Sunday, January 13, 2008

Destiny, Free Will and Chess Combinations

The presumed conflict between free will and predestination has been discussed for centuries. In theory, you can never predict with certainty what someone else will do because they have free will. In practice, if you know someone well, you can predict what they will do based on past experience, but there is a small chance of the person going against prior tendencies. An analogy occurred to me recently that could shed some light on the subject.

In the game of chess, there are sequences of moves called combinations. They are normally used to exploit a weakness in the opponent's position. What happens is that player A makes a move to which only one response by player B would not result in checkmate or a losing pieces. After two or more similar moves, player B is now in a position where there is no available move that would not result in checkmate or losing pieces. Player B has the ability to freely choose each move, but someone who knew about combinations could have predicted the result.

What if life is like that, just on a larger scale? Self interest combined with the interaction between people's actions would have a result that would be predictable to anyone who had enough information about the situation. It sounds trivial, doesn't it? Or maybe free will isn't really as free as we think it is.

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