Michal Kosinski on Free Will


I saw this article in the Guardian and thought Carl and others might be interested in reading it because it speaks directly to the concept of lack of free will. It is about Michal Kosinski the psychologist who’s research was used by Cambridge Analytica (and Russia) to help game Facebook and social media in Trump’s favor.

“I don’t believe in guilt, because I don’t believe in free will,” Kosinski tells me, explaining that a person’s thoughts and behaviour “are fully biological, because they originate in the biological computer that you have in your head”. On another occasion he tells me, “If you basically accept that we’re just computers, then computers are not guilty of crime. Computers can malfunction. But then you shouldn’t blame them for it.” The professor adds: “Very much like: you don’t, generally, blame dogs for misbehaving.”


Ah good! The old forum has awakened. Thanks Kirk.

Kosinski is close, but leaves out a critical aspect. He should have said, “…a person’s thoughts and behaviour are fully biological…and sociological”. In addition, he has not looked deep enough when he says, “I don’t believe in guilt, because I don’t believe in free will.” Guilt is not something you ‘believe in’; it is something we, and all social animals, feel to one degree or another. Guilt is a social interactive emotion (biological) that serves to connect individuals of social species to one another. Of course, civilization’s circumstances easily exacerbate innate biological functions (instincts).


Just the statement, “I don’t believe in free will” is a contradiction. Whether to believe or not believe is a choice based on the assumption of free will. The sociological aspect of his research was clearly shown in how it was used by Cambridge Analytica to influence the 2016 election and apparently the Brexit referendum, so I agree with you there as well. The discussion in this article seems to fall into the Nature vs Nurture debate but I think your case encompasses both those things.


Ha! Exactly. It is interesting how people who think free will doesn't exist, easily fall into what I call an implied free will trap. This seems most natural if the impression of free will arises from deeper universal instincts. In other words, if an ant could think, it would think is had free will. Here is a excerpt toward the end of the post, Instinctive Free Will:

So, Instinctive Free Will It Is

Instincts are emotional drives arising from a brain’s core limbic system. These propel all vertebrate life on earth to do what they do. The fact that this must also apply to humans was my final clue… Our belief in having free will must be driven by an instinctive need to control our actions. This is exactly what every animal feels a need to do. I’d even venture to say plants ‘feel’ this need too, although not via a nervous system per se. The only difference is that animals don’t possess the cognitive resources to idealize that feeling and turn it into a belief. We do, and so we fool ourselves into thinking we have free will.

I guess I was on a roll as I posted this a few weeks later, Free Willers Anonymous.

With age, I noticed how the same old debates pop up, like the ‘nature vs. nurture’, or ‘is God dead’. Then I realized, the issue is not ‘old’ if you’re in your youth. Moreover, that fact seems to prove another observation, 'we only really understand what we already intuitively know’. And ‘intuitive knowing’ happens gradually and continually over one’s life time. So much for ‘education’… which evokes another threat to civilization.