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Kevin J. Mitchell

How Evolution Gave Us Free Will

4.1 (226 ratings)
19 mins
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    Free Agents
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    Determinism vs. free will

    If you’ve ever played a video game, you’re probably familiar with the standard, choose-your-adventure layout. Your character walks into a bar and encounters a surly bartender, a non-player character or NPC, who engages in some preprogrammed conversation with you. Then you’re given a choice. Do you want to sit down and hear the whole story? Or do you want to walk away?

    The actions of the bartender are determined by your choice. In short, you have free will, but he doesn’t. He’s going to behave according to the programming paths dictated by your selection. The problem with free will is similar to this scenario except that the question is, are humans NPC’s, or are we agents of our own destinies?

     According to physicist Brian Greene, free will might all be a grand illusion – it’s really just the sensation of making a choice. Though the sensation is real, the choice itself is governed by the laws of physics, not by our own agency. 

    This grand illusion has a name: determinism. Determinism can be described in many ways – whether it's the rigid physical laws governing particles and energy, the cascading of events like falling dominoes, or the intricate dance of genes and biology. But they all suggest that the future is already written, like a puppeteer pulling the strings of our existence.

    Before we dive too deep into determinism, let’s acknowledge the complexity of the concept it addresses. Defining "free will" is akin to catching smoke; it slips through our fingers. Does it hinge on the ability to choose differently under identical circumstances? Or is it more about the conscious intentionality guiding our actions? It's a puzzle, and no one seems to have the final piece.

    Another layer to this intricate debate lies in the motivations behind it. Many seek to validate their religion or morality using free will as a cornerstone. As we venture further into the exploration of determinism versus free will, let's be mindful of these diverse motivations and the potential biases they introduce into the conversation. Here we go. 

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    What is Free Agents about?

    Free Agents (2023) makes the case that we do have free will and are not just machines responding to physics. Tracing the evolutionary history of purposeful decision-making back billions of years, the book explores abilities like imagination, introspection, and causal reasoning that developed over time to allow us to predict outcomes, shape our futures based on our sense of identity, and exercise individual and collective agency over our lives. 

    Free Agents Review

    Free Agents (2021) by Kevin J. Mitchell is a thought-provoking exploration of the future of work and the rise of independent professionals. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It provides a comprehensive analysis of the gig economy, its impact on the workforce, and the opportunities it presents for individuals.
    • Backed by extensive research, interviews, and real-life stories, the book offers valuable insights and actionable strategies for success as a free agent.
    • With its fascinating exploration of the new work landscape and the changing dynamics of employment, the book engages and challenges readers, ensuring it is anything but boring.

    Who should read Free Agents?

    • Philosophers and thinkers
    • Science enthusiasts
    • Anyone interested in the question free will 

    About the Author

    Kevin Mitchell is a neurogeneticist and faculty member at Trinity College Dublin who studies connections between genetics, neuroscience, and psychology through his research and writing for the Wiring the Brain blog.

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    Free Agents FAQs 

    What is the main message of Free Agents?

    The main message of Free Agents is that freelancers have the power to create their own success and find fulfillment in their work.

    How long does it take to read Free Agents?

    The reading time for Free Agents varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Free Agents a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Free Agents is a worthwhile read for freelancers looking for inspiration and practical advice to navigate the freelance world with confidence.

    Who is the author of Free Agents?

    The author of Free Agents is Kevin J. Mitchell.