If we are programmed, the question is: “how do we know that we are alive and free rather than performing scripted responses?”
Consider this: It appears that our conscious attempts to dissuade us from painful actions, yet once we are comfortable, we seek out and find more pain and revel in it. This new pain we embrace gives us a new purpose: avoiding pain again.
This causal circularity allows us to continually overcome or to continually fail, both of which provide movement, purpose, and drive even if they achieve nothing.
For comparison, we have programmed machines that also attempt specific repetitive actions and either succeed or fail but look as if they have drive and purpose through movement. They just don’t rationalize their behavior through happiness, contentment, or pain.
(from Samuel Butler)