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Metaphysics & Psychology

Scientific evidence of the lack of free will in humans

In the 1980s, American neuroscientists, while studying the possibilities of the brain and human consciousness, came to an unexpected conclusion – a person is completely deprived of free will and makes decisions based on a prepared algorithm. 

Moreover, with the help of special devices you can predict all his thoughts and actions. How do we make decisions? How does consciousness depend on the brain? Is there freedom of thought?

“We conquered matter because we conquered consciousness. Reality is inside the skull.” – George Orwell, British writer.

What is free will? This is a person’s ability to make informed choices and make informed actions in a given situation. For centuries, scientists and philosophers have tried to find the answer, what is consciousness and how is it interconnected with the brain and body? As it turned out, consciousness in the body plays a secondary role.

So, in 1983, a group of American scientists led by Benjamin Libet conducted an interesting experiment.

A participant in the experiment observed a green dot moving along the dial of an oscilloscope and had to remember its location when he moved his finger or bent his wrist. In the second case, the subject had to plan these actions, but not to perform them.

To fix the exact time of brain arousal and subsequent contraction of the arm muscles, the researchers brought special medical devices to the subject’s head and arms.

As a result, Libet received three indicators: the time when the subject decided to perform an action (the position of the green dot), the time when the brain reacted to it, and the time when the arm finally moved.

According to the logic of things, first a person decides to move his finger, after which the brain enters the work, which gives the command to the hand to do the will of the owner.

0 - rest, 1 (−500 ms) - measurement of the readiness potential, 2 (−200 ms) - the subject makes a decision, 3 (0 ms) - action
0 – rest, 1 (−500 ms) – measurement of the readiness potential,
2 (−200 ms) – the subject makes a decision,
3 (0 ms) – action

In fact, it turned out that the brain was first activated. It was there that the decision was made to move a finger. After 0.5 seconds, this decision reached the consciousness of a person (at this time he noted the position of the green dot), and after another 0.2 seconds, the muscles of the arm contracted.

Thus, the experiment showed that the brain is ahead of consciousness by half a second and affects the decisions of consciousness. That is, a person does not have power over his own behavior. Theoretically, he has 0.2 seconds to veto the decision made by the brain, but, in practice, this time is not enough to think about the situation.

Amazing incredible

After Benjamin Libet, brain experiments continued. So, at the Max Planck Institute of Cognitive Psychology and Neurophysiology in Leipzig, researchers were able to calculate the time of the origin of thought in the brain, before it reaches consciousness. It turned out that the brain accepts and processes thought 7 seconds before it regains consciousness. That is, noting the activity of the subject’s brain, scientists learned 7 seconds earlier what a person would think about now and knew exactly when he would make the movement.

Hence the conclusion, if someone can predict the decisions and actions of a person in advance, then free will simply does not exist.

However, that is not all. In 1999, Sino-American neuroscientist Yang Dan proved that the brain works no different from the computer, and if you calculate the encoding of the human brain, you can easily read all the information that appears there.

This time an experiment was conducted on a cat. The researcher fixed it on the table, picked up electrodes to his head and showed the animal various images. The picture that appears in the head of a cat was transmitted to a computer in the form of electrical impulses. There, the pulses were again converted into an image. The computer painted what the animal saw.

Knowing how the brain of a particular person works and, having the opportunity to pick up a key to it, you can record his thoughts, memories, read out his character and personality as a whole.

It turns out that not only is a person not the master of his own body (all decisions are made by the brain – a biological computer), it can still be read like an open book.

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Metaphysics & Psychology

Why do people see the same dreams before they die?

Specialists of the American Center for Hospice and Palliative Care in Buffalo have been observing patients for 10 years and made a rather intriguing discovery: it turns out that shortly before death, people begin to have the same dreams.

People who have undergone so-called clinical death, that is, a reversible stage of death, which is a kind of transition period between life and biological death, often talk about strange visions. As a rule, their whole life flashes before their eyes, after which they find themselves in a dark tunnel, which ends with a bright light, and some even meet long-dead relatives.

However, a 10-year study by doctors at the Buffalo Hospice and Palliative Care Center led by Christopher Kerr shows that three weeks before death, people begin to have strange visions – the same dreams. Observing more than 13 thousand dying patients during this time, experts have found that 88% of people have incredibly vivid dreams on the eve of their death.

According to patients, in 72% of cases in a dream they communicated with deceased relatives and friends, while experiencing warm feelings. 59% of patients in their last dreams were packing their suitcases or buying tickets – in general, they were going on their last journey. Some were already on the train or on the plane, and sometimes they also found long-dead relatives next to them, with whom they joyfully communicated.

29% of patients also saw their relatives and friends in a dream, but exclusively alive. Finally, 28% observed in their dying dreams various memories from their passing life – certain events that left a pleasant impression. The exception was dying children: most often they dreamed about the deceased pets they recognized. Adults also dreamed, but their little patients could not remember.

Mysterious dreams begin about 10-11 weeks before death, and in 3 weeks their frequency increased rapidly, and the dreams became brighter. Unfortunately, Christopher Kerr and his team cannot explain this phenomenon. Perhaps, on the eve of death, some changes begin to occur in the brain that lead to the appearance of such dreams. One thing is clear: it calms people down and reduces the fear of imminent death.

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Metaphysics & Psychology

Wigner’s paradox: what you need to know about the duality of reality?

Quantum mechanics is weird and contrary to common sense. A 2019 study showed that the outcomes of various processes in the quantum world depend on the observer. Back in the 1960s. Eugene Wigner, an American physicist of Hungarian origin, complicated the famous thought experiment of Schrödinger’s cat, in which the cat is trapped in a box with poison that is released when a radioactive atom decays. 

Radioactivity is a quantum process, so the story goes that the atom in the box both disintegrated and did not disintegrate at the same time, leaving the unfortunate animal suspended between life and death – the so-called quantum superposition. But how does it feel to be alive and dead at the same time?

Quirks of Quantum Mechanics – Observer Observer

Wigner’s paradox is a complicated experiment of Schrödinger’s cat. Wigner introduced the category of “friends” whereby the cat in the box remains alive.

Quantum paradox

Imagine a person trapped in a laboratory and measuring a quantum system. Wigner argued that it is absurd to say that he exists in superposition (since he simultaneously sees and does not see the decay of an atom) while the laboratory door is closed. Thought experiment shows that things can get very strange if an observer is watching observers.

Quantum physicist at Griffith University in Brisbane (Australia) Nora Tishler and her colleagues conducted a version of Wigner’s experiment, combining a classical thought experiment with another quantum theory – quantum entanglement – a phenomenon that binds particles over huge distances. The researchers also came up with a new theorem that places the strongest constraints on the fundamental nature of reality. The work was published in the journal Nature Physics.

Scientific American quotes theoretical physicist Ephraim Steinberg of the University of Toronto, who was not involved in the study, that the new work is “an important step forward in experimental metaphysics.”

As long as a quantum system is not observed, it does not necessarily have certain properties.

Quantum probability

Until the 1920s, physicists predicted experimental results with confidence. But quantum theory seems to be inherently probabilistic: as long as the properties of a system are not measured, they can span a myriad of values. This superposition only collapses into one state when observing the system, and physicists cannot accurately predict what this state will be. Wigner held the then popular view that consciousness somehow causes the collapse of the superposition. Thus, his hypothetical friend will determine the outcome when he or she takes measurements – and Wigner will never see him or her in superposition.

Since then, this view has gone out of style. “People who study the basics of quantum mechanics are quick to dismiss Wigner’s view as ghostly and vague because it makes observers special,” says David Chalmers, a philosopher and cognitive scientist at New York University. Most physicists today agree that inanimate objects can bring quantum systems out of superposition through a process known as decoherence.

Of course, researchers trying to manipulate complex quantum superpositions in the laboratory may find their hard work being destroyed by fast air particles colliding with their systems. Therefore, they test at ultra-short temperatures and try to isolate the apparatus from vibrations.

Note that several competing interpretations have emerged over the past decades, the most exotic of which is the “many worlds” view that whenever you make a quantum measurement, reality collapses, creating parallel universes. Thus, Wigner’s friend would split into two copies and could actually measure being in superposition outside the laboratory.

An alternative “Bohm” theory (named after physicist David Bohm) states that, at a fundamental level, quantum systems do have certain properties; we simply do not know enough about these systems to accurately predict their behavior. Another intriguing interpretation is called retrocausality. According to her, events in the future affect the past.

The problem is that each interpretation is equally good or bad at predicting the results of quantum tests, so the choice between them is a matter of taste. Nobody knows what this solution is. We don’t even know if the list of possible solutions we have is exhaustive.


Quantum physics is like magic

Other models, called collapse theories, do provide testable predictions. These models rely on a mechanism that causes a quantum system to collapse when it gets too large, while also explaining why cats, humans, and other macroscopic objects cannot be in superposition. Experiments are underway to find signatures of such collapses, but so far researchers have not found anything. Quantum physicists are also putting ever larger objects in a superposition: in 2019, a team in Vienna reported that it was doing this with a molecule of 2,000 atoms.

Most quantum interpretations state that there is no reason why these oversized superposition efforts should not go on forever, suggesting that researchers can design correct experiments in pristine laboratory environments to avoid decoherence.

Collapse theories, however, claim that the limit will be reached one day, no matter how carefully the experiments are prepared.

Observer observer

Tischler and her colleagues were inspired by a new wave of theoretical and experimental work that explored the role of the observer in quantum theory, introducing confusion into the classic Wigner experiment. Suppose you take two particles of light or photons that are polarized in such a way that they can vibrate horizontally or vertically. Photons can also be placed in a superposition vibrating both horizontally and vertically at the same time, just like Schrödinger’s paradoxical Cat can be both alive and dead – but exactly before it is watched.

In general, the researchers once again confirm that quantum physics is akin to magic.

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Metaphysics & Psychology

Scientists have created a device that can make dreams lucid

According to statistics, more than eighty percent of people at least once realized themselves in a dream, that is, they understood that they were sleeping. There are various practices of lucid dreaming in the world that allow a person to achieve the ability to control the subconscious, which works in a dream, and through it – radically change his life. All this is difficult and, moreover, unsafe. 

But there are people who are naturally endowed with the gift of lucid dreams, and some of them can even travel through dreams through parallel worlds in which their counterparts live – there is such evidence, we don’t know how true they are …

Photos from open sources

As for the official science, it considers dreams only as a rest of a person (any animal), as a result of which the strength lost during the day is restored. However, the world of dreams is too fantastic for such a narrow materialistic understanding. 

In addition, dreams, as people have noticed since ancient times, are associated not only with our past (memories), but also with the future (prophetic dreams).  The sages have always argued that managing dreams is the key to managing your health, destiny and your life in general.

Photos from open sources

Senoi – a tribe that knows how to control dreams

Even more interesting is that there is a tribe in the world – the Senoi, living in Malaysia, in its most impassable mountain jungle, which does not separate a person’s real life from his dreams. Senoi believe that a person has two souls: one lives in this world, and the other in the world of dreams. Both the one and the other world, according to the Senoi, is real, and that these realities are interconnected. 

Kylton Stewart, one of the researchers of this tribe, who lived among the Senoi for a certain time, proves that health, peacefulness and harmony in the social structure of this people is achieved precisely by the fact that they do not share dream and reality – this is one whole for them. 

Learning this understanding of the world order from birth, hay and hay see lucid dreams, do not forget anything about them, they know how to change everything for the better in dreams (from infancy, a special system of working with dreams is developed and maintained in a child).

Photos from open sources

For example, Stewart writes, in contrast to ordinary people, over the years, hay improves their dreams more and more, excluding any negativity, not to mention the nightmares so inherent in Europeans, thanks to which they achieve complete harmony in real life. All their songs, dances, ceremonies and even their clothes are all taken from dreams and brought to life.

Independent dream researchers have long struggled with this mystery. And the point is not even to understand what a dream is, but in the applied meaning of this secret of nature. It is important to find an opportunity to control dreams, that is, to come up with a mechanism that would easily (without tedious and often fruitless practices) allow a person to see lucid dreams and change something in them.

Dream manipulation device

And now scientists at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, USA) seem to have come close to creating a device that allows a person to manipulate their dreams. A team led by neuroscientist Adam Horowitz Haar has developed Dormio, an electronic device that allows you to control the first stage of sleep, when a person’s consciousness is in the so-called hypnagogic state (the borderline state between reality and deep sleep).

Dormio is a dream manipulation device that helps to form individual dream pictures rather than being aware of them and influencing the natural processes of the subconscious. It cannot yet be considered as a tool for lucid dreams, but this method can be successfully used, say, for training, solving some problems, and so on. 

Moreover, as the researchers at MIT assure, complete control over dreams is only a matter of time. And such control will allow solving many problems, primarily those associated with various mental illnesses of a person.

Photos from open sources

However, not all dream researchers were enthusiastic about the achievement of their American colleagues. In their opinion, an invasion of the holy of holies without a full understanding of what dreams are, can have the most sad consequences for a person, it is possible that for society as a whole.

It is no coincidence that in the practice of lucid dreaming, so much attention is paid to safety methods, and the same hay uses a unique system developed by many generations. 

By the way, lucid dreaming gurus argue that dreams cannot be approached from the standpoint of modern science, which constantly wants not to understand God, but to grab him by the beard. It doesn’t hurt to remember how it all ends (atomic bombs, epidemics bursting out of laboratories, widespread natural disasters, and so on).

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