Many Worlds, One “You”

September 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

After reading Niven’s “All the Myriad Ways” and listening to the class’ many opinions on the impact of living in a multiple-world reality, I personally find it somewhat silly to become mentally confounded or incapacitated by the thought that there are many “you” in branching worldlines, each making a possible decision. Despite the existence of the many worlds, an individual should not be affected as long as the sense of “self” is still intact, and all the casual suicides, crimes, and impulses described by Niven would at least be averted, if not outright non-existent.

Assuming Everett’s Many-World Interpretation (MWI) is correct and real, and that reality branches off every time someone makes a decision, that fact should not affect the feeling of “self” everyone has as an unique individual. The underlying issue is that there are other…existences, for a lack of better word…that is almost identical to “you” (please forgive the second-person) in appearance, memory, and even mindset, separated only by a set of quantum imaginary numbers, and that for every choice that “you” ever made, another existence will take the alternative choice. If a person comprehends the truth of this piece of information, then s/he will naturally ask: “So which one of ‘me’ is the real one?” and “If every choice is taken, does it matter which choice ‘I’ take then?” as presented by Niven. However, these questions become irrelevant if one simply considers the fact that each “individual” can only exists on one and only one worldline. A person does not suddenly become an infinite number of “persons” by proving the truth of MWI. MWI, if it were true, would be nothing but another law of nature, a way of describing reality, much like the three Laws of Newton and the Cell Theory. For all “you” know, the other “existences” are complete strangers, despite the similarities between the two of “you.” As long as one maintains the sense of the “self” within his/her own worldline, there needs not be any necessity in questioning one’s own “existence.”

This reasoning, however, would be more difficult to be preserved by those who have met other “versions” of themselves, such as the pilots of Crosstime in Niven’s story. Knowing that such existences are true is one thing, but actually seeing, hearing, or even touching another person that is almost in every way identical to oneself will be overwhelming to one’s psyche. However, this mental paradox may be resolved by, counterintuitively, interacting with the other version. For worldlines that are “far apart,” the difference should be apparent (“I am a pilot, but you are a dangerous psychopath with a long history of violence?”). For “closer” worldliness, such differences might be minute and trivial (“What did you have for breakfast this morning?”). Nevertheless, understanding the differences between the versions should be helpful in keeping one’s identity and sanity, even those that have come in contact with their “doubles.”

Simply knowing the fact that there are many “you” existing can be a harrowing notion, let alone actually meeting those versions. Despite all the branching worldliness and choices made, there is one and only one “self,” unmistakably unique and completely irreplaceably. In other words, keeping a strong sense of the self is vital in keeping one’s sanity.

Of course, one can simply shut up and compute.

Nightly Thoughts


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