Symbol for The Illusion of Free Will

The illusory idea of free will blocks us from seeing reality the way it is. It also significantly distorts reality. While scientists and philosophers agree that the popular idea of free will is a myth, our societies still function based on it.

A good way to explain the illusion of free will is through an optical illusion. That is why the symbol for the illusion of free will is based on the figure-ground Gestalt principle.

When looking at the symbol, some people instantly see the white face, others see the black face, and some people see just abstract shapes. People cannot choose which image to see first because the brain makes the decision before the conscious mind is aware of it.

Later, it is possible to choose the image consciously, but this is also not a free choice. When we choose consciously, we are still being influenced by many factors that are out of our control.

This awareness of our conditioning and past influences actually helps us to have more choice. Instead of reacting automatically, with awareness we can pause, and choose differently. That's how we can learn to make better decisions in life and gain a higher level of freedom.

Another way to explain the illusion of free will is through the idea of Oneness. Since everything is a part of a whole, there is no such thing as an independent agent, free from an environment. For example, we see an apple as a separate object, but it is created and further influenced by forces that surround it. The apple is also a force that influences other objects.

Human decision-making is a brain process. When we choose between a papaya and a banana, patterns of neural activity representing these two possibilities appear in the frontal lobes. Copies of each pattern grow and spread at different rates, depending on our experiences and sensory impressions. Eventually, the number of copies of one pattern passes a threshold and we pick the papaya or the banana.
— Cris Evatt, The Myth of Free Will
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The symbol for the illusion of free will was created in 2011-2012, as a part of the Radical Course project's research and design process.