We're in for a wild ride. Exponentially accelerating technological, cultural, and socioeconomic evolution means that every year will see more developments than the previous one. More change will happen between now and 2050 than during all of humanity's past. Let's explore the 21st century and ride this historic wave of planetary transition with a confident open mind.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

No Evidence for Free Will Makes Regret Impossible

Too many people carry fanciful notions that they had any control over their past actions. That creates maladaptive behaviors in the present.

Regret should be tackled by us on a larger scale as it is emotionally maladaptive, breeds resentment against objects in present and future, and is not really defensible as a concept.

Often our general desire for influence also wants to go back in time to change actions done in the past due to displeasure with their consequence in the present. The past being immovable is a particular challenge to our egos. That need not be the case if we agree that we evolve and change as individuals. The "I" (whatever one thinks it consists of) of the past will always be different the further back we go and it's unfair to ourselves to take responsibility for it. It's more clear to say that "the organism that evolved into my present form has done what he/she has been compelled to do by its internal and external environment and justified it as being the best thing at the time."

The cells in our bodies constantly get replaced by new ones, gradually cloning us again and again with time. While in us, the cells themselves partially are cloned through replacement of molecules within them. That's not mentioning the mental evolution that has occurred with the shaping of our personalities. Obviously the distance in time to the regrettable act is key. If one goes back in time enough the acts have been done by strangers and not ourselves. Wishing that a stranger had acted differently is unfair to the stranger. An act of a few minutes ago is much harder to contain in this manner.

It would be helpful if instead or referring to yourselves in past or future as "I" we had different vocabulary for the three entities. Perhaps new pronouns for future and past "I" and I for present state.

Tackling regret becomes a matter of affirming the past alongside understanding that we can't be guilty or responsible for what our previous shell had done. We don't like to speculate on alternate history of countries and societies much (should America have done this or that decades ago) because perhaps things could have gone badly for us in the present. Even if not badly then our present would have been radically changed into a form that is not recognizable by us or without us in it. We collectively affirm it as a world that could have not been any other way. It's futile speculation. Similarly we should affirm, accept, and embrace our individual past. Looking back with thoughts of control, choosing wisely, or revenge is a form of desire to die as its wanting to be somebody shaped much differently.

As for near past regret of badly messing up a few hours ago, a good solution is to stop believing in free will and just think of oneself as constantly being compelled to various action from within or outside.

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