We only live once, but we live forever

There is no afterlife - only life eternal

Kim Jones

On 11/02/2009, at 4:27 AM, Michael Rosefield wrote:

> I wrote it for my friends, but feel free to criticise!
> http://rosyatrandom.livejournal.com/35445.html
> _____________________________________
> Perhaps it's time I had another go at explaining all that weird  
> stuff I believe in and why.
> Well, for those few that don't know, I reckon that all possible  
> universes exist and that everyone's immortal.
> I admit, this does sound rather odd. It would have sounded odd to me  
> about 10 years ago, too. Since about the age of 8 I was a pretty  
> hardcore rational scientific naturalist: everything is simply matter  
> and energy, and we but its dreams. What was real? Well, a chair. An  
> atom. Something you can touch. After all, when you think of reality,  
> you think of something... there. Something that sits there, quietly  
> existing to itself.
> But what does that mean, really? Everyone knows that matter is  
> almost entirely empty space, anyway - the solidity is just the  
> feather-touch of far-extended electromagnetic fields. Electrons  
> popping in and out of existence as the energy fields knot so charge  
> can be transferred in quantised lumps. Particles do not behave as  
> billiard balls - they are ghosts, obeying strange equations, lacking  
> hard and fast surfaces or reliable locations. Matter, energy, space,  
> time... they all begin to seem a bit ethereal when you look at them.
> Time. There's another one. I don't really believe in that, either.  
> Spacetime is just a barely distinguishable fabric woven by the  
> universe. Events do not occur at a time or a place - most of the  
> observables we see arise kaleidoscope like out of an intricate web  
> of possibilities, their form imposed by our own consciousness. And  
> by that, I mean that our minds are embedded within the universe,  
> constructed in such a way that the metaphysical structure of the  
> cosmos is implied by our design - the word without reflects the  
> world within. This has an aspect of the anthropic principle to it -  
> that we observe a world capable of supporting our existence because  
> if it didn't, we wouldn't.
> But this still has no bearing on how I started thinking things like  
> this, so I shall get that out of the way.
> The short story is that I read some stories by a science-fiction  
> author called Greg Egan. Before you laugh too much, a lot of sci-fi  
> is essentially just window-dressing to convey an idea - the  
> implications of some item of technology, turn of events or  
> scientific/philosophical argument. And Greg Egan is a 'hard' science- 
> fiction author, an ideas merchant. Well, you get the drift.
> The first story I read was called Wang's Carpets (later included as  
> a chapter of the book Diaspora), in which some spacefarers  
> (themselves software) find a planet whose major life-form are  
> floating mats that take the form of Wang Tiles - tesselating objects  
> whose patterns can implement a universal turing machine. But that's  
> just the set-up for the idea: when someone analyses the Carpets, by  
> taking various abstract variables (appearance of certain tiles and  
> features, etc) and putting them through frequency transforms, it  
> turns out that the computations the Carpets encode as part of their  
> reproductive habits give rise to a fully realised n-dimensional  
> space containing self-aware creatures.
> The thought-provoking part here was not that consciousness could be  
> digitalised and run as software - I had already pretty much accepted  
> that - but that the mathematical transformations necessary to do  
> this could be pretty strange, and come from processes that were  
> essentially plucked arbitrarily from the environment. That,   
> largely, consciousness could be a matter of perspective.
> The second story was the book, Permutation City. A great deal of  
> this book concerns one of the protagonists who wakes up one day and  
> finds he is simply a downloaded copy - and that the 'real' him is  
> running experiments. After being run at different speeds, and  
> distributed in space and time, backwards, in chunks of different  
> sizes, etc., the argument becomes that it doesn't matter what or how  
> the program is run - it is all the same from the perspective of the  
> consciousness being implemented, and that this is so abstract that  
> one can find the relevant computational processes within any  
> physical substrate. That all consciousnesses can be found within a  
> grain of sand. That there is not even any physical bedrock to fall  
> back upon - there is no way ever to verify, even in principle, that  
> one is on the 'fundamental' metapysical level. At the end of the  
> book, the characters have escaped into their own computational  
> world, completely divorced from any physical hardware. Their  
> universe contains a simulation of another world, whose very alien  
> inhabitants find their own physical principles for the cosmos they  
> observe - principles radically different from the computational ones  
> 'running' it, and so compelling they start to take over the  
> character's world, too.
> So when you get down to it, I no longer believe in the physical  
> world - or rather, I believe in all of them. While I used to require  
> reasons to believe in the existence of parallel worlds, I now  
> require them not to. Existence, after all, can have no overseers. No  
> arbiters to conjure it from nowhere. Time, remember, is just  
> something created from within our cosmos - on a more fundamental  
> level, nothing changes, nothing is created or destroyed. Things  
> simply are, or are not. Either they satisfy the criteria for  
> existing, or not. Either they are possible, and exist, or they are  
> impossible, and do not.
> Assuming just our world exists is like, to me, saying just the  
> number 532 exists, and that there is no proof for any other number.
> The Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics is like a very  
> diluted version of this. All it says is that the equations of QM and  
> our observations are consistent with the idea that, rather than the  
> myriad possibilities inherent in a quantum system mysteriously  
> collapsing into one observed outcome, all outcomes are realised. At  
> first, this seems a little too much to believe. Where do they come  
> from? Well, the key word there was mysterious. Nowhere in the  
> equations of QM is the collapse predicted. That's our own kludge,  
> inserted to explain the fact that we somehow only see single,  
> classical, outcomes. QM predicts that all these outcomes exist  
> anyway, interacting within the wavefunction. The MWI simply asks:  
> what if they don't stop existing? What if the act of observation  
> simply causes our own wavefunction to split along those pre-existing  
> lines? If those decohered elements don't interact much, we would get  
> precisely what we do see anyway.
> Now, if I exist in multiple worlds, how many me's are there? I would  
> say: only 1. My consciousness, such that I observe it, is unique.  
> While it might appear in an infinite number of possibile realities,  
> it is a constant, a fulcrum. I carry along with me a train of all  
> possible universes. So I don't think of myself as existing in 'this  
> world', not really. I am in all of them.
> Now: immortality. Or 'quantum immortality', as the idea is known. I  
> am running out of time, so I shall just say this: amongst all these  
> universes I inhabit, there are possible future trajectories that  
> take me into universes in which I am dead. However, I shall not be  
> around to observe this; I can only witness universes in which I am  
> alive. And there will always be possible trajectories into sets of  
> universes in which I am alive. And that is what I will witness: I  
> cannot die. Not in my world, anyway.
> Anyway, gotta dash now.
> --------------------------
> - Did you ever hear of "The Seattle Seven"?
> - Mmm.
> - That was me... and six other guys.
> >

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