A Little Bit of UNIX History

I started using UNIX in 1981 or so. I was working part-time in the Department of Radiology, Division of Radiobiology at The Ohio State University. Thanks to the insight and leadership of the principal investigator on the project (Dr. Stephen D’Ambrosio) we had some Fortune 32:16 microcomputers running a combination of UNIX V7 and 4.1BSD.

Example of a Larger Fortune 32:16 Configuration

It was a system ahead of its time. I think I might have written my first C program on that system; I remember plenty of telephone calls with my brother Bob who lived in Seattle at the time. He was always a good listener.

I went on to use UNIX the rest of my career. What happens to us is always strictly a matter of luck in some way. Becoming involved with software development and computers in the late 70s and early 80s was a winning lottery ticket for me, and one of many I would receive over the course of my life.

The Freedom of No Free Will

I have been interested in libertarian free will for a couple of years now. It’s an important topic and one I want write about.

Free will has been debated – without resolution – for thousands of years. And yet with every passing day it seems that the space in which free will could possibly be found gets smaller and smaller.

To be human is to feel as if we have agency – fine control and real freedom in choosing our actions. This is a persistent and widely shared error. A belief in free will also causes a person to inflict unjustified suffering on themselves and on others.

I became interested in free will and studied it intensively during a difficult time in my life. The thought has occurred to me that perhaps I was looking for an excuse to let myself off the hook for serious errors I had made in my life. Another possibility is that the need to understand why I did what I did drove a lot of soul-searching and research that properly led to the conclusion that free will does not exist. For the record, I believe the latter is true and that my study was, in fact, an honest search for the truth.

Giving up a belief in free will has helped me to treat myself and others more justly and more compassionately. Today, when I look at a past event, I’m able to see the actors as unable in the moment to do anything other than what they did at the time. A person who believed in free will would reject this; they would claim that it could have been otherwise and would perhaps punish others based on this belief.

Giving up my belief in libertarian free will has been freeing for me. It has allowed me to be more loving in the face of my own shortcomings and the shortcomings of others. This is the freedom of no free will.