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Do you have free will? Can you make your own decisions? Or are you more like an automaton, just moving as required by your constituent parts? Probably, like most people, you feel you have something called free will. Your decisions are not predetermined; you could do otherwise.

Yet scientists can tell you that you are made up of atoms and molecules and that they are governed by the laws of physics. Fundamentally, then – in terms of atoms and molecules – we can predict the future for any given starting point. This seems to leave no room for free will, alternative actions or decisions.

Confused? You have every right to be. This has been one of the long outstanding unresolved problems in philosophy. There has been no convincing resolution, though speculation has included a key role for quantum theory, which describes the uncertainty of nature at the smallest scales. It is this that has fascinated me. My research interests include the foundations of quantum theory. So could free will be thought of as a macroscopic quantum phenomenon? I set out to explore the question.

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Category: Science