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Notes philosophy politics

Chapter 8: The Time Bomb in the Laboratory (Homo Deus)

Liberalism is like any other religion; in that it is based on factual statements that aren’t scientifically sound. One belief is that voters and buyers do not make their decisions randomly, liberalism acknowledges the existence of external influences but thinks that people ultimately make up their own minds freely.

Free Will is an Illusion

But free will is not an ethical judgement, it is a factual statement that might have held water during the days of Locke, Rousseau and Thomas Jefferson, but the latest findings in the life sciences contradict it.

To the best of our knowledge, people act either randomly or deterministically, but there is little room for freedom. Free will exists only in our imaginations. Further, it contradicts the theory of evolution, which states that animals choose things based on their genetic code. Fit genes eat nutritious food and copulate with suitable mates, while unfit genes become extinct. If animals were free to do what they wanted, then natural selection would not have a function.

The counter argument is that people feel free, that they act according to their desires, but that is no the question. Rather, it is whether they choose their desires in the first place.

Even if you say that your preferences followed a long process of abstract reasoning, you cannot explain why you chose to embark on one train of reasoning over another.

There is only a stream of consciousness and desires accompany it, but there is no permanent self who owns these desires. The next time an idea pops into your head, ask yourself why you had that thought and not another.

Experiencing vs Narrating

We are even more fragmented than that. Our left and right hemispheres disagree with regards to how we interpret reality. Gazzinga discovered this through a series of famous experiments. The left-brain rationalizes our experiences. Similarly, Kahneman found that we have a narrating self and an experiencing self. The narrating self is like the left-brain, in that it constantly spins yarns about what happened in the past, and it takes many short cuts – like journalists, politicians, and poets.

The narrating self-ranks events based on the average between the last experience it can remember and the worst experience (The peak-end rule), it is also blind to duration. So, if you are a doctor, and you want your patient to feel the least amount of pain, make sure their final few moments are great, even if it takes a lot more time for that to be possible.

Read Homo Deus

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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