Free will is a problem. If all of us are physical machines, obeying laws of physics, then all our movements and mental states are caused by events that took place earlier. What is caused is fully determined by the cause. So whatever we do now and in the next minute is all pre-ordained by antecedent events and causes, and we have no control over it. How can we then have free will? The fact that I am writing this note on free will — is it totally and completely determined by the events from time immemorial? That doesn’t sound right.
Recently I had to talk harshly to my daughter about the responsibilities of family members. Although I would like to think of it as a scolding, all parents of teenagers know that there is no such thing. There are only fights. But it got me thinking about the responsibilities, rights and privileges of family members.
When it comes to the amount of intelligence and experience required, we have a clear hierarchy from data to information to knowledge to wisdom. What we get from raw observation are just data points. We apply some techniques of aggregation, reporting charting etc. to arrive at information. Further higher level processing in revealing interconnections and relationships will give us condensed and actionable information, which we can consider knowledge. But to arrive at wisdom, we need a keen mind and years of experience, because what we mean by wisdom itself is far from obvious. Rather, it is obvious, but not easily described, and so not easily delegated to a computer. At least, so I thought. How could machines bridge the gap from data to wisdom?
The allegorical tale of Ants and Grasshoppers is often used to drive home the inevitable connection between handwork and success, as well as laziness and hardship. Or between talent and riches, indolence and penury. Here is another story that may run contrary to this message.
At some point in their life, most parents of teenage children would have asked a question very similar to the one Cypher asked in Matrix, “Why, oh, why didn’t I take the blue pill?” Did I really have to have these kids? Don’t get me wrong, I have no particular beef with my children, they are both very nice kids. Besides, I am not at all a demanding parent, which makes everything work out quite nicely. But this general question still remains: Why do people feel the need to have children?
Among the religious texts of Hinduism, the Bhagavad Gita is the most revered one. Literally presented as the word of God, the Bhagavad Gita enjoys a stature similar to the Bible or the Koran. Like all scriptures, the Bhagavad Gita also can be read, not merely as an act of devotion, but as a philosophical discourse as well. It presents a philosophical stance in understanding the world, which forms (for those from India) the basic and fundamental assumptions in dealing with life, and the unknowable reality around them. In fact, it is more than just assumptions and hypotheses; it is the basis of commonsense handed down from generation to generation. It is the foundations of intellect, which form the instinctive and emotional understanding of reality that is assimilated before logic and cannot be touched or analyzed with rationality. They are the mythos that trump logos every time.
I used to have a pretty sharp mind, particularly when it came to simple arithmetic. I think age has begun to dull it. Case in point: recently I had to check a friend’s pulse rate. So I felt his pulse for 15 seconds and got 17 beats. At that point, I wanted to call out the heart beats per minute. And at that point, my mind suddenly went blank. It started going through this chain, “Ok, I got 17 for 15 seconds. So what is it for a minute? It should be, what, 60 seconds over 15 times 17. Hold it, where is my iPhone? I need a calculator. No wait, it is 17 for a quarter of a minute. So 17 times 4. Where is my calculator, dammit?!” Granted, it was a slightly stressful situation. But this is not at all the way my mind used to work.
In the last post, I gave vent to all my left-wing righteousness against the growing income disparity. Then it occurred to me — a totally uniform wealth distribution is stochastically unlikely. In fact, it is over seven billion times less likely than one person in the whole world holding all the wealth in the world. That brings me to the topic of this post – what is the most likely wealth distribution?