Yuval says that the future is not deterministic, but depends on the decisions we make. At the same time, he says there is no free will, which means that whatever decisions we make are determined by our personal history. If our decisions are determined, and if they determine the future, then the future is determined.
On the scale of history, the causes are too complex to unravel, so he says deterministic explanations on that level are not possible. What he doesn’t consider is that the causes of individual decisions are more easily understood—they include our ethnic identity, family, religion, education, economic status, media exposure, etc.
If we want to improve the human condition, we could try to alter the ethnic identities, religion, economic status, etc., that determine people’s decisions—a top-down approach. Another option would be to educate them about how those factors gave them the opinions and preferences they have, and to give them critical thinking skills for deciding whether those preferences work to their advantage—a more bottom-up approach.
The second option involves telling people what they are—fully determined organisms whose every thought and action is a product of everything that came before. Yuval and other thinkers who have come to this conclusion intellectually can’t imagine a story, as he would say, that makes this understanding of the human condition desirable. In fact, Daniel Dennett, in his book, “Elbow Room,” says that coming to the conclusion that we don’t have free will is catastrophic:
He says that if we are “hoodwinked” into believing that we don’t have free will, the “implications… are almost too grim to contemplate,” which he demonstrates with a number of grim metaphors: We would be like “a dog on a leash being pulled behind a wagon,” “a mere domino in a chain,” “disabled as a chooser.” “Small wonder then that we should be highly motivated to look on the bright side and find the case for free will compelling if we possibly can.”(p. 168) He is trying to maintain a story that no longer fits the facts rather than coming up with a new story that does.
I have been trying for decades to find a way of looking at the human condition—my condition—that makes determinism something to be happy about, a story that makes it fun to be a determined organism. That’s what I’m trying to do in my YouTube series, “Stoned Observations—Being Human.”
In the long run, I think it is easier to maintain a story that fits the facts as we know them, than to try to maintain an old story in spite of the facts. We only need to make the new story more attractive than the old one. Yuval could probably write a better story than I if he were so inclined. (I’m trying to be a causal factor in inclining him that way.)