Monday, September 20, 2010

Am I responsible for my actions or is my zombie?

As we have seen, there are two entities within me that may determine my actions, my zombie and I. Then we can ask: Who is responsible for these actions? Am I, my brain interpreter, responsible for what I do, or is it my zombie, who steers my actions? Here I do not want to discuss the situation that we do things really unconsciously, for example when sleepwalking or in a black out, but I mean the cases that I am completely aware of what I am doing.
We have to consider several possibilities here. The first one is the case that my chauffeur example is a good analogy for: It is I – my brain interpreter – who determines the main lines of what I am doing and it is my zombie who executes them. This sounds quite Cartesian (like all the cases here), but I think that further insight will show that actually I and my zombie are deeply integrated. Anyhow, I think this case is a variant of the assumption that man has a free will and as such is responsible for what s/he is doing.
A second possibility seems more interesting: That it is not I – my brain interpreter – who determines the main lines of my actions, but that my zombie does. My I is really a brain
interpreter and it is my zombie who takes the decisions, which are then explained by my brain interpreter, who puts them into words. But does this mean that I (now in the sense of me as a person) am not responsible for what I am doing? However, it can still be so that my actions and the decisions that ground them are my actions and decisions, albeit that my actions are based on my rational unconscious decisions. My brain interpreter is then like the government speaker who tells the press afterwards what the government has decided, informed about what has been decided by the prime minister, because the government speaker herself wasn’t present at the cabinet meeting. But then the cabinet decisions as such are still rational decisions, although the speaker learned about them only afterwards. So, it can be with my zombie, too: my zombie takes his decisions hidden for the brain interpreter but they are based on relevant facts, experiences, feelings and what more it needs for a rational weighing. Basically, this situation is not really different from the first situation described here: I am still a person with a free will.
But what if my zombie is merely a kind of automaton? A kind of machine or computer that processes input and output according to certain rules programmed by nature and past experiences, without any kind of deliberate rational weighing (whatever that might mean)? And that I, in the sense of my brain interpreter, do not more than giving a kind of description of the output? And that I as a person am not more than a sort of executer of these decisions when acting? Then I am really a zombie although a zombie with the appearance of a conscious being.
That I am in fact not more than a zombie in disguise is quite well possible, of course. But does this make any difference with the free will situation? Should we say then: well, because I am actually a zombie who behaves automatically, I cannot help what I do, and it is the same for my fellow men? We are all automatons and we do not know what we do? Should we have to conclude then that we have to skip the idea of responsibility for what we are doing from our vocabulary? Or are we still responsible in some sense? Maybe it is irrational, but I guess that nobody would accept our not being responsible in some sense.

5 comments:

Simon said...

At this stage I think we will have to learn more about the neuroscience.

But what the hey we can still have fun.

What if deeper down the information is of a 'rough' less processed nature- including more basic information processing- while that information in consciousness is more polished/processed?

Sometimes this polished info/feedback have more of an effect on the total output consciousness and behaviour, and other times the rough info overrides the higher polished feedback. Sometimes its a mix where the ratio changes, which then intself gets feedback into the loop.

My guess is that the higher order info also includes a simulation of what the system thinks its doing but hasn't access to all those subsystem 'rough' influences.

To the higher order info and simulation it appears as if its running the show and sometimes it does in fact have a greater overall influence, but other times the mind/behaviour goes with those more basic drives/processes and then often the higher order needs to make a narrative explaining that from whatever info it has acess to.

Simon said...

Just had another thought regarding the strange loop; say consciousness is indeed the final information state/answers of the higher order 'me' simulation highly influenced by the sophisticated planning, conceptualization and higher order functions of the mind.

(Lower animals would have their own lower order informational maps/state feebacks loop consciouness.)


I some respects even our higher order capacities are zombies so there isn't even an 'interpreter' as that itself is a zombie. All you have is the answer provided by the zombies. In other words consciouness is mind process output-infomation-state which is itself an input to the mind process.

It would be the same for any information processor that creates processed indirect quasi representational states i.e.senses, body maps, abstract relational meaning etc but the weird thing is that this informtation map becomes its own informational representational universe.

Does that make sense?

Anyway I'm beginning to think that talk about responsibility is misplaced because under different internal and external input and network states, we have different levels of influence between the different zombie systems.

But nor is that to say the concept of 'free will' or responsibility redundant as overall the system is still directing itself and if you feed into it that it isn't, that input itself can influence how the system behaves and the higher order systems 'seeing' itself.

HbdW said...

I see the difference between conscious and unconscious processes more in terms like long term - short term. The conscious processes makes the long term planning, the unconscious processes fill in the details. Nevertheless, I think that cannot be the whole explanation. Anyway, it fits with the difference between lower animals and higer animals. Higher animals do more planning (at least man does), which could make that we need consciousness. As soon as some processes become routine, they can be done by our zombie, even when they required higher processes in the beginning. Your idea of what responsibility might be(and free will) fits well with this.

Simon said...

Yes but what about those instances when someone has a complex insight out of the blue? That says we can have very complex reasoning done by
unconscious.

We also know that vision always comes with some delay, though I'm not sure this also ties in with the point that we also create vision of what we expect to see.

Think about it this way answers always come after or at the end the process that created them.

Also throw in parrallel processing. So while you are riding your bike your motor zombies can happily ride along doing what they do best, while your other higher cogntive zombies can daydream. Now your higher zombies have in sense delegated authority while they do other things, so in a sense they are more like a captin not on the bridge but who is still ultimately responsible.

Regardless it seems to me the brain/body zombie processes -either high or low- are doing the work not any conscious 'self'.

Like the light we see we are always living in the past.

HbdW said...

I think that all this is not too different from my ideas of the government speaker and the secret meeting of the goverment, or the manager and his chauffeur. The relation between the zombie in me and my conscious I must be something like that. But how the relation exactly is? The government speaker is our conscious part, the government our hidden part. The relation between long term and short term and the phenomenon of parallel processes are best described by the manager-chauffeur relation. But all this describes only aspects of what we do. A complete view is still missing; anyway, I do not know it.