Fractals as an illustration in the argument for Free Will

I spend some of my spare time in discussions with a very interesting group of people who like to discuss philosophy, science, and all kinds of other things.  It’s fun for me.

One of the favourite topics in this group is the concept of free will.  It seems that many of the most vocal people in the group favour the idea that there isn’t any.  I am not one of them!  I have made my arguments for free will to them, but these arguments fall on deaf ears, most of the time.  I have, for some time now, thought my experience zooming in to the deepest parts of fractals was somehow illustrative of the (in my opinion) flawed logic that is often used as “evidence” that we have no free will.  I was wondering how I could bring this visually to the group and make them see the idea I was trying to convey.

Last night I realized I already have this illustration fairly handy.  It’s the Key, from my series entitled “The Ball Went Over the Fence”.  Some of you may remember this one from several years ago.  The Key shows what part of the large fractal image I zoomed in on to make the next smaller fractal image.

Zoom Key, The Ball Went Over the Fence series

Wikipedia defines Free Will in the following way:  “Free will is the ability to choose between different possible courses of action unimpeded.” The argument many in the group make, against the existence of free will, is that everything is caused by what went before it. Wikipedia also states that “Some conceive free will to be the capacity to make choices in which the outcome has not been determined by past events.”

My main problem with this is that while it is usually easy, from the standpoint of the outcome, to see what came before, and possibly follow a chain of causality, there is no reason to assume that means a choice made is the only choice that could have been made, given all previous conditions.  We can see into the past just fine.  The future, however, is indeterminate.

So, looking at the Key, shown here, you can see a white outlined square in each square image of the key (click on the image to make it bigger, if that helps).  From each outlined square, you can follow the white angled lines to the image found at that location if you were able to zoom in while in the fractal software.  If we start at the smallest square image (the final outcome), we can see where it came from (it’s very close to the top of the next larger image).  Likewise, if we follow to the next one, we see that it came from a very tiny place in the top middle third.  And if we keep going, we can see that the third image came from a recognizable portion of the second largest image.  And that image came from a very tiny spot in the largest image.

This is the chain of causality – it goes from the outcome back to the origin.  It would, however, be impossible to go from the largest image to the smallest one without the Key in place to guide you.  There is no chain in that direction, because it looks into the future.  The outcome would never ever be the same twice.  There is absolutely no logical reason why that particular tiny spot was the one chosen on the first image to zoom in on and make the second one.  In a fractal, while constrained by the mathematics of that fractal, the possibilities at each level of zoom are for all practical and human purposes, infinite.  I’ll grant you that maybe I would have zoomed in on an area near it, or any one of the areas where you can see the little greenish greyish balls.  Just because those areas look interesting to me.  But they all look interesting, and certainly from the perspective of the large image, equally so.  If we look at the second largest image and are choosing where to zoom in for the third… even if you make the argument that I will almost definitely choose a square featuring a ball… that square is never going to be the same exact square.  And now we get to the third image, and you can see no reason why I would have chosen to zoom in as much as I did, and in the area that I chose.

It was my free will in action, plainly and simply.  I chose, unimpeded.  The outcome was never a given.

A Symphony in Watercolour begins tomorrow! — IWS Canada

In case you missed this on my regular watercolour blog…

LIANNE TODD

SiWC Events Graphic img v3

International Artists Gather For Cultural Event in Richmond Hill.

Tomorrow, watercolour artists from all over the globe will gather in Richmond Hill, Ontario, just north of Toronto, to celebrate the opening of ‘A Symphony in Watercolour’. All art enthusiasts are invited to attend the opening event at 12 noon on Friday, September 28, at Boynton […]

via A Symphony in Watercolour begins tomorrow! — IWS Canada

Please click the link above to see the rest of the article…

I’m so excited to attend this event I’ve been doing my best to publicize over the last 9 months or so, and see my painting (below) hanging alongside the other finalists’ beautiful work.  I hope many of you will also be there if you can.  Peace and Love to all of you!

Last Light Near Goat Rock Last Light Near Goat Rock. Watercolour on Gessoed Paper. 15×22″. Artist Lianne Todd

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Fractal Machinery

I just wanted to say thank you to all the studio tourists who took their precious weekend time to drive out my way and visit my studio.  It was a pleasure to meet you or see you again, and I had fun giving brief explanations of fractals and their significance when you showed an interest.  If you want to see some more of them in person, right now there are four on display at the restaurant Sixthirtynine in Woodstock, ON.  A very fine restaurant suitable for a special dinner date!

On the tour weekend I presented a few new fractals.  This is one of them (watermarked):

Pretty Cogs in the Big Machine. Fractal Digital Art printed on metal, single edition. 24x24". $425.00 Lianne Todd

Pretty Cogs in the Big Machine.
Fractal Digital Art printed on metal, single edition. 24×24″.
$450.00 © Lianne Todd

This one doesn’t really reflect the natural world so much as it reflects our complicated man-made world.  It’s not likely that most cogs in our machines are this pretty, but there is definitely a complexity in our modern technology that has beauty.  Some of that complexity, for instance, is contained in the very machine you are viewing this on.  Maybe there are no cogs, but the minutiae of its workings have to rival the intricacy they feature.  The background of this piece could also be compared to the circuitry involved in some of our other more powerful pieces of technology.  For instance, if you have a smart phone, the antenna that makes it all work had to be a fractal, or we simply wouldn’t have smart phones.

For a while I was referring to this image to myself as the steampunk fractal, as I have recently become enamored with all things steampunk.  However, giving it such a title didn’t seem to really fit.  These are far from steampunk-type gears, they aren’t real, and the machinery is not reminiscent of anything very old-fashioned.  This is just a nod to the genre!

 

 

Happy New Year!

I would like to thank everyone who has visited this site in its first calendar year of existence.  And if you’ve shared anything from it, even better!

Today I saw a post by an acquaintance who had begun, a few years ago, a tradition that I think is a wonderful idea.  And I’m telling you about it here because it’s kind of like a fractal.  I hope she doesn’t mind.

She and her husband take a photo of themselves on New Year’s Eve each year, holding a printed photo of themselves they took the year before, holding the photo they took the previous year.  So in each photo, as you zoom in, there is the couple holding the photo… and they get smaller, and smaller….

I wish I had thought of this 29 years ago.

Now, what can you look forward to on the site this year?  More fractals of course.  The ones I haven’t introduced to you yet, and new ones I will be creating.  I hope to do some more experimentation as well.  I’ve got lots of ideas floating around my head and once I settle into the routine after the kids go back to school, there will be plenty of creation happening!  Also, I will be keeping you posted with any news in the world of physics that might pertain to my ideas about the role of fractals in the structure of our universe.

I hope you and yours have a very good year.  And while I’ve got your attention… have a look around you.  Is there enough art on your walls?  😉