Whose the boss of your brain?

Posted on November 9, 2011


In  previous posts we discussed how we construct realities with the aid of genetic, cultural and personal biases. We discussed how such biases (beliefs, models, hopes, fears) construct realities by automatically organizing bit and pieces selected (cherry picked) from the buzzing confusion of sensations – external and internal sensations or signals.

But who or what decides which biases kick into action at a given time and place?

Most of us presume ( treasure the bias or the model) that there’s a little you inside your head that making the decisions – master of your fate, captain of your soul.

Free-will- wind up toy

However, an increasing number of neuroscientists and philosophers don’t agree. For instance Dan Dennett argues that there’s no such thing as free will. Instead his pet bias or model proposes that teams of mini-robots (sensory-chemcial networks) automatically make the decisions and  we helplessly go along for the ride. Like back seat drivers seeing the passing scenery but having no real control – sort of like kids in a car seat with a toy steering wheel.

Or see Michael Gassaniga (file:///Users/neil/Desktop/Reality%20-%20my%20brain%20made%20me%20do%20it.html) who’s  actually done research in the area and while he agrees that a lot of our behavior is automatic, says it’s too early to be certain …. presumably not as certain as Dennett is. You also know that much of your behavior is under automatic control (digestion, blood pressure, respiration, temperature, certain emotions and thoughts, etc. ) So you can at least appreciate the possibility that Dennett’s bias or model is plausible.

Or do you?

Notice some of the implications of Dennett’s model. Notice how many of our institutions work on the assumption (the bias or model) that you have ‘free will’, for instance banks, the courts, the schools, the church, etc. In fact the only major institutions that I can think of, off the top of my ) that  don’t  are psychiatric hospitals and their ilk, and nursery schools.

And of course we also some of loss of free will in boozers and addicts ….

How much free will does your bias or model of your own behavior provide? Any good examples?

Free will: lickr.com/photos/kaiopai/3219282208

Posted in: Sciencing