X-Message-Number: 5519
Date: Mon, 1 Jan 1996 13:05:34 -0500
Subject: Everett, Nightmares

1. Mike Perry (#5513) reiterates his interpretation of many-worlds theory,
implying that "all possible" future continuers (of ourselves and of our
present universe) will be realized as the "random" variations unfold; and
(apparently) that this means that all possible variations of  ourselves as
continuers will be realized. Nevertheless (in his past writings) he thinks
good outcomes are more likely than bad, because of the motivations of our
superhuman future selves or successors. I am still uncomfortable with the
logic of some of these ideas.

a) What is "possible" in the sense of quantum physics is not (as I understand
it) the same thing as what is possible in the conceptual sense, the sense of
Dr. Perry's rectangular grid example. (I leave aside for now the perpetual
question of whether "randomness" in any fundamental sense is even meaningful,
e.g. how quantum outcomes can be "random" and yet show a specific probability
distribution or ORDERED randomness!) Even if the quantum superposition
includes an infinite number of eigenstates, these are still discrete and not
continuous (therefore, I think, only denumerably infinite), and they have a
probability distribution or density such that some are much more likely than
others. It seems to me this materially changes the outlook or impression that
would otherwise be given by  the notion of realization of all possible

b) The Everett view (again, if I understand it or Dr. Perry'sinterpretation
of it) still implies determinism--not in the classical sense, but from
precedent to successor universe along any line one follows. (Gell-Mann's
"Totalitarian Principle: whatever is not prohibited is compulsory.) This is
another way of noting that the set of successor universes (and of human
continuers) will be of "measure zero" compared to the set of all conceptually
possible universes. 

[In physics, the only things that are possible are those that actually
happen; "possibility" and "probability" are not in the thing observed or
contemplated, but in the observer, or more accurately in the system of
observer/observed. (Note that this is consistent with Einstein's view of a
4-dimensional "static" universe, past/present/future coexisting--which
admittedly must still be reconciled with our sense of "flow" of time with a
fixed past and amorphous or malleable  future.)]

c) If we do accept my interpretation of Dr. Perry's interpretation--all
conceptually possible outcomes realized--I fail to see the safety net in
motivation toward "good" outcomes. In fact, these ideas seem mutually
inconsistent. If "good" outcomes are favored--for ANY reason--then
conceptually possible outcomes are not equipossible. Also, of course, any
influence exerted by "motivation" or anything at a level above quantum events
(if motivation is indeed a classical level phenomenon) would appear to mean
that the "basic" physics does not lie entirely at the quantum level, but that
the quantum level in turn is influenced by higher levels perhaps including
consciousness, and the "holists" have it right in some sense.  

No, Mike; I don't expect you to solve all problems or answer all questions.

2. You want nightmares? I'll give you nightmares.

a) A couple of people recently on Cryonet (Clark & Metzger?) have speculated
on possible dark futures, one being related to the apparent absence of
superhuman extraterrestrials.

I have commented on this many years ago, as has Mike Hart in a couple of his
books. it is exceedingly difficult to account for the absence of such
superhuman interveners in any way consistent with BOTH optimism about our
future and the notion that intelligent and technologically advanced races
have preceded us. Unless we are the first, it seems hard to avoid pessimistic
conclusions about the fate of technologically advanced peoples. One
speculation is that such inevitably kill themselves off in one way or
another, very rapidly (before sending out mechanized probes to succor the
savages). A subset of this is that, at a stage just slightly ahead of us, it
becomes clear that life is lousy in some ultimate sense, and the curtain is
rung down on the human tragedy. 

b) Feynman toyed with the idea that electrons are identical because in
reality there is only ONE electron, its spacetime trajectory zig-zagging back
and forth so as to give a human observer the impression of many identical

In a way vaguely similar to this and subsuming this, and partly similar also
to some old Oriental ideas, one could speculate that there is only ONE human
essence or consciousness or person, who of course is YOU (as well as me and
the rest). Perhaps non-human consciousnesses could be thrown in. A
conceivable consequence might be that you (and I and all of us) are fated to
experience EVERYTHING that has ever happened, or ever will happen, to
everyone (or perhaps every being). Can you think of anything more horrifying?
....Of course, a redeeming feature would be the highest possible motivation
to be nice to others. ["Inasmuch as ye do it unto the least of these, ye do
it unto me...."]

Happy New Year.

Robert Ettinger 

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