Does Free Will Matter?
In discussions of how to define humanity, one trait that often comes up is whether an individual possesses volition – they chose their thoughts and actions – or they are just doing what they were programmed to do (which often describes Yod). Yod is often delineated as less than human because he is just doing “what he was programmed to do,” but is any choice by a human under less influence of such pre-determined programming? Furthermore, if both humans and AI/cyborgs share a programmed baseline, does free will work to distinguish the two, or is there no difference?
Humans often consider themselves in a privileged position over Yod in Piercy’s novel, “’Machines do not have volition, Dr. Shipman-surely you have not entirely taken leave of your senses,’ Dr. Vogt said. ‘They have programming that defines goals. Since they are compelled to pursue those programmed ends, they may appear willful, but we are dealing with the same projection of affect my little boy was guilty of when he used to say a chair hit him.’” The implied premise in the text by Dr. Vogt is that humans are not acting under the compulsion of programming, and that is why our thoughts and actions are a result of genuine consciousness, and free will. Therefore, the conclusion of the statement is that humans are different than cyborgs or AI because the later are not the creators of their own will, personality, or character.
Conversly, are humans truly in control of their will, or are they “programed” so to speak? If one were to inherit a nervous tick, or a compulsion towards anger at the color red for example, can we say that the individual chose that trait to be a part of their personality, or was it just programmed by the biological factors that made up their brain structure? Additionally, is there any thought or desire that does not originate or at least need to pass through this brain structure? It would seem not, and so the terminal which our thoughts and desires originate is determined for us before we even conceive of our consciousness. If one has a certain preference towards some action there is nothing that can be done to change it. The reader may object “but what if they chose not to respond to the aforementioned preference, or respond opposite their programming?” Sure, but is that not, itself, the result of a stronger preference to deny the original preference, and don’t they both have to be thought by the brain which was constructed without volition? So perhaps our idea that humans function independently of programming is an illusion which we prefer, and even that preference is the result of an inherited biological necessity.
So, if it is the case that, AI/cyborgs function based on programmed desires and inhibitions, and it is the case that humans function based on programmed desires, aren’t they alike in those aspects, and would we have to deny either one of them humanity if they cannot prove an independent origin of their will and desire? “Aren’t you programmed too? Isn’t that what socializing a child is? I enjoy, Shira, never doubt that. If I’ve been programmed to find your pleasure important and fulfilling, don’t women try to reprograming their men that way?’” Or perhaps being programmed is just another part of humanity, one that must be endured no matter how it has been created.
 Marge Piercy, He, She and It, (New York: Fawcett Books, 1991), 392
 Ibid, 322
 Dr. Robert Speth, so There is No Free Will. Now What?: Robert Seth at TEDxNSU. Youtube.com. https://youtu.be/UH_VG_aqwoc
 Dr. Gregg Caruso. The Dark Side of Free Will. TEDx ChemungRiver. Youtube.com https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfOMqehl-ZA