We've been given the incredible power of choice. It is entirely possible that choice is an emergent phenomenon, an illusion that we want to believe to avoid the sinking fear that we are simply machines responding to our senses via pattern recognition. Yet the fact that we have subjective experiences based on our senses suggests that we are not simply complex machinery (well technically according to the concept of solipsism, I can only be sure that I personally have subjective experiences, but my empathy makes me believe that others do as well).
We are capable of directing our willpower to influence the universe around us. Gravity, left unchecked, would dictate that the rock would quietly sit there on the ground for years. Yet we can choose to use the strong and weak nuclear forces to contract our muscles and pick up that rock. If you had no willpower, the rock's trajectory through time would have remained unchanged.
But what is the mechanism behind this choice? This is one of the greatest questions of modern science. How does our willpower act through our neurons?
Let's delve into our neurons at a micro scale as we go deeper into space and time and arrive at the present moment.
- Our bodies move by contracting muscles through nerves.
- Those nerves are directed through our neurons.
- Our neurons are capable of pattern recognition (see any current research on artificial neural networks to learn more regarding the process of neurons yielding regression and classification decisions).
- Our neurons have action potentials based on neurotransmitter chemicals.
- Those chemicals are made up of protons, neutrons, electrons etc.
- Those are made up of subatomic particles (quarks, etc.) at different energy levels.
At this point we have to pause. Because deeper than that, we come to the realm of probabilities. There are probable energy levels in which the subatomic particles and electrons may exist. However, there is no clear understanding of how nature decides on which probabilities to collapse. As time flows forward, the probabilities collapse into a given energy level. In fact, the particles likely exist in all possible energy levels simultaneously until time flows forward and they have collapsed (Schrödinger's cat).
Yet imagine what would occur with different combinations of these subatomic particles' energy levels being at different states. By collapsing those probabilities. By having a unique combination of the energy levels, this yields different states of the neurons and eventually human bodies. It's my assertion that the collapsing of those probable energy levels is the mechanism behind which free will operates. The energy levels with the highest probabilities could result in the human body unmoving, just swaying in the wind, so-to-say. Yet there are some combinations of energy levels which would result in the human body taking a step.
Or perhaps the most probable energy levels wouldn't be a static but, but would result in a person just acting out of his instincts.
If we assume that free will exists, then I assert that the mechanism through which it operates is a collapsing of the energy levels of the subatomic particles in our neurons.
If you keep dividing time, quantum physics talks about probabilities. Probabilities of different events as the primordial soup of the universe. This makes sense if you think about the fact that there are probabilities of different things happening given our choices. Our consciousness is us being aware of these states as we flow through “realizing” these probabilities come together. Consciousness is the convergence of the probabilities to an actual event (the particle actually moved in this direction). The collapse of the probabilities is us moving through time and “observing”.
We try to make the best choice given our actions. We can follow general population trends and know on average what occurs, but instinctually we always know that there was a chance our choices could have yielded a different output.
What does that mean? It simply means that you are using pattern recognition to guess the probabilities, and making a choice collapses those probabilities.
The structure of the universe is probabilities and choice projects us through the realization of being the observer. Trying out our sense of memory by thinking back in the past to known probability outputs, and looking into the future by seeing different probabilities.
Quantum physicists are slowly realizing the the basic physical structure of the universe isn't just geometry and raw energy, but also probabilities. Which to me represents possibilities, and a mechanism through which free will may operate.