the algorithm from the inside

Our daughter's choices--like everything else--had been written in stone at the birth of the universe, but that information could only be decoded by becoming her along the way.
Greg Egan, "Singleton"
Consciousness is what running the algorithm feels like from the inside.
Scott Albertine

Scott is a former coworker - the quote is a paraphrase, and I may be drawing something slightly different than he was thinking of, but still, something like that phrasing has stuck with me all this time... we have what seems to be subjective experience and make meaningful choices, and yet are apparently marionettes in a universe governed by clockwork (if quantum-ly unpredictable) particles and energies that pull every string we possibly could have...

Of course, when we do talk about "free will", there are very different feeling levels of predeterminism - on one hand, physics-y stuff where it feels we assume that in principle a particle-level simulation of us and our local environments could recreate us and our actions entirely, and on the other hand, stuff at social and psychological levels, where we look at people's childhoods and experiences and what not, and try to pin down "could it have been otherwise?" - especially when stuff is going wrong.