I’ve aggressively defended free will lately. Writing, I argue here and here, exemplifies the conscious deliberations and decisions that constitute free will. But in the dead of night, hell, in the cold glare of morning, I fear I have no more free will than a mindless machine-learning program like ChatGPT.
ChatGPT’s programming, AI expert/critic Erik Larson points out, comes down to simple induction: feed it a prompt, and ChatGPT responds based on responses to similar prompts in its database of human chitchat. ChatGPT is a souped-up version of the software that finishes your text based on your past texts. It mimics human understanding, but it isn’t really intelligent, let alone creative; it doesn’t know what prompts or its responses to them mean.
This critique could apply to me, too. What am I but a program that reflexively turns prompts into all-too-predictable responses based on my prior experiences? My program is grounded in brain cells rather than silicon wafers, but so what? A hockey stick is a hockey stick whether it’s made of wood or aluminum.