TED Conversations

Joshua  Beers

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If I had 100% of your genes and 100% of your environmental experience I would be you.

I think that this statement is completely accurate. Do you agree?
Yes? No? Why? Why Not?

The repercussions seem obvious. It's the classic question: Do we really have free will?

In my personal opinion, however alluring "free will" is as a subject of belief, it doesn't exist in any form. Every decision we make, from important to mundane, can be either attributed to genes or environment. What other factor is there? A soul? Did we get to choose that? From my standpoint, I don't see how this CANNOT rule out arguments free will.

As a side note, compatibilists may argue that "choice" IS making decisions based on the given "will" but I would ask them to elaborate. Is that really freedom at all? "Of course we have free will, we have no choice in the matter."


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    May 9 2011: Another interesting thought experiment with regards to "self" relates to the Ship of Theseus. If I were to replace one neuron in your brain with a mechanical replacement that functioned identically, you'd probably have no problem saying you were the same person, thought the same, and enjoyed the same things. So what if I replaced two neurons? Three?

    I think you're seeing where I'm going with this. If I replaced 80% of the neurons in your mind, perhaps it wouldn't be so easy to argue you were the same person. At the very least, I find it an interesting thought. What makes me, me?

    And I have absolutely no answer, haha.
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      May 9 2011: Ahhhh Yes! I had forgotten about that! Thank you for bringing that up Josh! Yeah I would be lying if I said I knew lol. But from what very little I have read about consciousness, I know that you have something like 200 times the people on this planet, in neurons making up your brain, and every-single one of them is, for all intensive purposes, autonomous. But together, we get the perception that it is one, cognitive entity: ourselves! I have heard the same point made in this example. Suppose there is a car, and you replace one bolt. Is it still the same car? I think most would say absolutely! What if you replace all the bolts? Or the muffler or the wheels or the engine? If you replace everything but one bolt, most would probably say you have a completely, utterly different car. So when does the different car become different? I don't know about that. But going off the autonomous neurons, I would have to make the tentative contention that if you replaced my neurons with exact replicas (I'm guessing this is at birth/conception, to avoid environment issues.....) "I" would still be "me"...Only because, in my opinion, the "me" is only an extreme illusion in the first place. So far all I know this could have happened many times over to "me"! Hope that made at least some sense lol!
      • May 10 2011: In this case, replacing a single bolt is enough to call it a different car.
        • May 12 2011: I agree with that Thomas.

          A weird thought though--
          Pretend it is 5000 years in the future, and that we have all been dead for a while. If a clone of us is created and all of the neurons fire exactly how ours originally did, then is it really us?

          (why does it post this above your comment Im responding to? lol)
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          May 12 2011: Is it the neuron that makes you or the pattern in which they fire? I would think you could replace all of them and remain yourself as long as nothing happened to how they were fired.

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