Re: quantum suicide [was pi]

From: Thomas Buckner (
Date: Sat Jan 22 2005 - 04:34:04 MST

--- Russell Wallace <>

> On Fri, 21 Jan 2005 20:31:03 -0800 (PST),
> Martin Striz
> <> wrote:
> > Interestingly, does anyone with a stronger
> background in physics than my one
> > year of undergrad have an opinion on this:
> >
> >
> It's philosophy, not physics. Consider: does it
> make any publicly
> testable predictions? No. It makes a
> _personally_ testable prediction,
> but not a publicly testable one.
> (That doesn't mean it's wrong, or for that
> matter that it's right. It
> simply means it's not in the domain of topics
> which fall under the
> heading of "science", but instead is in the
> domain called
> "philosophy", and that if you want to form an
> opinion about it, that
> must be done by armchair thought rather than
> observation.)
> > Sorry, this may be getting off topic.
> Is it? I think it qualifies as SL4 if anything
> I've ever heard of does ^.^
> - Russell
Since you say it's SL4, here's the offlist reply
I gave Martin last night:

I'm replying to you offlist, Martin, since this
is pretty off-topic. I have even less physic than
you, but I've been thinking a lot on this stuff,
and here's my take;
--- Martin Striz <> wrote:

> --- Damien Broderick <>
> wrote:
> >
> > >what about, say, a running
> > >calculation of a number such as pi or phi?
> There
> > >may exist in some such numbers an infinite
> number
> > >of unique sequences mathematically
> equivalent to
> > >a complete description of our Hubble volume
> (and
> > >everybody in it) and every other possible
> > >universe on all Tegmark levels.
> >
> >
> >
> > Damien Broderick
> Interestingly, does anyone with a stronger
> background in physics than my one
> year of undergrad have an opinion on this:
> Sorry, this may be getting off topic.
> -M

See, I've been trying to write a second novel for
years. I abandoned a false start about
interdimensional travel when I bogged down
thinking about Many Worlds and
reality-as-information. But that led me to
stumble into the forum here, and I began to
understand that AI and Many Worlds were deeply
linked ideas, once you begin to read people like
Tegmark and Tipler. Some physicists say time is
an illusion and that what exists might be a vast
or infinite network of 'still snapshots' (I think
I picked that up from an article about Martin
Rees). Time in this view is like movie frames
flipping by. See this great survey, "What do you
believe is true even though you cannot prove

I refer you to physicist Carlo Rovelli's answer
toward the bottom of this page:

Anyway, so if each instant is its own unique
pattern, then how is our consciousness jumping
from one Planck moment to the next, never mind
that we allegedly have not been dead in the
interval! If we assume that the consciousness is
a pattern which jumps probabilistically from
frame to frame, what is supposed to happen when
we die? The argument against consciousness
jumping over death I quote from the wiki:
"Although quantum immortality is motivated by the
quantum suicide thought experiment, Max Tegmark,
one of the inventors of this experiment, has
stated that he does not believe that quantum
immortality is a consequence of his work. His
argument is that under any sort of normal
conditions, before someone dies they undergo a
period of diminishment of consciousness, a
non-quantum decline (which can be anywhere from
seconds to minutes to years), and hence there is
no way of establishing a continuous existence
from this world to an alternate one in which the
person continues to exist."
But that objection doesn't hold up! If it does,
we should not survive general anesthesia, which
creates a 'time hole' of several hours. I've gone
under at least twice, and they put the gas on you
or start the drip, and consciousness becomes
impossible to sustain no matter how hard you
fight. Then, a couple of subjective seconds
later, some nurse is making you sit up when all
you want to do is lie there, and the duration of
the operation is, for your purposes, nonexistent.
Dreamless sleep and comas share this quality.

Tipler suggested that the same thing would happen
if the Omega Point revived you. You might have
been dead and dust for eleventy bajillion years,
but subjectively he suggests it's just like the

Better minds than mine have foundered on trying
to imagine the experience of not existing.
However, I think the outlines of the answer are
now coming clearer. If you don't exist, there's
no experience. As soon as you have an experience,
you have some sort of life. What if you put a
shotgun in your mouth and pull the trigger? If
the consciousness is always jumping Plancks
anyway, why *shouldn't* it jump again to the most
probable next position consistent with
existing, since it has done so all your life? In
this scenario, your suicide is experienced by
your friends and family, but not by you! Maybe
you pull the trigger and it just goes click. Your
consciousness jumps into a frame where the primer
failed. But where will your consciousness jump if
you're an end-stage AIDS patient? Maybe to a
universe where they find a miracle cure? I dunno.

The wiki says: "Detractors regard this idea as
nonsense, and argue that this outcome does not
fall out naturally from the many worlds
interpretation of quantum mechanics." They're
half right, I say: it doesn't fall out of many
worlds but it does seem to fall out of
time-isn't-real interpretations, which may or may
not coexist with many worlds. Think about the pi
conjecture along with quantum immortality along
with time-isn't-real, and see what weirdness you
get when you add the aforementioned dose of

Bear in mind that I've been stacking conjectures
like pancakes. But when I shared some of these
same ideas with a good friend a couple of years
ago, he reported having a mini-satori. It does
seem to have that effect. "We were never born and
cannot die," I said to him then. I can't quite
shake the feeling that if this is true, it may be
one of the biggest things I ever learned.

Tom Buckner

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