I Haz Free Will!

I just have to monitor my breathing and tell my inner body signals what I want to do…


Honestly the entire free will issue makes my head hurt. I can’t be sure I wanted to do this post, but my fingers type anyway.

I find it interesting our readiness potential (RP) which is an active signal in our brains that happens, before we even know we are about to do something. I don’t know if there is an acceptable amount of lag time between our brains initial readiness to act and our bodies intention to act (W time, the urge or intent to act.) But we are creatures of electrical signals between neurons, and it makes sense to me that an inherent lag time would be reasonable, between the RP, the W time, and the signals sent to muscles required to follow through.

I also have no idea at all how that might have anything to do with me having some ice cream later. But I do know I like ice cream. Well I think I like ice cream, my body may just be demanding it…



Can I Keep My Free Will Now?

An interesting study from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute indicates that many of our decisions are influenced by past experiences (which is the leading cause for determinism) but also points out that random choices (or what I might perceive as a bit of free will, otherwise touted as compatibilism) might be benefecial at times.

A couple of notable quotes from the article: “Scientists at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus have shown that the brain can temporarily disconnect information about past experience from decision-making circuits, thereby triggering random behavior.” and : “in certain circumstances, random behavior may be preferable. An animal might have the best chance of avoiding a predator if it moves unpredictably, for example. And in a new environment, unrestricted exploration might make more sense than relying on an internal model developed elsewhere.”

The article here:


Shows how rats were able to switch between these modes of thought, predictably, by using different ways of presenting food/reward scenarios. There was noted an interesting side effect, notably the possibility of being stuck in the random mode of thought once it was initiated. They did figure out how to reverse that behavior by suppressing a stress hormone in the study animals, which I thought was pretty cool.

Now, admittedly I am extrapolating a bit here, moving this new information to the free will argument realm. But this study seems to show that having the ability to randomize our actions can be beneficial. What is free will if it is not the ability to make a random decision? I contend that yes our past experiences influence our decisions greatly, but that we do have the ability to occaisionally make a random choice if we want to. I don’t feel like EVERY decision we make has to be influenced by our past, and that yes, we do have a modicum of free will. Although it may be a small part of our makeup.

I just cannot buy into the determinist camp as of yet, and yes I’m probably grasping at straws here. But I remain a compatibilist for now. I know it’s not feasable just yet to be doing a happy dance for free will, but in this article I’ll take what I can get. ๐Ÿ™‚