AI, Simulation Theory, and Free Will

I imagine most of you reading this now know about the AI art generators. My friend Bryce owns a few and through him I worked to bring a picture in my imagination to life. These are some of the results:

Can you guess what I was going for? I was going for a giant, many floored library with a glass ceiling with the sun shining down inside. I was able to get that. But I did imagine many floors spanning across the whole library with some spaces in the ceilings so you could look up. I also imagined the library to be a bit more modern. Nevertheless the results were impressive.
A week later I settled into listen to Third Eye Drops, one of my favorites podcasts. This episode was with Android Jones, a famous digital artist. The host Michael and Android spent a good portion of the episode talking about this AI art and the ensuing implications it has on society and art specifically. Android was doing his best not to be overly pessimistic, but he bemoaned a time in the future when Art was no longer appreciated and anyone could come up with something amazing with the help of AI, something he believed would be hasten the death of creativity and highly skilled art.

Jones went on to talk about how AI would begin to be utilized in other areas such as music. I thought about other tools that have utilized AI such as writing and even having intelligent conversation with humans. A few scientists even believe that AI has achieved sentience, meaning they have self-awareness and free will.

Some people, after examining and seeing the patterns of computers, seeing the programming of 0’s and 1’s that make up an artificial system that we use as a tool in every day life to send off emails, surf the web, and write word documents, among countless other tasks, believe that there is similar patterning in nature. In fact, the parallels are so uncanny for many that they believe that our universe in a simulation, programmed by a grand designer. Some postulate from this theory that humans really have no free will, but that we’re programmed to live a certain way.

Personally, I think both of these views are a bit extreme. While there are certain things out of my control, when, where, and how I was born. Many things that happen in the world that affect and shape my life. But I also choose my actions. I even can shape my thoughts and feelings. I can learn how to have more and more free will over my consciousness as I grow older. I have a certain amount of free will. Animals on the other hand, are very much controlled by their instincts and environment. But as we see with pets, there is a certain amount that they act independently from our training and their natural instincts. Wolves were domesticated and over time became dogs. They became man’s best friend. Perhaps even the natural world has some amount of free will? Objects like trees and plants. Maybe they choose to grow or not grow a certain way at a certain rate?

I don’t believe AI will ever have the same free will that humans possess. They are limited by the programming and system that humans give them. However, as we continue to improve and complexify the programs and systems of AI, they might gain more free will. What I mean by this is that humans could program AI to think within certain parameters. AI could be given prompts to think about ways to improve humanity. And their solutions could be something that humanity never would’ve come up with themselves. Maybe AI could even be given reign to think in many different ways that humanity cannot predict.

What I’m trying to say is that there is elements of unpredictability and innovation that AI may one day possess. I would argue that that is a measure of free will. However, going back to simulation everyone has limited free will. We are different than AI. We are less limited. However, you could say that our genetics, environment, education, experiences etc. are programmed to a degree outside of our control.

So maybe we should think of free will as a spectrum rather than as a black and white yes or no type of matter. Who knows what the future will hold? Yet, we must also shape it to the best of our ability, to the most of our capability, and strive for the awakening of consciousness for all things. I hope this has been an interesting thought experiment and made (somewhat) sense to you.

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