Towards Implementing Free-Will

CPM Report No.: 00-57
By: Bruce Edmonds
Date: 13th March 2000

Presented as: Edmonds, B. (2000) Towards Implementing Free Will, AISB'2000 symposium on "How to Design a Functioning Mind", Birmingham, April 2000.

An substantially revised version of this is available as CPM Report 03-124


Some practical criteria for free-will are suggested where free-will is a matter of degree. It is argued that these are more appropriate than some extremely idealised conceptions. Thus although the paper takes lessons from philosophy it avoids idealistic approaches as irrelevant. A mechanism for allowing an agent to meet these criteria is suggested: that of facilitating the gradual emergence of free-will in the brain via an internal evolutionary process. This meets the requirement that not only must the choice of action be free but also choice in the method of choice, and choice in the method of choice of the method of choice etc. This is directly analogous to the emergence of life from non-life. Such an emergence of indeterminism with respect to the conditions of the agent fits well with the `Machiavellian Intelligence Hypothesis' which posits that our intelligence evolved (at least partially) to enable us to deal with social complexity and modelling `arms races'. There is a clear evolutionary advantage in being internally coherent in seeking to fulfil ones goals and unpredictable by ones peers. To fully achieve this vision several other aspects of cognition are necessary: open-ended strategy development; the meta-evolution of the evolutionary process; the facility to anticipate the results of strategies; and the situating of this process in a society of competitive peers. Finally the requirement that reports of the deliberations that lead to actions need to be socially acceptable leads to the suggestion that the language that the strategies are developed within be subject to a normative process in parallel with the development of free-will. An appendix outlines a philosophical position in support of my position.

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