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Just got back from Waking Up with Sam Harris at the Orpheum in Boston. My favorite phrase that I heard, from Max Tegmark, was "meat-based computer" which is all I think we humans are. Do you agree that we are essentially like computers with our hardware and software dictating our course through this life or do you think there is more and, more importantly, what evidence do you offer for there being more?

IntellectualRN 6 Jan 11

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We are Hardware and software, and that dictates the way we leave ourselves influenced by the environment , (family, peers, society, culture).


I actually do lean towards S. Harris' view of humanity, consciousness, etc. - for now because I am agnostic, after all.

Below is a summary (or collection) my thoughts from a discussion from a separate thread about free will ('t-have-free-will-why-thats-ok-youtube):

My thoughts as a "meat-based computer":
Our beliefs, our choices, our friends, our partners, (and definitely our lineage: parents, grand parents, evolutionary ancestors, etc.) are all external factors which our brains process (and store) to produce physical reactions (action, emotion, thought, etc.). Additionally to those external factors, experiences from previous brain processes and physical reactions are also used to produce the same or other physical reactions.

With that logic, I can only conclude that we are "meat-based computers".

I have not been convinced with any argument from other posters that we have free will. It is especially less convincing when the argument is simply stating that a choice has been made. E.g.: "...we chose our friends...", "...we chose our partners...", "...I chose to eat the chicken rather than the salad...".

I believe that all those examples of choices listed just above this paragraph would have been predicated by an experience, idea, belief, emotion, thought or even a small chemical reaction in your body that you were unconsciously aware.

I will even go as far to say that: "with our conscious mind, there can't be free will". And vice-versa: "free will requires a non-conscious mind".

To end, the one line from S. Harris that stuck with me is: "... from the perspective of your conscious mind, you're no more responsible for your next thought ..."

Ahh crap! I broke the HTML renderer. It looks like the HTML renderer doesn't like links to other pages in the site. 😛

Here's a " shortened" link to the other thread where we discussed Free Will: []


If we are like computers, then we take in more data than most any iv ever heard of, not talking simply cognition or amount of facts known, but our senses and many more things about us make us complicated. We are so hard to pin down that all our actions might as well be random, maybe with some slight tendency.

We're definitely the most advanced computers... for now.

@IntellectualRN @SamKerry

"Recognizing that my conscious mind is always downstream from the underlying causes of my thoughts, intentions, and actions does not change the fact that thoughts, intentions, and actions of all kinds are necessary for living a happy life — or an unhappy one, for that matter." Sam Harris

I am confused on how we can have thoughts or intentional action if we don't have free will? I like Sam Harris, but I just cannot fully grasp the idea of not having free will. What is the point of having a conversation with anyone about anything? Except for the fact that we have no choice but to do it when it happens? LOL

Assuming we don't have free will, how can we Implement that into our lives? The idea of implementation seems like I'll be making a conscious decision. I am struggling with this a lot. Am I misunderstanding something here?

@Loudpaintings At the end of the video that I shared in the other discussion thread ( [] - I had to shorten the link with because the HTML renderer tries to convert the link into a video because the link name had the word "You Tube" in it),

the YouTuber had this to say:

"...when you analyse your thoughts close enough you realise that they just appear out of a void. If you sit down, close your eyes, and attempt not to think, you'll immediately see that this is close to impossible. Your mind is flooding itself with thoughts all the time. And the thoughts that we feel consciously choose to think are merely the one we are happy to agree with. We, of course, have a will to do things. My will do make this video is what caused it to exist. But I did not freely choose this will..."

He continues a little later on after a clip from S. Harris and a Simpsons reference: "...The repercussions of committing a crime will still prevent people from being criminals. Fulfillment and compassion will still drive people to help others. Ambitions will still drive us to achieve goals. And boredom and aching butt, a hungry stomach, and a full bladder will still prevent you from sitting in a chair forever..."

EDIT: As I stated in my previous comment to this discussion thread, your choices are all predicated by an external and internal process. For true "free choice", it has to be a totally random choice. But it cannot be because everything we do and feel are a result from a previous experience.

@SamKerry thank you so much for sharing a thorough explanation. I really appreciate it. I am still not fully convinced, but perhaps I am misunderstanding what is meant by free will.

"My will to make this video is what caused it to exist. But I did not freely choose this will..."

So if I get this straight, we still have the agency to make decisions, a will, but they are all just heavily influenced by things beyond our control? Basically we are given certain parameters that confine our choices, but within that situation, we can still make some decisions?

Please correct me if I'm wrong. I'm just trying my best to fully understand this position. Thanks

@Loudpaintings Couldn't have said it better.

Although, I side with the idea that "we have no free will", I can't fully explain why. Mainly because I'm no real expert. I shared another video about the split brain phenomenon which further cements my belief in the idea:


@SamKerry awesome. Thanks man. In the grand scheme of things, we have no choice but to operate as if we have free will anyways. Even if our cognition is an illusion, there is really no option but to act as if we do have a will. It is a fun thought exercise though... regardless if I have a choice to think about it or not LOL

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