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I read it, I think, 5 years ago on what looked like the author's webpage, after following a link in a blog comment.

The story, as I recall it, goes like this. Three human space travelers are stranded on a deserted space station built by a very advanced civilization that, curiously, 'valued convincing others that they don't have free will over their own survival'.

To this end they built a couple of very fast computers that can somehow read minds but use that power solely for the purpose of convincing anyone in the vicinity that they don't have free will, e.g. by predicting their actions. Apparently the beings that built the computers have all been murdered long ago, but the computers are still there, and functional.

What makes the story interesting is the reactions of the three humans to the computer that are vastly different from each other and also evolve over time. In the end one of them even gets the computer to do something useful for them.

I quite liked the story and I hope someone recognizes it and tells me where to find it. I tried to search for earlier questions about free will on this site but could not find it.

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I suggest it is "FREE WILL: A morality play disguised as bad science fiction" by Paul Torek. The second part of the story is accessible by a link in the left column. I didn't read it all, but it starts like this:

"The filasofs were a race of practical jokers, according to the historian Martinique", the Persephone (or more accurately, her AI) was explaining. "They never passed up a chance to make someone else look stupid. It's why they are not around any more. They made too many enemies."

"So why are we looking for their artifacts? The Director wants a few gags he can play on the committee, in case they vote down the budget increase?" asked Captain Reader.

"The filasofs were famous for more than their twisted sense of humor," the ship replied. "Their computers were the best in the universe." ...

I skimmed the rest, and it does consist of them finding a filasof station, and of the station's computers trying to convince them they don't have free will, by predicting their actions.

The other characters' names are Torres and Eckles, and some tension in the story is caused by the station informing them that a battle fleet of a long-time enemy of the filasofs is on the way, will arrive in 11.7 hours, and the station will almost certainly cease to exist.

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  • 1
    Yes that was the one! How did you find it?
    – Vincent
    Commented Aug 19, 2020 at 19:38
  • 3
    I searched Google for: 'story "don't have free will" computers station' and it was near the bottom of the first page
    – nebogipfel
    Commented Aug 19, 2020 at 21:28
  • Yeah, I wonder why the author calls it 'bad'. I don't think it's bad.
    – Vincent
    Commented Aug 20, 2020 at 7:21
  • 1
    @Vincent Self deprecating humour.
    – Tom Bowen
    Commented Aug 20, 2020 at 15:07

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