CHOICE – some thoughts

These thoughts were stimulated by a comment by David Braden in a Facebook dialog.

“Larry is speaking of a societal structure that directs the choices of the people playing the various roles in that structure. And, as we discussed within the previous thread, the story that informs us about the threats to and requirements of the organizations to which we belong constrain the choices of those interested in maintaining the organizations.”

The concept of an autonomous “individual” may be a phantom creation of the human mind/brain, with both potential utility and danger.

Societal structures influence more that roles. They stimulate and reinforce the mental contexts within which all experiences gain their meaning. Actions are taken by persons to maintain their “reality”, as well as the organizations. I use the term “culture” in analogy for the “mind of a tribe” – a mono-cultural social system. What we mean by “culture” for a complex society that is a weaving of many social systems (with some persons as members of more than one social system) is like calling the Milky Way a galaxy without thinking much about any details.

Human persons do perform choices between alternatives.  They have little to no choice on what those alternatives will be, as the antecedent conditions over time leading up to the moment of choice is very complex and involves systems beyond the influence of the individual.

The neural-molecular processes leading to choice remains under study (see below). Some research indicates that the brain makes a decision a short time before the person consciously thinks they are making a choice. The whole person’s biological/mental being chooses, NOT their conscious self. This implies that thoughts and decisions don’t begin in the mind and then influences the brain.

There is no evidence that a conscious experiential preceded or caused a later pattern of brain activity – or that there was no associated brain activity. This is not to say that this is impossible, as only very few behaviors have been correlated with brain activity. However, it is not wise to base a model to guide human behavior on such an unproven assumption. Again, it is very important to re-emphasize, there is evidence that whole human persons do have “agency” and creativity.

Is the moment-of-choice but one (important) stage in a complex process, or might it involve an extra-of-physical intervention from a soul or disembodied mind, as our naive reality seems to imply? When I later explore a new meaning for “mind”, it will have some aspects of a non-physical phenomenon.

COMPLEMENTARITY

In the spirit of a generalized complementarity, there may be moments when the concept of individual “free choice” is appropriate. That is, the operational procedures to determine whether a choice (electron or light) is free or determined (wave or particle) are different. Choice can sometimes be both “free” and “determined”.

  •  We ask of a “choice”, with the criteria for free, and the response can be YES.
  •  We ask of a “choice”, with the criteria for determined, and the response could also be YES.
  •  By a “law of exclusion”, we are unable/prohibited to ask of “choice” both tests simultaneously.

However, this doesn’t give us the license to act as if all human choice is “free”, in the naive sense some would like to believe is true. Most human choice is highly constrained by the state of the brain at the moment of choice, itself “determined” by the whole life of the person and the most recent input.  Indeed, we WANT our choice to be determined by the issues leading up to the choice. Otherwise, choice totally free of determinism must always be random, which is not what we mean by “free choice”.

 

HOLISTIC DETERMINATION

I proposed the conceptual scheme I call “holistic determination” at a ISSS conference in 1994, in a paper titled:  PRACTICAL SPECULATIONS AT THE EDGE OF SCIENCE.
I also discuss the issue of choice, as above, in that paper.

Holistic determination would occur when an “event happens” at a specific space-time place where there is no immediate cause evident. However, the event could be linked to the specific “changes-of-state” of the larger systems comprising the extended environment of that space-time place – over a temporal period from some duration before that moment to some duration prior to that moment.

For example, when an atomic nucleus (or any quantum system) decays, the moment of decay is probabilistic – no events in its surroundings determine when it decays.  Holistic determinism would exist if the changing configuration of the environment of that nucleus we such as to “choose” the moment of decay – but yet to preserve the statistics of ensemble decay.

The same principles could apply to the moment the brain initiates a behavior. Quantum events in a complex network of neurons could synchronize as an instance of multiple place holistic determination.

The lead editorial of the recent issue of SCIENCE (just read this morning) proposes a major perspective shift in finding the neural/molecular correlates of behavior. “The Promise of Neurotechnology” by Andrew Schwartz  {2 October 2015, vol 350 pp 11}.

        “Effective investigation of brain function necessitates moving beyond the structure-function concept in the brain-machine analogy.”
        “Examination of correlated firing within a recorded sample of neurons can help scientists define groups of functionally interacting neurons as well as the co-called latent drivers that induce the correlation. These drivers might arise, for instance, from stimulation acting simultaneously on neurons that work together to begin a behavior.”

I grok an analogy between the shift in quantum physics in 1926 to consider predicting data patterns and abandoning physical metaphors like the Bohr Atom and Spin. The probabilistic nature of the quantum world emerged to fit the data. The new neurotechnology proposed will collect data during brain process at many locations – not to be constrained by the neural wiring.

I speculate that this approach will run counter to the new Federal support of mapping the neural connections in the human brain.  Some scientists have speculated that the neural firing at synapses represents only the final stages of brain-body functioning; that the higher processes are activity within the neurons themselves, maybe involving the micro-tubules. I speculate that a form of quantum entanglement may be part of coordinated activity throughout large neural networks.

Mindfulness and Buddhist Choice

Michael, a close friend who explores Buddhism, believes we chose our reality. That each moment (in mindfulness) we chose to be doing/experiencing what we are doing /experiencing or not. It is claimed that through meditative-style practice a person can learn to chose their experiences – and thus their “reality”.

To my understanding, Buddhists refuse to accept the duality of objective/subjective and thus claim that the reality the chose IS THE REALITY. It is an empirical finding that some persons through practice, can “control” many body functions and claim to have special “conscious experiences” (which are not inter-subjectively confirmed).

While I (Larry/nuet) would like to have more influence on Larry, the time and effort of practice (at 80 years) is beyond feasible.

This last thought/statement brought up a very deep memory/speculation. Crews of persons could be guided FROM BIRTH to develop specific collective competencies, useful for the viable functioning of an emergent Humanity.  Just prior to this insight I intended to start a new section: COLLECTIVE CHOICE.

COLLECTIVE CHOICE

“Collectives” have been given special attention lately. George Por and Tom Atlee, to name a few. The intelligence of a collective can be more than the sum of the intelligence of the members. We don’t have to look to (real) psychic links, to consider the potentials of mutual entertainment via mirror neurons and other yet to be discovered connectivity. The shocking similarities of identical twins separated at birth implies an “entanglement” connection between beings of similar structure (DNA and brain architecture). Social psychology research has demonstrated the strong influence a group can have on individual choice (a fact ignored). Research on the phenomenon of “social” counters the belief in the autonomy of the hypothetical individual. Individuality is an illusion – as an objective, ontological fact – in complementarity, the phantom of individuality can be useful at times, so long as we are alert to its limitations.

 

 

Author: nuet

01/24/1935. BS-physics RPI 1956; MS-physics UofChicago 1958; PhD-physics Yale 1965; PhD-Edu Psy Uof MInnesota 1970. Auroral Research Byrd Station, Antarctica 11/1960-02/1962. MINNEMAST curriculum dev 1964-68. Woodstock. faculty Pima Community College, Tucson 1974-1997. Transdisciplinary scientist, philosopher, educator, futurist, activist. PC user since 1982. "Wife". daughter, 2 grandsons. 5 dogs & 7 cats. Lacks mental imagery in all sensory domains.

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