The Fate of Free Will: When Science Crosses Swords With Philosophy

Abraham Loeb: Are we better off knowing whether or not free will exists? For now this question is moot because we do not have the means for answering the question. But it is conceivable that in the future we will find out it doesn’t. That could be one result of the development of self-learning machines equipped with artificial intelligence whose behavior could be shaped by modifying the details of their underlying algorithms, just as you can tune the power of an engine by artificially changing its constituents. In case the emergent phenomenon of free will is reproduced artificially, would such knowledge tear apart the fabric of society? Without the notion of “free will” there would be neither ethical responsibility nor the fundamental freedom to shape the future through our decisions. Would human life lose its purpose? The realization our actions are a product of circumstances might shut down social consciousness and the engine of our most ambitious aspirations.

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