Friday, July 22, 2011

Free Will

Recently I came across this interesting research article by Benjamin Libet in Journal of Consciousness Studies ( captioned "Do we have a Free Will?” Libet, with the help of experiments, shows that our intention to act starts some time before we actually become aware of it. That points towards the fact that humans may not have a free will to act on a stimulus in a particular way.

However, further in the article he infers that after the initial unconscious act (readiness potential, RP) consciousness takes over to decide the next part of the action. He cites 'veto action' which human consciousness might resort to in order to make brain react to a stimulus thereby showing no action at all. In other words something suppressed at will. This, he says, shows that after the intention became aware, consciousness took control of the matter.

In the section 'Determinism and Free will' towards the end of the article Libet, almost conclusively goes in favour of Free Will theory stating that both the deterministic and the non-deterministic theories were flawed, therefore, it was safe to assume that free will existed.

I have the following observations to make:

1) Does Libet's non-determinism mean the same as quantum mechanics indeterminism? To me it appears not. Could it then be possible to apply quantum theories in matters of brain which otherwise appear rather deterministic.

2) If consciousness were to take control after an initial unconscious act (as during RP), does it supersede brain's bio-chemical actions or it acts subservient to its processes. Could the conscious ‘veto action’ have an unconscious origin as suggested by someone else as cited in the article but not acceptable to Libet?

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Friday, July 15, 2011

This Resilience

As a dumb Indian I have been hearing over decades now, these words and phrases spoken by Indian leaders of substance and some powerful individuals who matter, during the times of crisis;

Resilience, cultural and religious harmony, perpetrators will be brought to justice, dastardly acts, terror has no religion, and many more.

With each bomb blast or an act of terror in India, I pulled out my dictionary and thesaurus to check out if meanings of these words had changed over the time.
Alas, nothing seems to have changed or be changing.

Resilience still means cowardice, a dastardly act still remains dastardly, the perpetrators are still at large, secularism yet to be properly defined, and religions, purportedly, are still full of peace and harmony.

May be one day, I too will be ripped apart by one such blast and my children will find solace in these big words spoken by some big people and then they will rush to find the meanings the same way as I do today.

I am not sure if the meanings would change for them but the colour of those pages would certainly have turned red. Yes, blood red.

I wonder how many pages have to turn blood red to change the meaning of these dreaded words.

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