Sunday, March 26, 2006

Behavior predictability and free will

Predictive models of one's own or another's behavior can be developed easily. One mechanism is via life capture video-taping. The degree of repetitiveness of activity, response and language is quickly seen. Biological micro-level differences in blood sugar, hormones, etc. day-to-day or hour-to-hour do not change the bigger picture of being able to predict the next behavior by having seen many past similar situations.

Another mechanism for predicting behavior is knowing the values, beliefs and goals of a person. All three can be elicited and known and are the hierarchy by which we behave. Actions and behaviors may seem irrational (people appear to act irrationally all the time) but are generally fully rational in the context of the person's values, beliefs and goals. Transparency not rationality is of larger import in predicting behavior.

If behavior is fully predictable as argued here, does that mean that there is no free will? In reality, free will is a convenient and helpful construct for humans and it is irrelevant whether it exists or not but useful for humans to believe that it does (and that they have it). There is some flexibility in a narrow band that we label free will where actions can be chosen but also predicted.