Friday, February 12, 2016

Free Will—or Not

Do you really have ‘free will’ or is that yet another figment of human imagination? Philosophers in many countries have debated that very question for centuries if not eons. Benjamin Libet, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco, conducted an experiment in the 1980’s to assess the nature of free will. Subjects hooked up to an electroencephalogram (EEG) were asked to push a button whenever they liked. They were also asked to note the precise time that they first became aware of the wish or urge to move. According to a report by Kurzweil, Libet’s experiments showed that distinctive ‘readiness potential’ brain activity began, on average, several seconds before study participants became aware consciously that they planned to move. Libet’s conclusion was that the desire to move arose unconsciously, and ‘free will’ could instead only come in the form of a conscious veto of what he called ‘free won’t.’ More to come.

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