Knowing the future, brain twist?

Hi,
two weeks back I wrote about the movie Arrival. I did not really get into the problems that arise when somebody knows the future, I will try to settle this today.


Alright, lets say that you just acquired the ability to know what will happen in the future. Cool huh?

First problem, do you have free will (meaning if you can choose to do something or there is no way to actually choose anything)? Lets start with the answer: yes, you have free will. Basically two things can happen, if you truly know what will happen then you can not choose any other option which means that by knowing the future you and everybody else will lose free will if you could choose something else than what the ability tells you then it would not be telling the future. Something else could happen though, you could know all the possibilities that arise from your decisions and the decisions of others. Funny would be if you would see it for the decisions of others, then the ability would be useless for longterm predictions where people all across the globe would interconnect with their decisions (do animals have free will, which ones do and which ones do not?). You could for example see that in 40 years there are couple (a lot) of lines that go to Third World War but there would be so many people involved in changing couple of important people that you could hardly do anything with it. At the same time if your brain would be organized in the mess you would immediately know what option you need to take to optimize whatever you want to optimize. Much easier would be if everybody else lost their free will and you alone had it.

The real fun begins if you consider no free will aka determinism. You know exactly what will happen but you can not change it. Imagine standing on cross roads, you know you will turn to left, its the future and you can not decide otherwise but there does not seem to be anything that would actually prevent you from turning right. If you do it, it means that the ability was telling you exactly that from the beginning but then you would turn left…

Lets consider thought experiment:

There is a robot that has very strict type of thinking. It is standing in a hall way that splits into two corridors, left and right (it is driving towards the left). Nothing miraculous can happen there, nothing that would prevent the robot to go where it is programmed to go.

You are at the headquarters and know where the robot will turn or simply what will happen there. You tell this information to the robot and the robot will turn exactly the other way. For example you know that he will turn left. You send him the information and he according to his program turns right which means that your ability is not working and this simply can not happen, you can not tell him the direction because he would do the opposite. What will you tell him? What is the future?

There is one more line of code in the robot: if you get the information “you did not decide”, you will turn left. This is to make it harder, the future would switching between left and right indefinitely, meaning the robot would not do anything and we do not want it. The only solution that I came up with is that he will actually not decide, you will send him the information: “You will start going left but when you will get this information you will turn right. After hearing this you will turn left but when you hear this information you will turn right again…” it will continue and then it depends how the robot is made. If it waits until the stream of information halts then it wont ever decide and you will speak to him forever. If it will take the information and while it processes the next part it will start to act accordingly to it (meaning the opposite way), the robot will slowly move towards left or right. At some point it will be on the threshold which raises a problem of course and I guess there is nothing stable to tell him without destroying the ability that you gained, you know what he will do but you can not tell him.

The last part would be the same scenario as if the robot could teleport from the beginning but if you have to say the information then it will result in a paradox. In normal non-robot life you would probably run into more complicated scenarios where knowing the future would not alternate you decision which is the whole problem we are dealing with. But if you would not and your ability would HAVE TO work then… ???

BOOM!

Dragallur

Rant against Arrival

Hi,
my fellow blogger (Jitka unfortunately writes in Czech) reviewed in her last post the movie Arrival. Since I saw it yesterday I decided that I will continue with my own thoughts.


The movie is about linguist who is offered the chance to communicate with aliens that just landed on Earth on 12 different locations. Her job is to learn how they speak and ask them what is their purpose here.. thats what the movie is about.

Now if you have not seen the movie, there will be spoilers:

First I will comment on what she said on her blog:

So in the movie the aliens apparently know the future, now this puts into question ones free will of course but I do not think we have it anyway so yes, they simply know what will happen. Why do they send 12 vessels and not only one where Louisa would learn the language (which is the whole point of their Arrival). Well they needed the conflict to happen in more countries, how could she save general Shang from China if he was not going to attack? There would be a lot of differences in the story and who knows what would happen. If you know the future and you want it to happen again you will do exactly the same things and not risk small changes, yes you will act accordingly even to small details because of butterfly effect.

Now lets return to the problem of free will here. If you actually had a free will and knew the future you would have to know the future of all your decisions and combination of these decisions with other people’s decision, that would certainly be mess. Then you would choose the decision line that fits you best and would go with it… which also means that you would probably know what you will choose from the beginning, huh..

Then there is this theoretical physicist, alright his being there was completely random. Actually I think that he was there only to say the dumbest line ever in the beginning of the movie when Louisa and he (Ian) were in the helicopter and he was citing her work. It went something like “language is the cornerstone of civilisation” and he said that it is wrong that the cornerstone is science. Aha, ok really? Science would not even exist without language not speaking about the fact that if you do not learn language your mind capability is extremely reduced.. I am not saying that language is cornerstone of civilisation either, I am not really sure about it.

Jitka mentiones the idea of the heptods (aliens) to communicate via smells, that sounds interesting but I think that for animals (as we know them) it is much better to communicate with sound. This simply because sound is more reliable. If you are animal it is a matter of seconds before you and your family gets eaten and you move all the time. When monkey screams on the rest of the tribe to get away they will know it immediately, but if the monkey lets out some aggresive smell it might take minutes before it reaches the right destination.

I guess one of the aliens let himself be blasted away because he knew it was necessary for the future, though I would doubt they would have such a bad glass that would not be able to withstand the explosion.

Oh and it does not make sense how Louisa persuaded the general Shang, she only recited what his wife told him that would not probably impress him so much, there would also be pressure from other people and why would Russia and Saudi Arabia stop so suddenly?

Louisa starts to teach the language, that seems dangerous because anybody can then probably access memories from the future.. ouch, that could cause some problems. At the same time the future that she sees is not really a future since she speaks with general Shang without knowing the phone number but then in the future it can not happen since she knows it already.

Overall it was not very good movie. The amount of time left was decreasing lineary but the same was with thrill in the movie, which finally led me into seeing it whole, sadly.

Dragallur