Chapter 20 – Janet and the Evolutionary Account of Freewill

In Chapter 20, Michael and Janet investigate the cause of Janet’s glitches.  It turns out that the cause of the glitches is Janet providing information that is incompatible with objective truth.  In other words, Janet is lying.  Janet, however, points out that Janets cannot lie.  However, after 802 reboots, Janet acquired the ability to lie.  What Janet was lying about is being happy for Jason and Tahani because Janet still has feelings for Jason.  After Janet’s initial reboot, she bonded with Jason.  Even though she does not remember it, that bonding created a mutation that survived and was amplified through each reboot.  I believe that such develops are akin to an evolutionary account of freewill.

Janet begins with a set program.  She cannot deviate from that programming.  Thus, Janet is determined.  In fact, she can only respond to the commands of others.  However, after 802 reboots, she has gained the ability to lie and love.  Moreover, what we see is Janet’s ability to author her own actions.  For example, she tells Michael to kill her.  This is not due to programming, but for reasons related to saving the neighborhood.  Additionally, we see that she took it on herself to create Derek.  While Eleanor suggested Janet have a rebound, Janet is the one who decided to create Derek.  She also decided the qualities that Derek should have.

If we think about animal life, we could draw a parallel.  At first, creatures operate just on instinct.  Over time, through mutations, new creatures develop.  These creatures can operate beyond their instinctual programming.  Eventually, we reach humans that have little to no instinctual programming.  Instead, we are a type of creature that programs ourselves.

Freewill is traditionally conceived as the power to control one’s choices and actions.  What we are observing in Janet, is the deviation from programming to the point where Janet can control her actions and make her own choices.  This is produced through her adaptations from each reboot.  If we think of each reboot as an evolution, then her ability to have freewill is a product of evolution.