Thursday, 25 December 2014

Mortality in a Multiverse

This is more speculative than usual, even for me, but when I was little, I remember thinking at one point that one's consciousness could not handle death at all, with the result that one does not experience death but instead lives on, if only in one's mind (I don't remember, but I think this happened after the death of my grand-mother when I was about six years old - I most likely have cleaned up my thinking a bit). Sort of like what happens in William Golding's wonderful book Pincher Martin.
Anyway, I believe it was Richard Feynman who expressed the thought that the universe bifurcates whenever something can go more than one way (a decision or a quantum event, say). A multiverse might then contain all the potential bifurcations. Combine this with the above, and the result is that people die in some universes but not in others. The interesting but apparently unfalsifiable thing about this is the potential that no-one really dies in the sense of ceasing to experience things, since one's consciousness lives on in a different universe.

I don't believe this is true, though I suppose I could believe it. The thing that makes it unbelievable to me is that the idea is beyond the ordinary and that there seems to be no really good reason to believe it. But many things beyond the ordinary may turn out to be true, or have turned out to be true, and even though there is no good reason to believe in it, there may also be no good reason to doubt it. So it would not take much prodding for me to believe in the out-there idea expressed above. Only, prodding in the realm of metaphysics is not something that happens a lot, so I will likely continue not to believe in the above.

If one is suffering from some incurable disease or commits suicide, it may be hard to imagine that one will live on in one of many universes, though maybe that problem could be solved somehow (cures could be discovered in some universes, perhaps, or someone could walk in on the person about to kill himself just in time?). Others could die, of course, just not oneself.

So, how far could this idea be stretched? Could it be that no-one ever really dies? This would be a big stretch. Although hardly anyone lives much beyond a hundred years, there would basically have to be one person (oneself) who is as old as humanity, which seems completely absurd (though not disprovable!). But maybe everyone gets to be really old. If so, healthy living is pretty good, because there are more universes in which one stays alive and remains healthy, in contrast to what happens if one leads the opposite kind of life, though great risk would have a built-in insurance against the worst kinds of risk.

These are just some silly thoughts, but on the subject of death one can perhaps afford to be more speculative than usual. With that said, I wish to say sorry for my infrequent blogging, which has been due to academic work, travelling, and Christmas. It may take me some time to get back on track. Have a Merry Christmas in the meantime!

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