Re: Do prime numbers have free will?

From: Brent Meeker <>
Date: Thu, 06 Apr 2006 09:01:23 -0700

Dominic Tarr wrote:
>>...Karl Popper did make an attempt to explain
>>free-will in term of "self-diagonalization" indeed. The basic and
>>simple idea is that IF I can totally predict myself, then I have the
>>opportunity to refute such a prediction. This is why in a trial your
>>lawyer cannot invoke determinacy (like my client has made a murder, but
>>really he was just obeying to the physical laws), because if such a
>>determination can make sense then the "client" could have use in some
>>responsible way to escape its murderer fate still without violating the
>>physical laws. I don't pretend there is any rigor here.
>>"Free from what?": Free from what you can determine. The one who can
>>determine that heavy bodies fall, will soon or later be able to fly.
> I was just about to make a post to this effect, and then when i read
> down to the end i found it.
> but so how could primes be said to have free will? primes are complex
> in the sense that they can not be predicted except by performing the
> calculation they literally represent faster than some algorithm which
> you are trying to beat.
> likewise, one could surely calculate the outcome of a coin flip with a
> sufficiently large and accurate number of measurements and fast
> calculations, or even a human being,

The statistician Persis Diaconis can flip a coin and predict the outcome of each
  flip (as can many magicians).

>if you could accurately model
> them and a sufficient amount of their local environment. there is no
> shortcut to computing these things, you just have do all the hard work
> quickly to make a prediction, so they are all complex, if not free.
> however, as a person's local environment might plausibly contain a
> computer which modeled their local environment and predicted their
> behaviour. so the model would actually have to model itself,

Why assume the computer is part of the person's environment?

> having to recalculate what the subject will do after every calculation

Why assume the calculation is communicated to the person?

> would take so long the subject would have already done something and
> the model wouldn't be making a prediction any more!
> this looks like a different order of magnitude of unpredictability to
> what primes and coins have, because of the potential self-referential
> step.
> perhaps the key is that primes and coins do not have a will, thus
> remain indifferent to being predicted. so you might say they are
> "free", but you could not say they had "freewill".

Actually, in some circumstances you can predict what a person will do. Does
that somehow prevent them from doing it or deny them "freewill" (whatever that
is). See the Grey Walter experiment for an interesting example.

Brent Meeker

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Received on Thu Apr 06 2006 - 12:02:25 PDT

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