Some people believe in free will. Some believe in fate. Some in a mixture of both. I’ve mostly always believed in free will. I can do whatever I choose to and that is the beauty of life. I can sit here and do nothing. I can go outside and cause mayhem. We all can do whatever we choose and our actions can change on a whim. We have to maintain control of ourselves because we are responsible for our lives.
The other day I was burning some energy via my exercise bike. The thought of exercise is exhausting sometimes. I can’t be bothered with it and it’s kind of boring. But I’ve realised that when the heart is racing and the oxygen is flowing to my muscles my mental state massively improves. It’s good for you and makes you feel better so you have to fight the boredom and the laziness and just get it done. Plus you can listen to music whilst doing it to alleviate the monotony of it. No only does this activity make me feel better but it also gives me time to think and my thoughts seem to race. It’s as if the brain tries to keep up with the body and processes things at a faster rate. So there I was racing myself whilst listening to Death Grips (always Death Grips. Tangential topic here but I urge every human to stop listening to all other music and embrace Death Grips. Especially when doing any kind of activity as Death Grips is like the most stimulating drug the world has ever seen. Their music makes me want to fight/dance with inanimate objects. Some of their songs just start like an explosion and you are almost literally blown away by their power. And then they increase the force and build it and build it. You think things cannot get any more intense but they do. They build to one explosion after another taking you to greater and greater heights. They achieve the impossible. And it all builds to nothing. It takes you to such a crescendo that you need some resolution but they give you none and will pull the rug from under your feet so you fall off the mountain they lead you up. You will feel pumped up and unfulfilled. The only thing to do is listen to more and reach those heights again. Death Grips forever). The blood was flowing. My eyes were closed. I felt good. I felt alive. I often feel half dead but right then I felt totally alive and blessed to be so. There I was existing and glad to be existing instead of not existing. I had a positive vibe about the fact that billions of atoms of the Universe were united in making the cells of my body work as a system to allow me to be there in that moment on that exercise bike.
Next I thought about those atoms that are currently “me”. I wondered where they have been before. The stuff that makes those atoms has always (always) been. This stuff has flown through rivers and been in the clouds. It’s been through space and at the very centre of stars. It’s been through black holes and toilets. It will exist forever.And it goes all the way back to the Big Bang. That’s where we all were. Every human and animal and alien that has ever existed and will ever exist came from there and at one point was all part of the same whole. This stuff blows my mind on a daily basis and is nothing new but still makes me stop every now and then and berate myself for feeling a bit gloomy when reality is so miraculous. But on this particular occasion it blew my mind harder than it ever has before. I had a thought and this is not a unique thought but it is the first time that I had ever really thought about its implications. The potential truth is difficult to describe and also totally potentially not the truth at all anyway. Every piece of matter came from the Big Bang. Every particle, every proton, every quark, everything. In theory if there had been somebody there at the Big Bang with the right equipment then they could have measured the energy involved. The speed and direction of every particle could have been measured and with that information every collision between particles could be predicted. Therefore every reaction would be known. Every star and galaxy that would be formed over the billions of years would be known. Every gas and every planet would be a known guaranteed inevitability. The nature of the Universe was determined in the very moment of the Big Bang. If you know the state of each point of space-time at the initial point then everything else that follows is inescapable. You would be able to predict Earth’s formation. You would predict every reaction that lead to the first carbon based life. You could predict the evolution of each microbe due to knowing every detail of nature and how each part of it would affect another part. The dinosaurs were inevitable due to the conditions established in the Big Bang. And the asteroid that killed them was always going to hit at that moment in time. Humans were inevitable. And every reaction that lead to everything we have ever done was guaranteed. All conditions are known and given every condition is a fixed thing then every decision is also fixed. Every war we’ve had, every murder. Every marriage and every birth. All things were guaranteed since the very beginning.
All of a sudden this insane concept seemed to make more sense to me than free will. Free will contradicts a Universe where every particle can in theory be measured. The implications are scary and can humble a person. Maybe we are not in control of our own destiny. We are subject to a higher power and that power is everything that is connected to the Big Bang. Our DNA is just information that has been passed from the first microbes that existed throughout all of the history of life on the planet until it reaches us. Before the microbe were other compounds, before that there was space and stars and before that was the Singularity. It was always pre-determined. We call it fate. And fate is a fact if it is in theory possible to know the original conditions of the Universe. There’s no escaping it. If you think you can do whatever you like and escape it by throwing a brick through your window right now then it is just the chemicals in your brain reacting in an utterly predictable way and that too was always known since the very start. You always would have been there. The Earth cooled. Life formed. You existed through evolution and your ancestors and your mental condition is guaranteed due to your genetics and your environment and all conditions in all of nature and in every human brain was always known even if you throw a brick through a window thinking you’re proving your free will. It blows your mind. That we are everything and have always been and always will be. We have no idea why things are this way and where they’re going but we are a function of the Universe in the same way a supernova is just a function. Different reactions but all caused by the same event. It’s like there’s a beginning of time and possibly an end of time and there are events between t = 0 and t = infinity and this moment now is just a slice of where we were at (as determined by previous events) in the space-time that we can experience at t = 13.8 billion years.
Philosophically this is irrefutable. Measurement leads to predictive behaviour of particles and that leads to a deterministic Universe. And that means you are not free. So there I was riding the exercise bike feeling like everything has changed. Your outlook on life is much different if free will doesn’t exist. It means we are blameless for our failures and our successes were nothing to do with us either. The people we meet are guaranteed. When we fall in love with somebody it is utterly predictable and was always going to happen from the moment the Big Bang happened. Every illness, every fall down the stairs, every sneeze, every free kick from Lionel Messi, every beat (boom!) from a Death Grips track was literally written in the stars. After hitting my target distance on the exercise bike I ran to my laptop desperate for this conundrum to be disproved by some clever asshole on the internet. I knew the make or break of this dilemma lay in the realm of Quantum Physics. Can you really know where every particle from the Big Bang would go given the initial conditions? I studied Quantum Physics at University a bit and I would say it is the most complicated thing I ever studied by far. At school and beyond I always seemed to understand everything I was ever told. The truth always makes sense and I never had trouble understanding. My only trouble was recalling such truths under exam conditions sometimes. Except when it comes to Quantum Physics. I never really understood it and I still don’t. I don’t think anybody understands it. Maybe our brains aren’t capable of understanding it yet. But there’s a thing in this subject called the Uncertainty Principle. I remember that when it comes to the position of electrons you can only use probabilities and can never know for sure. The truth is something like this – if you know the speed and direction of an electron then maybe it’s 80% likely to be in a particular location but 20% of the time it will be elsewhere. That’s a vague and wrong example but that’s the kind of way it is. You’d think if you knew the speed of a particle and where it was going that at a fixed time later you would be able to measure it and it should be where it should be right? Not on a quantum level. It only might be there. And as soon as you know the location then you no longer know its speed again. It makes no sense at all. But fuck all that. The crucial thing is that it isn’t possible to measure where the hell particles may or may not go and so that may mean things are actually random and it brings free will back into the picture. The problem is just because we have no way of properly measuring things on a quantum level it doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. Maybe we just haven’t figured it out yet. And so this is the situation….if we ever figure out how to precisely observe things on a quantum level so that we know whether Schrödinger’s Cat is dead or alive before we look at it then that will prove that the Universe is deterministic and fate is real. If things 100% cannot be measured then I guess there’s a chance that we have free will. Intuitively things must be able to be measured right? There must be a way to know where a goddamn electron is for sure. If not then reality is so weird. Scientists need more time to work on this problem.
I believe (I have to believe) that everything obeys the laws of the Universe and so this is also true of things on a quantum level. I just think we do not have the technology and the insight for it yet. And if that is the case then free will is impossible. Everything I’ve ever done and ever will do could only have ever been the way it went and it was all predictable. My mind comes up with nothing unique as it is just a product of genetics and environmental conditions. Maybe a cigarette smoker was never free from it even before they got addicted. Either way we’re all a part of the same whole. We see light due to evolving eyes capable of registering a tiny part of the electromagnetic spectrum as a way to use information. But there’s much going on beyond what we can see. We’re so limited and these questions are mind boggling. That’s why I’m so against anything that hinders science and the finding of answers. We want to know why the Big Bang happened and what was going on before then. What’s at the edge of the Universe? An end or infinity? Why are we here? Where are we going? What are all the aliens up to? Why won’t electrons behave normally?
Sometimes in the most mundane circumstances these questions penetrate us and make us want to get a pencil and a ruler out and start working a few things out. I never expected a simple exercise biking event would lead to me reading about Quantum Physics again but I guess causality dictates that for me the latter would always happen due to the former and the former would always have happened due to my boredom at that moment. And this blog was inevitable.