So I've browsed through some questions here but none of them really fits my thought process: If you assume that determinism is not the case, your actions will therefore be the right decision. If determinism doesn't exist, you are using your free will, and if determinism exists, you are determined to act like it wouldn't. Taking this point of view one could ask if there's any sense in discussing determinism. It won't change anything, and we will never be able to find the truth.
Second point on determinism is the idea that, if you know every molecule and place in the universe, you could calculate future events with it. Which leads me to one of my favorite paradoxess:

If a sentient entity could calculate the future via determinism, it is forced to either follow it or break it. Which would therefore lead to free will and break the whole concept.

So why are we thinking about this topic so much?
Is there anything we could gain from it?

  • The idea that [the universe is governed by laws](Causal Determinism) is a very old one and has a long tradition in philosophy. The same regarding the idea of Free Will. Since the origins of philosphy, different interpretations/points of view are "competing". – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Feb 11 at 15:57
  • The question may need more subtlety. There is a position that brings freewill and the deterministic operation of causal conditions into line with each other, such that both would be in a sense be the case. Schrodinger adopts this view, which is a form of compatabilism. . . – PeterJ Feb 11 at 17:12
  • From a determinist's point of view, a determinist himself should not do anything particular. A determinist simply does, and it was predetermined. When relating to others, the word 'should' is a member of some causal chain. A determinist says that one should act somehow and sometimes that works. But that is merely because the world works in those ways. Just like opposite charges move towards each other. – rus9384 Feb 11 at 18:27
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    Determinism isn't just the absence of free will. If you offer me coconut cream pie or key lime pie for dessert, and you know me well enough, you know what I'm going to eat. This feels to me completely like exercising free will, and if I wound up eating the coconut cream pie it would feel like I had no free will, since I'd always freely choose key lime in that scenario. Is this free will or determinism? – David Thornley Feb 11 at 18:44
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    "If determinism doesn't exist, you are using your free will". No, it is up to you to use it or not, you can instead "go with the flow", and effectively reproduce the determinism. "If you assume that determinism is not the case, your actions will therefor be the right decision." No, even if you are exercising your free will it does not mean that what you are doing is right, free will makes you free to do wrong as well. The topic is interesting because it is hard to reconcile free will with causal laws of physics, for example, but beliefs about determinism do not play much of a role in practice. – Conifold Feb 11 at 21:09

If a sentient entity could calculate the future via determinism, it is forced to either follow it or break it. Which would therefore lead to free will and break the whole concept.

I have to disagree with you here, philosophical determinism in the Philosophy of Mind is radically different than physical determinism.

Let me explain, you are committing an equivocation in what I marked in bold. Since you argue using the word Determinism (in a physical context), and free will (which is the opposite of determinism in a different and philosophical context).

If a sentient entity could calculate the future via determinism (this is a physical determinism), it does not follow that free will will such and such...

Because your argument groups two concepts that are not related, they are not even opposites, since they belong to two different domains of philosophical investigation.

Physical determinism today can be refuted by evidence from Quantum Mechanics, you can never calculate the future via physical determinism even if you know everything about all the atoms in the Universe.

But this does not say anything about Philosophical Determinism or free will.

Physical Determinism : Everything in the Universe can be predicted, given that you know a current state of affairs, you can predict the future.

Physical Nondeterminism: Given that you know every singe state of affairs, you cannot predict the future of the Universe, since everything in the quantum world relies on probabilities and not on deterministic laws.

Philosophical Determinism We do not have free will, our decisions are determined by physical factors and we have no control over them.

Quantum Theory refutes the first idea (Physical Determinism), that is, you cannot predict what will happen in the future even if you know everything.

But this does not mean that it refutes the philosophical determinism, since, it is possible for nondeterministic quantum phenomena, to give rise to physical states of affairs, causes and effects that contribute to our decisions, which means that we still do not have free will, since our decisions are based on what happens in the non-deterministic quantum world.

So why are we thinking about this topic so much?

Is there anything we could gain from it?

Yes, there is something we gain from it, and it is better understanding and knowledge (or at least, understanding what the questions are all about), that is, in my opinion, the most sublime of all gains.

I suggest to read : https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/freewill/#FreeDoOtheVsSourAcco

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    Regarding quantum theory, I think the statement that “you cannot predict what will happen in the future even if you know everything” is not accurate. In fact, the correct statement should be “you cannot predict what will happen in the future definitely even if you know everything, but you can always give a probabilistic prediction”. In a double-slit experiment, although a single electron position on the screen can’t be definitely predicted, it can always be probabilistically predicted. That’s why all double-slit experiments always come out "predictably" in the same pattern!. – user287279 Feb 12 at 3:34
  • @user287279 , Yes, but your probabilistic predictions will get closer and closer to 0 the farther the future you want to predict. Because future probabilities rely on current probabilities. – SmootQ Feb 12 at 9:00
  • But quantum effects are summing with each other so the probabilistic prediction is possible on large scale. Say, that around a half of times a perfectly balanced coin will show a tail. Either there is 1000 trials or a million. – rus9384 Feb 12 at 9:25
  • yes, but to calculate the probability of a certain combination showing up in all these 1000 trials (given every trial is 50% probability) is : 0.5^1000 , which is very close to zero. – SmootQ Feb 12 at 9:27
  • If you flip a coin once, the probability of a tail is 50%, if you flip it twice the probability of (tail - head) is 25%, if you flip it three time the probability of (tail - head - head) is 12.5%... , the farther the more insignificant the probabilities are – SmootQ Feb 12 at 9:29

If you could "break" the future, it was your destiny to break it

You paradox is not a paradox at all, as your sentient being could not calculate position of molecules in his own brain, i.e. could not determine in advance his own thoughts. If he could, he would detect a thought about breaking the calculated future, would take this information into his calculations, and would come up with different solution.

From the point of determinism, it was his destiny to "break" the false future, and to let "true" future develop as a result of his action. Obviously, it is hard (impossible) for any instrument that is part of the system, to calculate future states of that same system, because even that calculation is a part of the system ;) Only instrument that is not part of the system, and does not influence it, could reliably determine future of the system. This of course opens Quantum Physics can of worms, because every measurement changes the system, but all of this is another story.

  • I was thinking along similar lines. When it comes to "absolutely determining" the world, one must account for the fact that the observer doing such determinations is itself a part of the world in which it is attempting to determine. – Ryan Goulden Feb 13 at 0:40

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