Some people deny free will exists. Let’s see what it would mean to accept that there is no free will for the whole of society and for yourself.
In this case, no criminal or murderer could be convicted, because he could always argue that he was not responsible for his crime, but that guilt belongs to the way his brain worked behind his conscious decision. In that case, the judge and the jurors could only say that the criminal and murderer were dangers to the other robots (people) in society, and therefore they must be imprisoned.
Another consequence of this agreement would mean that there cannot be any recognized value in society. If we all are robots, then everything is an illusion: the beauty of art or the beauty of nature, justice, or education.
‘We are all robots’ should be displayed at every street corner, and no thief, murderer, or rapist should be made responsible for their deeds because the robbed, killed, or raped person should not prefer owning something to not owning it, or choose any sensation as being more acceptable than another.
‘Everything is permitted’ is the corollary of ‘We are all robots,’ and it is necessary to be permitted. Only, those who claim this forget to think and act accordingly, choosing to act as common human beings and not at all as robots.
Concerning education, generally accepting the condition of being a robot immediately raises the question of why robots should want to perpetuate human society and the human condition in general. If all of us are robots, then there is no reason to preserve human culture and educate our offspring to be respectful of traditional human values.
If any war occurred, then there would be no need at all to defend your community and tradition because they are nothing else than illusions of robots, which, instead of knowing the truth that they are only machines, somehow have been infected with the illusion that they are free and have values that must be cherished and followed.
Robots, i.e., automata, cannot want to pursue ideals because any ideal is necessarily an illusion. Now, someone could reply that those illusions could be preserved because they are nothing other than the expression of a pleasant feeling the robots managed to attain.
It is true: this generation of robots can feel pleasure in following some ideals, but they cannot want human society to be preserved. If you are a robot, then your way of being cannot be seen as being better than any other existence; consequently you cannot prefer your life to the existence of any other thing.
If you are a robot and you are in a life-endangering situation, you cannot want to save yourself because you cannot see any difference between yourself and the chair on which you sit. If you are a robot – that is to say, a complete automaton – then you cannot want to act freely and save your life. You cannot prefer anything because your preference must be assumed to be an illusion. Or, as recently some atheists have claimed: no life matters.
Values are based on preference. You could ask: why should robots not be able to prefer something against something else? In fact, in reality, of course, you can prefer, but if you decide that you are a robot, then you must reject any act of preferring because this is a matter of artificial custom which has only infected you with an illusion.
And because you, as a robot, cannot accept values, you must reject illusion-based habits and reflexes if you are to be consistent with yourself. If we go a step further, we will be able to see how self-contradictory such an explanation is.
If I am a robot, then everything I do is determined by my neurons. Now, I have to make a decision, whatever decision. If I were consistent with my premise that I am a robot, then I simply should wait until I receive the decision from my neurons and not try to find a solution by exerting myself to think. I should sit tranquil and wait for my neurons to transmit to me what I have to do in each situation.
For example, shall I save myself when I cross a railroad and see the train drawing swiftly closer to me? Let’s see what I might think in that situation. First, I could feel fear. ‘A neuronal reaction,’ I then think. Then, I tell myself: ‘I am a robot controlled by my neurons.’ ‘This thought is another neuronal reaction,’ I think again.
‘I feel fear, but I also feel that I am able to overcome this fear and be ready to be annihilated by the train.’ ‘This thought is another neuronal reaction,’ I think again. And now, I am confronted with the option of whether I should save myself or die.
Now, since I am a robot, I must reject any criteria I find in my mind to follow one or another path because such a choice is an illusion. My neurons are moving me, so I must wait for those neurons to decide on my place. Will they decide? I do not think so.
Until the very final moment, whatever decision I want to make, there is also the contradictory one present, and both of them are variants proposed by my neurons.
Although I declare myself to be a robot, I simply cannot act automatically; that is to say, I cannot find in my mind anything pushing or compelling me to do something, because even when I feel that something compels me (Flee the terror of dying!), I also feel the presence of the contrary thought (which says: you can stand that fear, so why not let yourself be killed by the train. Ultimately, you are just a robot, and there are no compelling reasons to live.) Finally, the train will run over me because I am unable to make a decision.
We see thus that the hypothesis of the non-existence of the free will puts us in an impossible practical situation in which we simply can no longer preserve and continue our lives. Whatever we do, whatever we choose, and whatever we think must be thought of as an illusion of a neuronal mechanism.
But life needs decisions. And those decisions unfortunately never come – if you assume you are a robot – because there is always the contrary option present ad infinitum.
The automata we are resemble broken machines because, if we were really to follow the consequences of the premise that we are robots, then we should always wait for the decisions made beyond ourselves by our brains and the neuronal network composing them, and since they never come we will eternally be unable to make the smallest move since it also requires a decision.
The next part of this article can be read here.