Empire, which numbered a quintillion. The character responsible for the science's creation, Hari Seldon, established two axioms:
        that the population whose behaviour was modeled should be sufficiently large
        that the population should remain in ignorance of the results of the application of psychohistorical analyses
        There is a third underlying axiom of Psychohistory, which is trivial and thus not stated by Seldon in his Plan:
        that Human Beings are the only sentient intelligence in the Galaxy.
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          May 1 2013: I am not sure where you are heading with your post. Can you try and clarify, please?
  • Apr 27 2013: Hi.
    Could your idea be applicable to assessing (for the good), just how brainwashed humans are?
    Say, Americans or even those of any country?
    By "for the good", I mean waking them up so that they can once more reason accurately, quickly and clearly in order to see or find the truth, and that they may then more readily take the appropriate action necessary that learning the truth compels them to do.
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      Apr 27 2013: Hi. You assume people to want to be waken up, I do not think that is true in the first place (pessimistic and sad truth, at least for my part). Further I think if my hypothesis was tested to be true it would rather have devastating effects in regards to people seeking the truth. Those who are not engaged in truth seeking for now won't be later or anytime (this is the greater number of world population I assume). Those who are engaged in truth seeking will split in two groups either making sense of the findings and redefining purpose of life in the light of the findings or growing desperate, as they realize that there is no purpose to making changes because we are not in charge.

      However the group of truth seekers is limited to very few privileged people, mostly with financial power and access to higher education and sophisticated knowledge. I believe that the only group that wants to be waken up is this small group of truth seekers.
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    Apr 27 2013: somthing that might be unquantifiable is the soul. if there is a part of us that takes faith to know about and cant be proven know matter how fast your computer changes it will never catch the part where you need faith to grow. even if everything is calculated. if there is a box and inside the box is the universe and somthing is outside the box acting on whats happening inside the box then youll never be able to calculated everthing inside the box because you cant see the changes happening from the force outside the box. so in order to see the force on the outside you have to have faith that there is a force. and so on and so forth you will always need to have that faith to grow.
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      Apr 27 2013: What is the 'soul'? We are dipping in the mind-brain problem. However I think there actually is not split of mind and brain as lastest neuroscience proposes.

      You are right however, that we will never be able to get ALL the factors straight. That is a problem of the boxes you described.This is exactly why we need to 'think outside of the box' ! I am with you that there are bigger boxes, and that is why we should find ways to break out of the system in our strive to understand the universe and, if you wanted to phrase is religiously, get closer to god.
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    Apr 24 2013: Boas,

    Very interesting post.

    (BANG) was governed by rules. Therefore, if all actions are based on that set of rules...we don't really have a say in anything. We are just along for the ride.

    (BIG BANG - (LAWS))
    (BOOOOM) ----- L A W S

    Eventually Earth came into existence because it had to. It was going to happen because of the laws being applied to matter.

    The moment matter began to move, and was governed by laws, it started to pave the way to life.

    Here's the problem with computers. Programs are going to select actions based on the set of variables you program. They cannot learn on their own. Even if they can absorb information they will not update the frame they put information into.

    (Computer - (LOGIC SET)

    You would have to manually update this (LOGIC SET) or (FRAME) in which the information obtained is understood. Humans do this themselves. We only need information. We already understand how to apply the information we obtain.


    Henry J. Woeltjen
    B.S. Criminal Justice Administration
    MBA Student
    Blogger/Social Media Guru/ Business Management Consultant
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      Apr 25 2013: Hi Henry, the first part is pretty much, what am trying to understand. About the second part on computer programs: Take a look at machine learning and you will see that it is common practice to create self-refining programs. That is programs are able to modify there code and by that learn and advance autonomously on a set of preset laws. That is pretty much the same as you described in the first part.
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        Apr 25 2013: They can only modify their code based on a program. So that means...they are limited in their ability to modify anything.

        They are self refining programs within a programmed list of data.

        They are not able to refine the refining program.. Therefore, this refining program may become obsolete in turn making the entire system outdated.

        The only refining program that will not be outdated...is a human (programmer).
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          Apr 27 2013: Yes, there still are certain limitations. However we are getting unexpected results from computer intelligence already. Still, you are correct in the human to be the better 'program' as for now! ;-)

          If you are interested send me a message, then I will fill you in on some of the latest research on machine learning as soon as I got more time to get to it.