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Are we really making technology choices?

On the weekend I went to the Sydney Writers’ Festival and got into Julian Baggini’s new book Regaining Freedom.

It’s a high level exploration of “free will”.

I’m loving it.

The latest science on the topic has agreed.

Free will is an illusion. Despite our best efforts, it appears that we do not make “choices” with our cognitive mind.

The reason you decide to speak up in a meeting or take the day off is not based on choice. It is and was in a very real sense always to be.

As Charles Darwin puts it, “everything in nature is the result of fixed laws”.

Like most things in life, it feels like “there was only one choice and I could not have done otherwise.”

What this leads to is a scientific reassessment of accountability and personal responsibility. If I had no other choice, and my true self is not the one making decisions, how do we as a team hold one another accountable for our actions?

The subsequence murder, theft, dishonesty and exploitation ensues.

This also endorses my belief that all people, from an individualistic perspective, have good intentions. eg Hitler thought he was doing his best for humanity.

I think this understanding of free will and a lack of accountability is a very real and pressing issue for out present economic, political and technological reality.

Julian’s summary is that free will as a notion needs to be reassessed. He states that free will is only applicable in our ability to reflect, monitor and learn from our mistakes.

There is a lot more to all of this but what I found most interesting about his work is that it reminds me that helping an organisation handle feedback effectively is the only way to improve.

Holding others, or even self, “accountable” is a dead end. Again, its based on the illusion of free will.

Instead we should be channeling our energies towards creating constraints within which people are confined to do “good things” or “things that benefit me”. We should be developing our ability to handle feedback more effectively.

Do you believe you have free will?