Free Will, Algorithms and Tibetan Buddhist monks

Ultimately, I believe that humans are prisoners to algorithmic systems that determine our choices – however, I think we can work within the parameters of these constraints, or possibly stretch/push their boundaries. This is what I would consider “free will”. I am under the impression that free will is an emergent property of the brain – that we can rule our thoughts and control our behaviors if we understand how to tap into that inner consciousness. I think that at the very basis of our being, most of what we do is predetermined and hardwired into our systems.

There was an interesting study done by Benjamin Libet in the 80s – he asked each of his subjects to flick their wrist while he measured the readiness potential that went off in their brains[1]. He also had his subjects record the times they first felt the conscious intention to move. Libet found that the unconscious brain activity of this readiness potential began about half a second before the subject was aware of a conscious intention to move. This sounds pretty predetermined to me.

However, there is also the case of the Tibetan Buddhist monks, who can defy nature’s restrictions of bodily regulation and can raise the temperature of their fingers and toes by as much as 17 degrees and lower their metabolisms by 64%[2]. When looking at both of these examples, it is clear to me that there are defined restrictions that we are bound to by biological implication, but there are also aspects of being human that can be mastered and (in my opinion) can be altered and/or manipulated using free will.


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