Choice in the Quantum Multiverse
Choice in the Quantum Multiverse
Preamble: This is a philosophical “self help” story that bends some rules and breaks minimal others just to get a couple of points across. Pushed too far, it will like all analogies break apart into demands for what things are *really* like and the answer there is simply: the corpus of fundamental physics as we understand it. But mysteries lurk in our circumstance as they always will. As fascinating as any other is the relationship between consciousness, choice, creativity and a fully deterministic universe of what can happen does happen - given the right knowledge and the decision to make it so.
By the way, I prefer the word “travelator” (and that particular spelling) to “moving walkway” or “conveyer belt for people”. I use all three terms here but it’s the one I revert to. Apologies to those who find it grating.
Imagine a flat 2 dimensional floor (as all floors tend to be): yet infinite in all directions. Like some vast aircraft hanger, but empty of aircraft and you cannot see the walls. You are on the ground standing. It is dark but where you turn your attention becomes lit with a bright light. You direct your attention to your feet - they are illuminated to reveal you are not standing on regular ground. You are on a travelator - one of those conveyer belts for people more common in airport terminals than aircraft hangers. You direct your attention left and right and lights illuminate a greater reality. The travelator you are on in this infinite space is not alone. There is another beside you running parallel. It’s moving at an ever so slightly different rate - a little slower to your left and another! A little faster to your right. And then you notice them all parallel travelators off into infinity all moving at different speeds as your vision suddenly explodes with the whole space illuminated with a great white light and travelators all across the infinite floor in every direction you look and parallel, though all going in the same direction: away from where you have just come. And then you notice it - all around you - as you imagine them into existence - places to go and experiences to have. You simply have to choose to move travelators to get to them. Or stay on the one where you find yourself. You can see what’s up ahead - more or less. It’s in your imagination for the moment but simultaneously it’s coming closer and closer - all you need to do is stay put. Doesn’t seem so bad. You’re reading something. This.
But over there: you can see something better and the more you look the clearer it is what set of travelators you need to jump on and cross over to, to get closer to that thing. Seems a bit of effort though. This is fun. Interesting for now, anyway. And besides all around you see an unbounded number of things that really exist and are out there that you would like to see and experience. Some are truly amazing. That’s real?! You wonder. That can’t be real. Can it? Could I actually go there? Your mind wanders. Some of those things seem far off and fanciful - it will take a long journey of clever choices to get to experience that - the travelators are moving at all different paces and they carry all sorts of wondrous things (and sometimes dangers). But they’re there. They’re real. But just because they’re real doesn’t mean you will ever experience them unless you choose to make the effort and - make it a reality *for you*. There’s a lot to think about. Maybe you’ll stay right here, carried along by, doing little more than choosing to just stay on this travelator.
But - there are simple things nearby - oh look one step over is coffee. Grab that. No wait…skip past that - grab the tea. You’re on another travelator now. Tea travelator. It’s…all the same it seems. Here you are reading this again. Well, it’s all the same - but now you’ve got tea. Looking around things still look basically the same here on tea travelator. As elsewhere except…you look back to where you were and…there you are! Still they're not leaping across. Just reading. But no tea. The copy of you continues along for a while until they jump to another travelator - but they leave behind themself again - yourself again - too! Or rather a copy of you. You’re here, not there. What you thought was you seems to be an inexhaustible supply of identical copies of you. You stand up and look down and…well there you are not standing up too. Ok, sit back down again, that’s a little too strange. Let’s keep on reading because this thing you're reading right now this very moment that's telling you about what's really going on right now tells you that up ahead you can see - (this is the power of your imagination in this multiverse!) - that some of those copies of you really do go on forever into immortality. You go on forever! You can see you need to follow this and that travelator and you can’t quite see how you would even get to some of them. Looks very difficult from here. Like: Climbing Mount Everest difficult from where you are. Maybe someone knows a faster route. You want to go on forever! Ok that’s quite a quest so let’s just take a breath because for now - tea. You notice another copy of you is on the coffee travelator. Over there the same thing is happening. Copies of them - you - are moving from travelator to travelator making different choices. But you’re here now so where to next? It’s all happening around you and it seems you’ve no choice in any of it. Except you do - you can choose which travelator to occupy. You can switch universes with a choice. Other copies of you seem to be having a much better time. Some of them - not so much. You call out to them: but they can’t hear you. This is a strange place. But at the same time, you’re more familiar with it than anywhere else. You’ve been experiencing this all your life. This is your life.
Whoosh! Woah - look out. This travelator - just like the rest of them moves irrevocably forward. It just took you under a low hanging bridge where you could have bumped your head! You see - you’ve also got to pay attention. You might be able to choose which travelator to jump to, but you also can’t see everything ahead of time. Sometimes some things appear with very little or even no notice at all. Stay sharp!
But, you can also relax. Those things do not contradict each other. Stay in a relaxed state of sharpness as you’re carried onwards. That seems best. The best way to notice what is best and just in reach and which leads to better places. How to make progress towards the things in your imagination that you see out there.
Relaxed again and looking around there doesn’t seem to be anything urgent just now. You’ve got your tea. You’re reading this and being carried along. But look! Over there - you can see travelators with lots of different books coming into view. That journey to there looks like more of a commitment than just skipping over to the tea travelator. This choice seems like it’s gong to take a little more effort but let’s try. The closer you get the more you see persevering with that travelator seems committing yourself to a travelator that moves at a rate you’re not yet sure will be comfortable and then - wow - it branches into many others. But you can choose which to join as always, or…things are moving slow here you can leap back to here again without much fuss. But those others do offer you, as it were, more options and they bring new things into view. But you will be carried forward once you take that leap onto it. You’re always being carried onwards. You’ve got no choice in that. Whether this goes to a better or worse place well: that’s at least partly on you. You can see some of what’s around. You’re only limited by your imagination. You can imagine some pretty bad stuff. That’s ok: best to do what it takes to avoid bringing that any closer. Choose to switch tracks. Switch to what’s going to carry you to the good stuff.
Imagination is the mind’s capacity to see across the multiverse.
To actually experience what is for you for now only in your imagination means working towards it which means making active choices. What you are determined to do is determined by the laws of physics but you can choose between the things that are determined to happen.
Reality is like an infinite number of conveyer belts moving all in one direction: time away from the Big Bang. But some conveyer belts lead to far more interesting, fun and wondrous places than others. You can see some of these places. That is the power of your capacity to create. You can imagine a better place. That place is real (so long as it does not violate any physical law). You need to jump, leap, trot across the moving walkways making your way towards that thing you see. It may be a very long way off. You may not see it clearly. But it is there. And the more you focus on it the clearer not only it becomes but the route to getting there - the sequence of travelators you must traverse - becomes clear too. Step here, step there, watch out, this one’s fast. A little slower here. Bend down quick. Jump over that. Step, jump to the side, up and over and you’re nearly there. Wait - this looks like a maze and - bam. You’re knocked down. Oh that hurt a bit and damn! You’ve gone backwards. Never mind pick yourself up and - there it is again but wait! That over there. That looks even better. Let’s go there it’s closer and a far easier journey. Well now this is just too much fun! And someone has taken your hand and they’re helping you and now you’re in this together. Fantastic.
Between you and what you have imagined but are enjoying the journey towards now are other interesting places to experience and people to journey with. Many seem to have advice and offer assistance in ways to help you fly across the travelators much faster than you ever thought possible. Choosing to join travelators that have certain books or lead to certain people or require you to solve certain puzzles and problems or in some other way deliver you new ideas help you see new possibilities on the horizon. New ideas expand what you can see and imagine and then illuminate the path across travelators to make what is on the distant horizon something that is now well within reach for you to truly experience. The best source of new ideas besides books are other people. Although even books are really just other people talking to you when you cannot have them next to you. People and the ideas of people - these are what help you bring into view what you want and make it more beautiful and make it the journey there fun and worthwhile.
These travelators of time carry you irrevocably forwards and away from the start of it all and the start of your life. The pace of change when you pause to rest is not yours to choose either. Rather much is completely out of your control going on around you and no matter the choice you make it goes on - all determined to do so by a set of laws you can only vaguely guess at that controls all the motions of all the travelators and what is being built out there and brought into view. You don’t determine much of it - but you do determine some of it. Right now for example you can choose to go in this direction or that. Hopping upon this conveyer belt or not. How do you know which one to choose to get on? Which way left or right? You need to look and see what is the place you wish to experience. Envision it. It’s real. Now the world before you reveals itself as problems: the problems of travelators to get between here and there. I can’t tell you which belts get you where. That’s your job to figure it out (create the knowledge!) to bring that distant thing ever closer to you - to bring yourself ever closer to it and so you begin to see it ever more clearly and see ever more clearly exactly what it takes to get there.
It’s all determined. It’s all going on. It - that other better world you want with all you want in it is already there really happening. Copies you of you right now have already got there. Other copies of you chose poorly. They’ve been left behind going the wrong way. But they are in the tiny slender minority because you being you make the good choices you tend to and so have a purpose. Your purpose is to solve your problems - without this ever coming to an end. Even death if you can. But that’s just one problem. You’ve got many more to solve before that. What problems exactly? Again: that’s for you to figure out. There are preferences you have - things you would rather be experiencing and you can envision those because they are real. That is the great unique power of being a person. This capacity to see a landscape of possibilities that are actualities and can be experienced by you if only you choose to make the choices. Choose to move in that direction. How? Create the knowledge of how to make the requisite choices possible.
People can see genuine possibilities in physical reality. All fiction is fact somewhere in the multiverse. Or: everything in your imagination that does not violate the laws of physics is real somewhere in the multiverse. If it’s at all physically possible for people to experience then some people in the multiverse are *determined to* experience it. Which is to say they are experiencing it. Now. And if it’s a dream of yours, why shouldn’t you strive to be one of those people?
Afterward: The relationship between consciousness and its contents including the products of our imagination and the capacity to choose are unknown - let alone any of them explained by our present understanding of the laws of physics. You are a physical thing that makes choices as my story above tries to illustrate. Something of the character of our experience as multiversal beings I have tried to capture here but I cannot help but encounter genuine problems with the analogy. It seems that while the travelators obey one set of laws, you, the traveller in my story making the choices herein appears to obey different laws of physics. But that should not be so. Everything in this world obeys “travelator laws” - the traveller cannot help but be carried along - and just as any object on a travelator is (including the travelator itself - whatever that represents exactly). The difference is that you - the traveller - can make choices and "choices" are something that no travelator and seemingly nothing else ever brought into view can do. Except for other travellers - specifically people - on the travelators they make choices to do the things to have the experiences they wish to. Which means creating the knowledge of how to make reality around them what they want it to be like. To take what is in their imagination and to actualise it right in front of them.
People are unique in this world. Only people step from travelator to travelator because people are the only entities that see that there are other travelators. They’re the only entities that see possibilities. Options. And that those possibilities can be actively chosen. By them. By understanding them and what it takes (at least in part) to bring themselves into a world with the things they want - the things they imagine. Other objects including other living things that are not people lack the revenant “eyes” so to speak. They can’t look side to side and see the possibilities which is to say understand that there is possibility. If they have eyes then they are like the eyes of owls - but owls that can never move their heads. Other animals on travelators for are staring always straight ahead. Their heads and eyes fixed in one direction. They can see what’s up ahead of them and only what’s up ahead of them. The lion can rear up as it sees another lion strange to it up ahead. It cannot look to the right or left and consider those other possibilities where it could have done otherwise. Indeed in no universe does it. It never chooses. You can see what’s going to happen. It cannot. It just does what the that travelator it is on takes it to.
But we can choose another travelator. This is free will and choice in a fully deterministic physical reality. Your choice is determined by what you can imagine is possible. And what you imagine is possible is bound by what you think the laws of physics are and that knowledge is bound by what the laws of physics actually are.
Another problem with my analogy here is that you the traveller see copies of yourself really experiencing the world you are striving for. And copies of yourself at all stages along the way - even if some of them are not quite clear. The thought experiment would seem to imply a very crowded place and it is in reality we of course have no actual experience of it being crowded. My thought experiment here violates that part of quantum theory prohibiting us from actually seeing how crowded with copies of us the multiverse is right around us. But here we are not actually seeing. This is an analogy. Seeing is an analogy for your imagination. And in a sense even "genuine" seeing is just that. We are minds trapped in the darkness of our skulls. We imagine what reality seems like once the eye has collected photons and the retina converted their energy into electrical impulses and the mind interpreted those neural firings. We don't see our copies ever - we are alone. Alone but for the companions we choose (and perhaps some we do not from time to time) and only if we uses our imagination does the place get crowded again: but just in that direction of our imagining. And that line of people between us and the better world we can imagine are giving us important information: do this to make a little progress towards that thing you can only imagine for now but is real.
The point here at the end now is that right now, you’re here. And from here you’re determined to go somewhere. Why not choose to go towards where things are better. You’re completely free to do so. Just don’t expect to exceed the speed of light, know simultaneously with perfect precision the position and momentum of any particle around you nor use more energy than is available in the universe. Everything else is yours, and ours, for the making.
mr David Hurn
3/9/2023 03:16:07 pm
Maybe we can make a AGI out of photons?
Leave a Reply.
The most valuable thing you can offer to an idea