systemhalted by Palak Mathur

Does Free Will Exist?

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Free Will - What is it?

In Hinduism, Free Will is defined as the ability to act and behave the way one wishes and the ability to be free to make one’s choices1. The ability to make one’s choice requires the intent to make a choice, which should be selfdetermined. We can define this as intentionality. If you have intent to make a choice and are able to make choice that means you are in control of yourself and thus have a free will.

Does Free Will Exist?

As per Bhagwada Gita2,

apareyam itas tv anyam prakritim viddhi me param,
jiva-bhutam maha-baho yadedam dharyat jagat

This translates to Besides this inferior nature, there is a superior energy of Mine, which are all living entities who are struggling with material nature and are sustaining the universe.

This means that living beings belong to superior nature and energy that can control the inferior energy of matter manifested in different elements like earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego. Thus, we can say that we have a free will to control our wishes and make choices. This choice is called “krita” in Hinduism and the action taken on that choice is called “karma”. Eventually, your “karmas” decide whether you will get moksha or not.

Free will and Artificially Intelligent Agent

I will keep my discussion to the narrow Artificially Intelligent agents. In my view, narrow AI, can never attain Free Will. To be able to have intentionality, it is necessary that one should be able to make self-determined choices. This is only possible when one can cover and consider all the possible alternatives and rule out the choices that one do not want to make. However, the agents have limited knowledge of the problem-space, which is dynamic and ever-changing and thus their knowledge of the world is relatively limited and incomplete. From Hinduism perspective, the free will is possible if you have consciousness and an agent will not be able to pass all test of intelligence and consciousness as we discussed in an earlier post3. Narrow AI will not be able to pass following proofs of consciousness- Perception and Non-perception. For perception to happen, the agent should be able to acquire knowledge, consciousness and awareness on it’s own. Even with sensors, this knowledge will be limited. For non-perception, agent must be able to proof the non-existence of something. Again, with it’s limited knowledge, the agent will not be able to proof with surety the non-existence of something.

Also, as discussed above, the AI agent thus is the inferior energy and thus must be in control of superior energy that human possess. Hence, the actions that an AI agent take lacks intentionality, control and is devoid of all possible alternatives because of their limited knowledge.


  1. The nature of human life in Hinduism 

  2. Prabhupada, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami (1972), BhagavadGita As It Is. The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. 

  3. Intelligence, Artificial Intelligence and Vedanta

Technology   Artificial Intelligence   Hinduism   Philosophy