RE: Freedom and Friendliness

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Sat Oct 26 2002 - 21:11:44 MDT

> > Still, as a first shot, and clearly understanding that it needs
> > refinement:
> >
> > 1) A person is free when that person is making a choice among several
> > perceived plausible choices, and also feels that not choosing would be a
> > valid choice.
> >
> > 2) There are degrees of freedom. It's not an either / or state. And
> > there are no infinities and no zeros.
> >
> > 3) If only one of the choices perceived as available is also perceived
> > as desireable, the amount of freedom present is minor.
> >
> > 4) If none of the choices presented as available are also perceived as
> > desireable, the person has less freedom than under condition 3.
> >
> > 5) If no difference in the desirability of the choices available is
> > discernable, but the choices are perceived as essentially different,
> > then the freedom approaches the maximum possible, and increases in
> > direct proportion to the number of perceived choices.

One interesting thing about this notion of "freedom" is that it defines
freedom purely as a subjective feeling. It's all about what is subjective
perceived as plausible, valid, desirable, different, etc.

This means that in principle, one could have two minds, each carrying out
largely the same cognitive processes, but with mind A considering its
choices as "free" and mind B not.

And indeed, this seems to be the case. Some humans feel their choices
largely free, others feel their choices large constrained -- and this can be
the case even when the humans in question are dealing with rather similar
sets of choices.

This leaves me wondering why we should value this particular psychological
state (the feeling of "freedom") *so* highly as some of us do. [I note that
the lofty valuation we place on freedom is an artifact of modern Western
culture; it was/is not there in all prior human cultures, to be sure.]

I do value it, personally -- among many other things. But reflecting on in
carefully, I'm not sure it should be one of the highest values.

In some cases, a mind's estimate of its own freedom may decrease as the mind
becomes more aware of its own state and dynamics, and the state and dynamics
of the world around it. Greater awareness may eliminate that aspect of the
feeling of freedom that is caused by ignorance.... For example, ignorance
of the complex unconscious dynamics that are inexorably impelling one's
choices in a certain direction...

In other cases, greater awareness may of course cause an increase in the
feeling of freedom, as one becomes aware of avenues and opportunities not
previously perceivable...

So the relation btw increasing intelligence/awareness and the feeling of
freedom, does not seem particulary simple or obvious to me...

-- Ben G

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