Scientific (Quantum) Immortality

I have long been fascinated by the idea that the universe is not actually a singular object but made up of a multiverse comprised of an infinite number of “universes”. Each of these “universes” seemingly  branch off into new universes at every possible action or inaction. This idea is staggering in it’s immensity. It seems like science fiction and it has certainly been a staple of science fiction for at least forty years. It may have remained science fiction but fortunately I am not alone in believing this might in fact be possible. A growing segment of physicists are turning to this theory as one of the ways to make sense of the data they have been collecting about our own universe. There is now some evidence that other universes exist (link here). Of course the existence of other universes outside our own does not prove that we live in multiverse composed of infinite alternate universes…but it does give more credence to that conclusion, and from my understanding, the math we use to describe our universe works better in a true multiverse.

So how does all this multiverse talk bring us to Scientific Immortality? Frank Tipler of Tulane University believes he has the answer. In his book The Physics of Immortality he outlines how quantum immortality must exist if the universe is subject to the laws of physics as we now know them. Tipler postulates that no one who has lived has ever died in the fullness of the multiverse. If the universe is made up of an infinite number of alternate universes each branching off the other at every action or inaction then you can not die. In fact you will live forever in such a universe because no matter how small the chance of surviving, say a nuclear explosion or playing Russian roulette, there is always a chance you will live. For every choice there are at least two outcomes. There is a universe where in one you die but in another universe your consciousness survives. The book is fascinating and fits into something I have long believed about the nature of a multiverse. Tipler has his detractors of course and this is not an idea that has been tested.

However It could be tested. The outcome would only be realized in a very tiny number of universes but it would quickly be obvious to the person testing the theory himself. The proposed test is for the tester to point a loaded gun at his head and pull the trigger. In a multiverse the tester would experience either the gun misfiring or merely being shot and not dying. Do this several more times in a row and the tester, if he still lived, could be pretty confident that we live in a multiverse. Of course finding volunteers for this may be problematic. I think I can come up with a test that while less dangerous but would prove  to the observer over time that we all experience quantum immortality. This test requires some patience.

Observer Test for Quantum Immortality

The world should get stranger the longer you live. In a multiverse every moment you would be dying. From falling out of the chair you are sitting in and cracking your head open to the infinitesimal chance that all the oxygen in the room suddenly blinks out of existence. At the same time you are constantly avoiding death. You swerve out of the way of that car in the wrong lane driving to work this morning or you avoid falling down the stairs while putting on your jacket. As you age in a multiverse you are moving from one reality to another where you have avoided death more and more often. For that to happen the universe should become  stranger the longer you live just to account for your continued existence. In fact as you become elderly this strangeness should increase to a point where you can be certain around 150-200 years of age that something is happening that you may not understand. You might just dismiss this as technology providing drugs and treatments that keep you alive. Keep thinking that and maybe in 2000 years you will acknowledge you are stuck in this universe.

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Lloyd Flack says:

The problem that I have with this is that the Universe does not look like it would under the many worlds hypothesis. Suppose that we have two possibilities at each divergence point and the universe that we find ourselves in is a random branch. If we look back at the possible divergences that have occured then we should find half of them going one way and half the other. But this is not what we find. we find that most are in one direction. That is the probability of an event is meaningless under the many worlds hypthesis. But it is very meaningful in the Universe that we are in. I don’t know whether I have explained it well.

I think you would be able to create a slightly more complicated version of the many worlds hypothesis that could deal with this, perhaps by creating many worlds at each divergence some of whic are identical. I would think it is more likely that things are in a weighted superposition of possible states and the weights change with time so that you entually end up with what is to all intents and purposes a single state. Again I don’t know how well I ve explained this

For a look at unpleasant implications of the many worlds hypothesis read Larry Niven’s short story All the Myriad Ways. You can find it in an anthology of the same name.