One of the popular themes in contemporary science fiction is the idea that the mass collection of information — a kind of super-Googleization — will be used to predict human behaviour. To some extent this already happens.
In the Westworld TV series (Season 3), the surveillance society and the collection of mass information is used to predict human behaviour (including life-changing decisions), in order to control society. This raises the question of individual free will being the primary determining factor in people’s lives — if a person’s thoughts are predictable, how free are they? Do people make their own choices?
This ties in with the overarching theme in Westworld of the android hosts being on predetermined behavioural loops, and having scripted responses to situations. In other words they lack free will. Now, it’s revealed, citizens also lack real choice in their lives as they too are, in a sense, on predictable loops.
The ability of characters to make free choices is important in storytelling. It’s part of a character’s journey, and it demonstrates their values and ability to learn. Having choices and making decisions is a basic human expression — a vital characteristic of being a free individual.
It’s also why the reader or audience sticks with a story, as they wait for a character they empathise with to make the right choices — or to lever themselves into a position from which they can enact a decision.