My perceptual shift – is my respect your only proof?

I wonder if I have this perceptual shift relative to the larger population.

I was looking at this flash game review: http://playthisthing.com/boomshine

The reviewer himself states that the game just gives the illusion of agency – the illusion you have some control.

In the comments I note that he has no evidence that can prove or disprove that. He just made that up that ‘fact’. Indeed my own hypothesis is that the game demonstrates that when overloaded with information, when given a choice between remaining in A: an uncertain state and B: making up a fact then treating it as true, people will by and large choose B.

While I choose A. Though I have to be careful in the above to say it’s a hypothesis – I have no evidence to prove or disprove it. But let me tell you, it’s hard to make a point about uncertainty whilst remaining uncertain ūüôā

I do make hypothesis in the game – like that in corners your more often to get clusters of balls because of the diagonal paths they typically take, or that for large combo’s you can’t use corners, it has to be the middle in order so as to ripple both left and right.

The thing is, these plans accept I’m working the odds – I don’t have direct control, but I can make plans which overlap the odds in a way that favours me more than raw randomness then test those plans by implementing them (over and over, typically).

It’s about then that I realised it was actually possible that other people think agency/the ability to effect things, is binary. As in, you either have it or you don’t.

Further, it occured to me that people might be thinking that they know how much agency they have. Like they actually know it, as if they have a mental ruler they measured it by.

For myself, I know my personal agency is dictated by circumstance – and I really have no true knowledge of circumstance*.

The curiously dangerous thing is, other peoples beliefs beget actions, and their actions¬†are part of my circumstances. When they think they know¬†whether they¬†have agency, while I know circumstance dictates my agency, well…I dunno.

I suppose what happens is that to maintain human equality, you end up talking to them with a respect to their belief that their actions are with full agency, while speaking for yourself from a circumstances dictate agency. Curiously this is a spiral – emboldened by your respect, they will beget more actions which affect your circumstances and your agency, usually reducing it. That, or you give up on maintaining human equality.

Thinking on my own behaviour over time and how it’s changed, I think I’ve given up to a certain extent. Too many people have taken my respect for their belief as the very¬†proof that their belief is real. Here, watch as I take that respect away to show there is no proof – oh, I’m being rude now, and can be dismissed?

I think there needs to be a change, to inform them that I don’t think they know how much agency they have, that circumstances decide their agency. Bit hard to say it in a casual conversation way though.

* note: I have considered how I can’t really prove I don’t know my circumstances. My hypothesis is that by and large you don’t, but there may be what one might call ‘destiny nodes’ where one is wrong about not knowing circumstances¬†and one does actually¬†know circumstances perfectly. However, such moments do not come to fruition if one chooses to believe one doesn’t know the moment – one can disbelieve destiny. One can also believe¬†there is a moment of¬†destiny where there is none. Most people talk and talk and talk about what they think is the way it is, then think that proves something enough to base some further action on that. As I understand it, the only way to know if you are destined at a particular point, is to tread the path.

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8 Comments

  1. Tommi said,

    9 September, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    Good post.

    I think that certainty is a rare thing; arguments like cogito (I think, hence I exist.) aside, even conditional certainty is rare. (Mathematics is all about conditional certainty: Given these axioms, what follows?)

    About personal agency: Your actions and choices matter, but so do circumstances. Assuming free will, there is no either-or. (I think that “Which matters more?” is not a particularly useful question unless asked in specific circumstances.)

  2. Callan said,

    12 September, 2008 at 12:10 am

    I’ve thought about how to answer for a few days. I think the best answer I have is no assumption of free will. Merely the gamble that one has free will. That describes the perception I’m talking about.

  3. Tommi said,

    12 September, 2008 at 5:08 am

    Here’s a bit about free will and assumptions thereof:

    Assume there is no free will. Now, you can believe in free will and it will change nothing as compared to believing you don’t have free will, because if it had effect, you would in fact have free will, which contradicts the premise that you have no free will. QED.

    Assume there is free will. See contemporary philosophy and psychology for effects of believing you actually have free will. (I’d say it is generally a good thing.)

  4. Callan said,

    15 September, 2008 at 1:49 am

    I don’t understand – if I disbelieve I have no free will and it had an effect, I have free will? I’m not seeing that – all I see currently, is that if I disbelieve I have free will, and it has an effect, there is an unintended effect.

    If I didn’t intend that effect to occur, then surely that means it’s not an act of free will? It’s just a side effect – yes, generated from a shift in my belief, but that doesn’t mean its a willed act of mine – it’s just a side effect of the belief.

  5. Tommi said,

    16 September, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    I meant belief as something one can choose to do with regards to free will. A bad choice of words. Sorry for that.

    That is, if you decide to live as though you had free will, and you actually do not, then that decision must not matter, because if it did, then you had free will in making that decision.

    Is this clearer? (The shape of the argument is reductio ad absurdum, if you know rhetorics. An indirect proof if you know mathematics.)

  6. Callan said,

    17 September, 2008 at 12:32 am

    “That is, if you decide to live as though you had free will, and you actually do not, then that decision must not have an effect, because if it did, then you had free will in making that decision.”
    I’ve replaced your word ‘matter’ with ‘have an effect’

    As before, I don’t see it – you can decide you have free will and that can have an effect. That doesn’t mean you intended the effect, which doesn’t mean it’s an act of free will – it’s a random side effect.

    In terms of using the word ‘matter’, you can decide you have free will, perform an act, and it matters to someone else. Was that act an act of free will? I don’t think it mattering to someone else proves it was or wasn’t an act of free will. If it matters to you, again I don’t think that proves or disproves that you have free will.

    For example, several dozen people across the planet die each year from celebratory gunshots fired into the air – those bullets have to come down at some point. Sometimes its into a human – I’m sure that matters to the person and their loved ones – I’m sure it’d matter to the shooter if he knew. But it doesn’t prove or disprove an act of free will.

  7. Tommi said,

    18 September, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    Uhh… definition time.

    I define having free will as being able to make choices that matter (or have an effect, whichever you prefer). That is: A person has free will if and only if that person can actually decide something such that it matters (or has an effect).

    Positive examples: A person can choose to read or not read a given blog. A person can choose to help others or give money to charity. A person can choose to go on a killing rampage.

    Negative examples: Determinism; think or do whatever you will, it all is comletely determined by the laws of physics or God or mind-controlling aliens (unless you are wearing a tinfoil hat, that is).

    Note that I am not talking about observing free will; rather, I am talking about existence of it. I am assuming there is a reality that extends beyond what I observe here; in case of phenomenalism, free will becomes a prety tricky subject, possibly even irrelevant.

  8. Callan said,

    19 September, 2008 at 12:39 am

    Tommi, your describing your own perception on the subject. I thought you were investigating mine? ūüôā

    As I said, no assumption of free will. Merely the gamble that one has free will. That describes the perception I’m talking about.

    If it helps to describe it more in your terms and you want to investigate what I’m describing; That reality you talk about that extends beyond what you observe here – if it’s ‘chaneled’ through to this world, I neither assume it is always being chaneled or never being chaneled. I merely only ever gamble that it is being chaneled through.

    It’s like having a remote control for a toy car, but sometimes the signal gets warped and changed. I will push forward on the control stick, but not with the assumption I am in control, but merely with on the gamble that the car will go forward.

    For many people they press forward, in terms of controlling themselves, the car goes forward and right, and the person, because they assume they are in control, they assume that they wanted to go forward and right. It makes sense to them because if they are in control and they go forward and right, they must have wanted that – even as I observed them only pressing forward on the control stick, so to speak.

    That’s describing it in a rough, approximate way.


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