Is Quantum Immortality Real?

This is a difficult one to answer. It’s kind of like asking “is God real?” – there is no compelling evidence either way.

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Quantum Immortality (QI) is the idea that if the Many Worlds Interpretation (MWI) of Quantum Mechanics is true, then every possible universe exists and is just as real as this one, including every universe where you survive cancer, you fall from a building and land in a passing truck carrying hay, your plane doesn’t crash, cures for aging are discovered before you get old (hmm- sounds like this one, right?).

Because the MWI is just an interpretation of the math of Quantum Mechanics, and gives exactly the same results as all other interpretations (such as the popular Copenhagen Interpretation), there is no way to prove that it is correct or incorrect.

It boils down to faith, in the end – which one are you more comfortable believing?
1. that a quantum mechanical wave calculation is performed every instant of time, and a random result is magically chosen to become reality; the whole thing to be repeated ad infinitum (Copenhagen Interpretation)
2. that the quantum mechanical wave equation represents all versions of reality that exist, and that we are merely one of the results.

In one of these, a magical step is taken which has never been explained, and our universe pops out as the only result. In the other, the wave equation is simply a description of all realities and our universe is no more special than any other.

In a way, the puzzle is like the old physics/philosophy question – “Why is there something rather than nothing?”

Given that “in the beginning there was nothing” (let’s agree), it does not make sense that suddenly there is one single universe, and that is all that there can be. Exactly 1. No more. No less.

Even having 1 as the number of possible universes is not sensible. How did we get from 0 to 1?

Physics shows that it is certainly possible for a universe to appear from nothing. In fact, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle demands that a universe exist, because an empty universe is one in which the velocities and positions of all particles (all zero of them) are known, and that is forbidden.

But there is nothing in physics that says “there can be only one reality”. The math always takes place against hypothetical states of the universe, and there really is no difference between a fully calculated hypothetical simulation of a real universe (this one, for example), and the actual “real” thing. Especially from the point of view of a person living within that universe.

My own opinion is this: Quantum Mechanics describes the universe exactly. There are no known differences between QM and “reality”, that I am aware. So the only question is which interpretation is correct. Well, I believe that the simpler of any two explanations is usually the correct one. Because MWI does not require any magical “quantum collapse” step in its equations, I believe it is simpler and therefore probably correct.

The next part of this is to decide whether that means that the immortality part is real. That part is philosophical in nature.

Are you the exact same person that you were yesterday? Did you even exist yesterday?

The only evidence that you existed yesterday is what your memory and your senses tell you. But, your senses can be fooled, and your memory can be fooled as well. How do you know that your memories of yesterday were not planted in you while you slept?

If you were to die today, and an exact clone of you were to be created and given your memories, that clone would think it was you, and so would everyone else that knows you.

When you save your state in a computer game, make a mistake, then reload that state to carry on, to the characters in the game, it’s as if the mistake never happened in the first place.

If you die in this universe, and survive in another, it’s as if you never died in the first place.

In fact, coming back to the beginning of the article, for all you know, in another universe only a few minutes ago, you died of a heart attack. But do you remember that here? Of course not.

The only memories you can possibly have are those of a person that has survived everything thrown at them. The thoughts of a dead you might as well not exist at all.

While there is no way to “prove” that quantum immortality is real, I think it’s much more comforting to assume it is, than to presume it is not.

You gain nothing by disbelieving, other than a sense of finality and doom. At least by believing, you can be a bit happier in your day and nicer to your fellow humans, because you’re going to be around them for a very long time.

Mathematical Universe

For the last few hundred years, we have been able to gradually pin down exactly how everything in the universe works, right down to a very small group of equations.

What that means is that everything in the universe can be predicted using math (either exactly, or statistically).

Philosophically, there is no difference at all between a mathematical description of you observing the universe, and the real you observing the universe. How could you tell which is “real”, when everything that happens in “reality” can be predicted by just doing the math? Is there a difference between a mathematical universe and a “real” universe?

In a way, this means that we are all like NPCs (non-player characters) in a computer game, all of us convinced that we are real and that the world we inhabit is real, when in fact, the entire game and ourselves are being simulated in a universe-encompassing machine.

In reality’s case, what is this universe-encompassing machine? Well, math can be worked out on a computer, on paper, or in your head, and if done correctly, it will always come up with the same answers. Math is objective – it doesn’t rely on a medium. It doesn’t need the paper in order to be correct – it just is.

Consider the sequence (1, 2, 3, 4, …) for example – the next number is 5, no matter whether we compute it or not.

Even incredibly complex equations obey the same objective law – if you consider an equation that predicts the position of every particle in the universe in one second – this equation will have an answer whether it is calculated or not.

All equations exist in potential. This means that the equation “x+y-z” has just as much reality as the sequence “1, 2, 3, 4, …”, and therefore the answers to those equations also all exist in potential.

This means that every possible universe exists as a mathematical potential, and because there is no discernible difference between “reality” and a simulated universe (for people inside those universes), it means that every single universe, that you can describe mathematically, exists.

And by extension, every universe in which you survive the present and the near and far futures, also exists.

black holes and baby universes

Yesterday, I was talking to some of my students at the Coolest Projects seminar in Dublin, and we ended up discussing Nikodem Poplawski’s idea that all black holes contain universes, and how that leads to there being infinite universes, and therefore we are all immortal (due to quantum immortality).

In Newton’s classical mechanics, the more mass there is in a volume, the stronger the gravity is near that volume.

However, if each black hole contains a universe, and then recursively contains its own black holes and therefore further universes and black holes (turtles all the way down!), then that means that each black hole can potentially contain infinite mass, and so Newton’s math suggests that the gravity of black holes is infinite in strength.

But it’s not. We know this because if it was, there would be nothing outside black holes – it would all be sucked in.

So how can a black hole contain potentially infinite mass, and yet not exude infinite gravitational attraction?

The solution lies in the speed of gravity.

If the sun was to suddenly vanish from our solar system, then the Earth would continue to orbit the space where it was for 8 minutes, because gravity waves take time to propagate across space.

If a black hole creates its own space inside itself, due to the huge pressure and friction, then gravity from the absolute center (for example), takes longer to get to the outside because it has more space to traverse.

We know from our own observations that this universe is expanding. If all universes within black holes are created by the expansion of space, then it is possible that the space is created at such a speed that gravity cannot travel from one side of the hole through the center to the other side, because the space expands so fast that it simply never gets there.

We know as well that in our own universe, there is no such thing as empty space. Virtual particles appear and disappear all the time. It makes sense that sometimes these virtual particles will appear, separate, and sometimes not recombine and vanish. Sometimes, matter (and therefore mass) will appear out of nothing.

And so, the inside of a black hole will create its own space, alone with its own new matter, seeding a new universe.

So how does this all tie in with immortality?

The number of possible configurations of energy/mass in a universe depends on the size of that universe. Space is made of nodes and lines connecting the nodes. There is no “distance” between the nodes. “Distance” and “size” are measured by literally counting the nodes and lines.

Because space is quantised, anything that is in space must be located on a specific node. This means that if there are three nodes, for example, then a point particle can only exist in one of three places. This in turn means that if you have four universes, each composed of three nodes (in the same configuration for simplicity) and one point particle, then at least two of those universes must be exactly the same.

The same principle means that if you have larger universes and more particles, there is still a limit to how many universes you can have before two of them must be exactly the same.

For example, if there are 4 nodes (again, configured similarly for simplicity) and 2 point particles, there are only 16 unique configurations (4+4*3). If there are 3 point particles, there are 40 unique configurations (4+4*3+4*3*2).

In the first case, if there are 17 universes, at least two are exactly the same. In the second, if there are 41 universes, at least two are exactly the same.

No matter how large the universe gets, there is still a number that equates to how many possible configurations it can be in. If more than that number of universes exist, then there are duplicates.

If all black holes contain universes, and there are then recursive universes and black holes, then there are infinite universes, and therefore there are infinite duplicates of universes.

This means that there are infinite universes which are exact copies of this universe, including copies of you, which have your exact history, memories, and thoughts.

If there is a chance that you will die tonight, there are some universes where you will die, but you will only be aware of those in which you survive.

And therefore, black holes and baby universes, lead to a kind of multiverse immortality.

the multiverse and immortality

I was reading a bit about Nikodem Poplawski’s theory of black holes and baby universes, and thought I might expand on how that can lead to a kind of multiverse immortality (or quantum immortality, even though this is not a quantum multiverse idea).

The general belief is that black holes are “infinitely” dense, which suggests that anything that goes too close to one is stretched (spaghettified), and then torn apart by tidal forces, leading to an eventual crush once inside the hole proper.

Nikodem’s idea is that it is impossible to make matter infinitely dense, as the torsion forces the matter to expand, even while gravity is forcing it to collapse. Eventually, the pressure becomes so high that the contained matter essentially explodes, even though from the outside, we would see no such thing.

The explosion manifests on the inside of the black hole as a Big Bang, from which is born a new universe. This may seem unintuitive, but I think what he’s suggesting is that the explosion forces the creation of space itself. Imagine a TARDIS’s interior exploding into being, inside a normal police box, for example. From the outside, we see nothing. On the inside, we see a whole universe born and growing.

How this leads towards immortality is that if every black hole can have a universe inside it, as Nikodem suggests, and each universe is can have black holes inside them, then there are a potential infinite number of universes.

If there are infinite universes, then every possible configuration of matter can be found somewhere, and will also be repeated somewhere. Since the universe we are in is definitely a “possible configuration of matter”, then that means that there are infinite copies of this universe contained throughout the universe, either directly inside its black holes, or inside black holes contained in the black holes (etc). In other words, the universe is infinite in this idea, but in a “nested” kind of way.

If there are infinite copies of this universe, then there will also be a universe for ever possible choice we make, or every random event. So, if you were to have a stroke tomorrow and die, there will also be infinite universes where you don’t, and since your identity is ultimately physical in nature, “you” will survive in those and will not even remember that “you” had a stroke.

quantum immortality as a get-rich-quick method

First off, do not do this – there is absolutely no proof that quantum immortality is true. Having said that, let’s look at an idea that could be a very quick way to win a lot of money if it is true.

Steps to winning a whole load of money easily, given the premise that quantum immortality is true:

  1. create a program that can read a lottery website and check its numbers
  2. create a device which can release a load of carbon monoxide into a room when triggered
  3. create another device which can detect when you are fully asleep
  4. buy a lottery ticket
  5. set up the program and two devices, so that on the night of the lottery, after the lottery has run and its numbers have been published to its website, the program will trigger the carbon monoxide to be released into the room after you are asleep, if the numbers checked do not match the numbers you bought.

Now, all you need to do is buy a lottery ticket, and on the night of the lottery, don’t check it for yourself, but just go to sleep.

You will wake up the next morning after winning the lottery the night before.

The alternative (that you did not win) results in you simply not waking up at all. Given that there are an infinite number of universes, and that “you” are the conscious emergent property of your memories and neural functions, and memories are properties of physical neuron layouts (of which there are infinite copies in the infinite universes), then “you” are the person that wakes up the next day, after winning the lottery the night before.

There are ethical problems with this. Let’s say the chance of winning the lottery was 1 in 1,000,000. For every universe in which you win the lottery, there are now 999,999 universes where you are dead. Of course you don’t experience those universes, but those people you left behind did.

Does that matter? They are, by definition, in completely different universes from the one you experience, so does it really matter?

I’ll leave that to “you” to decide.

And, of course, another reminder that if quantum immortality does not exist, then you have just killed yourself. Painlessly, let’s make it clear, and you were not aware of it happening, but you are nonetheless very dead. Keep that in mind, and don’t do the above.

[edit – May 15] – as pointed out on FaceBook, if QI is true, it is much more likely that you will screw this up and just damage your lungs very badly, than that you will successfully create a suicide machine on win the lottery.

yet another update

Time flies. I keep on planning to do things, and then failing to do them because there isn’t enough time, in between working 12 hours a day and trying not to fall asleep as soon as I get home.

I finished the basics of my next book, Live Forever, which I put up in website form so I can figure out through statistics which pages (a lot of them!) need work. Tonight, I’m working on the Cancer chapter so haven’t put that in there yet.

Over the weekend, I hope to get a start on a new project, which will help to design 100% nutrition diets based on common supermarket produce. There are known recommended daily allowances (RDAs) for all nutrients, but when you make your dinner, you don’t calculate an optimal meal because it’s just not practical or easy. The new project is designed to get around that by offering meal plans that are affordable and personalisable (you will be able to put your preferences into it). We’ll see if that gets off the ground!

In CoderDojo, some of my students (I really mentor them, more than teach, but what do you call someone you mentor? Mentoree?) are working on some interesting projects for this year’s Coder Dojo conference and next year’s Young Scientist. Two examples: programmable magnetic levitation, and a laser harp.

In work, we’ve moved beyond the frantic development stage that all companies go through, and are now in stabilisation mode, making sure the system is bulletproof and can scale well beyond current needs. I still find it interesting, even though the work I’m doing at the moment is not flashy and user-visible. Today, for example, I was writing a logging system to make sure that even though users access our mobile servers in a “round robin” method at the moment and the logs of their visits are therefore scattered among the servers, I can still aggregate them on the other end into something that can be searched easily. Not flashy, but quietly satisfying.

Live Forever – the blog

This short article is an introduction to what I’m trying to achieve here, and how.

I started writing a book on how to live forever a few years ago, but never got much beyond the first few pages.

It’s becoming more and more probable that the first person to live to two hundred has already been born, so I wanted to create a book that would describe the current state of research, and ideas on how we can achieve full immortality (not just life extension)/

I have enough content in the book now that I can start putting together a website for it.

My idea is that by putting the entire content of the book online, I can use split-testing to try make it better, by carefully analysing what pages of the book lead to people moving onto the next page, etc.

With the book, I am trying to be as factual as possible about everything, with references for everything that might be contentious.

For the most part, the book’s content is general knowledge – don’t smoke, avoid obesity, exercise – but there is a lot of stuff that people don’t know about, and that sounds really crazy (for want of a better word!) at first hearing.

You’ve probably never heard of NAD+, FOXO4 peptides, or telomere lengthening, for example.

These are properly researched methods to keep your body’s cells young. You will have heard, for example, that red wine is good for you because of something called Resveretrol. Well, David Sinclair, the scientist behind that research went on to research something else called NAD. It turns out there is very solid evidence that this extends life in mice, and there are human trials that suggest the same thing. Of course, we live longer than mice, so we won’t be certain of this for a long time, but the evidence is strong enough that Sinclair and his team take the NMN supplement themselves (which increases NAD in your cells).

On the crazy side, I’ve also written about Quantum Immortality – the idea that you cannot die, because there are infinite universes and there will always be at least one in which you (or an exact clone, right down to the memories) will wake up tomorrow – which is not really as mad as it sounds. Especially if you compare it with some ideas that various religions state as fact.

Quantum Immortality – Organ Transplants

Organ Transplants

The human body evolved to reproduce, and then last just a while longer to help to raise the young after that. The fact that we live so long these days raises problems, because our bodies are not “designed” to do so!

There is no good evolutionary reason for a body to last very long after the reproductive age has been reached, yet we try our best to stave off death a while, by replacing the aging and dying parts of our bodies with younger, healthier parts.

A short history

The first successful transplant was in 1905, and was the cornea of an eye.

Nothing much happened after that for almost fifty years, and then after a stuttering start, medical research started producing wonder after wonder.

If you count the number of new transplant types that have been completed in each decade, the curve is unmistakable – we are fast on our way to being able to transplant virtually anything at all from one person to another. [1]

Donor shortfall

While organ transplantation is becoming easier over time, there is a problem with supply.

In order for you to receive a new kidney (for example), someone else must donate one of theirs. This involves finding someone with a similar body chemistry to yours, so the organ isn’t rejected, and also hoping that the person is willing to donate the kidney.

If no live donor is available, then you need to hope that someone dies to provide you with their kidney. This is a tragic thing to hope for.

A kidney is a best-case scenario, as humans have two each, so the donor can survive without it.

But if you need a heart, then the donor will most likely be dead before you get it. And you’d better hope that the donor didn’t die of heart disease!

The problem that there are simply not enough donors for each needed organ is a huge one. [2]

There is also a problem that organs can only survive so long outside the body, so once a donor has provided its organs, the organs must be transplanted nearly immediately, or they will die.

The current way to transport organs to the transplanting hospital is by freezing them so that decay is minimal. But even this can cause cell damage as ice crystals form and break apart the cells.

Luckily, these problems are also being solved.

Only this week, as I write, there is news of a liver-preserving machine which you can hook a liver up to. This device will then keep the liver alive, by emulating a living body. In essence, the liver does not know that it is no longer in a body, and continues functioning. [3]

Now that this has been done for livers, it can be expected that similar news will be announced in the next few years for almost every other organ.

Artificial Organs

The shortfall problem, that there are simply not enough donors per required organ, can be fixed with artificial organs.

Organs are generally very difficult to replace, as they do quite a number of different things. But some of the simpler organs have already been successfully replicated.

An obvious example is the heart. The first successful artificial hearts (not a pacemaker, but an actual pump) were created in the 1982. While their recipients lasted only 112 days and two years respectively after surgery, that’s still time that the patients didn’t have without the hearts.

This artificial heart design was primitive by present-day standards, but encouraged further research.

Artificial hearts are usually used as “bridges”, to keep a patient alive while waiting for a donor to supply a “real” heart. But sometimes, the artificial heart’s help gives the patients’ own heart enough rest to heal itself, and a transplant is no longer needed. [4]

Almost every organ can be replaced, given enough time and research.

Ears can be replaced with cochlear implants.

Eyes can be replaced, but artificial eye resolution is still very low. There are many different threads of research ongoing in this area. [5]

Some of the more “bag-like” organs can be very successfully replaced right now with artificial versions.

Bladders, trachea, arteries; these can all be created from stem-cells and/or plastics.

Legs and arms deserve a full chapter. There is some amazing work being done in these areas.

The most difficult organs (in the body itself) to replace are the pancreas, liver, lungs, and kidneys. These perform specialised functions, and currently, artificial versions are not small enough to implant.

I expect to hear within a year or two of the first completely artificial kidney implant. There already is an implantable artificial kidney available, but it’s a lot larger than a natural kidney.

In the future, I expect that the only organ that you will not be able to replace, will be the brain itself. Not because it can’t be moved, of course, but because the brain is your identity – there is no point replacing your brain with someone else’s.

However, having said that, if your entire body was failing, you could transplant your brain into a younger body.

There are a number of reasons you should not hope for this to happen, though.

For one example, in order for you to do a brain transplant, there must be a younger body available for you to transplant into. But if a younger body is available and it is healthy, then it makes greater ethical logic to offer its organs to save multiple people, instead of just you.

For you to get a whole new body all to yourself, you would need to provide it yourself, and i can’t think of any legal or even close to ethical way that you could do this!

If it turns out you need a whole new body, you’re probably better off looking into brain uploads instead, which will be discussed later in the book. Currently, brain uploading is not possible, but the technology should be ready soon; probably sooner than the first successful brain transplant.

Conclusion

In this chapter, you learned a short history of organ transplants.

There is currently a shortfall of available donor organs.

Artificial replacements are available for some organs, and others are on the way.

The only organ that will never be replaced fully is the brain, but we’ll talk more about that in a later chapter.

Quantum Immortality – Life Expectancy

Life Expectancy

Life expectancy is an estimate of how long a person is likely to live. It is difficult to give a single number as the answer, as it depends what country we’re talking about, how old the person is, whether the person is male or female, and other parameters.

But, let’s throw out some numbers anyway.

How long do people live?

The average life expectancy of a newborn baby is currently about 67 years. This means that each baby born today will on average live to about 67 years.

That number might not sound very large, but it’s more than twice as long as in any other era of humanity. Even just one hundred years ago, life expectancy was only 31 years! [1]

This number does not mean that a person that is born today is constrained by the number 67 and will definitely die at that age. Life expectancy is what we currently expect a person to die at. This changes over time as we develop new medicines, better understanding of how the human body works, and better surgeries to replacing aging or faulty organs. We are not constrained by the limits of medicine at the moment of our birth. We can expect to take advantage of new medicines as they develop through our lifetimes. [2]

There is a very important distinction to be made here.

The above numbers are average numbers, in that they take into account all people of that time, including those that take care of themselves, those that don’t take care of themselves, those that live in wealthy countries, those that live in poor countries.

It makes sense to say that a person who lives in a more wealthy country and takes care of themselves, will live longer than a person who lives in a poor country and doesn’t take care of themselves.

Because life expectancy increases over time as our researches figure out more and more, the longer we live, the more likely we are to live even longer.

For example, let’s consider diseases such as HIV/AIDS and cancer. in the 20th century, being diagnosed with either of those was virtually a death sentence. But today, there is a “functional cure” for AIDS, and there are a number of potential cures for cancer also being worked on. All you need to do is survive long enough for the research to find better solutions, and those diseases will no longer be a concern for you.

Preventing the common causes of death

Currently, the top five killers of humans are: [3]

  1. heart diseases (cardiovascular)
  2. infectious/parasitic diseases
  3. heart diseases (ischemic)
  4. cancer
  5. stroke

So, logically, if you try to avoid those problems, then you should be much less likely to die in any particular year.

This means exercise, avoiding or cutting down on toxic habits such as alcohol and smoking, and avoiding stress. [4]

If you are serious about living forever, then you should read about each of the above causes of death, and try to change your habits so you are less likely to die of them.

If we add Quantum Immortality into the conversation here, then you could say that you don’t need to make any change at all to your habits, as you will survive everything that is thrown at you, through sheer statistics.

But, there is a very big difference between “surviving” and “living”.

Heart attacks hurt. A friend of mine, who had his first heart attack at age 32, described the pain as “like a truck sitting on my chest”. He survived that heart attack and at least one more, and is currently 52 years old and very healthy, but I’m certain he would have preferred not to have had the heart attack in the first place!

I have lost a few friends to cancer. In some cases, the cancer came and took the person within a year or two of diagnosis. In one very lucky case, the cancer (leukemia) took nearly twenty years to take the person even though the doctors said she had only a few months to live.

Cancer is not currently curable, but it is certainly preventable. [5] There are a number of potential cures being worked on at the moment, so Quantum Immortality says that you will survive cancer long enough to get cured. Or at least long enough to go onto a course that maintains your current state and then eventually you can be cured. But, considering that cancer is preventable in most cases, it is better that you don’t get it in the first place.

A look at Influenza

It’s worth looking back in time at how the list I wrote above has changed.

In the early 20th century, the number one killer was infectious diseases such as influenza. Infectious diseases is currently the number two killer, but Influenza is much less fatal now than it was then.

Influenza still kills tens of thousands of people every year, but as we learn more about it, it becomes less and less dangerous.

The worst deaths occur during “pandemics”, when fatal forms of influenza evolve and kill a huge number of people before we figure out how to solve the problem.

There were three quantified pandemics during the 20th century. Each of them killed less people than the pandemic before it on the list:

Killed Year Name
50,000,000 1918-1920 Spanish Flu
1,500,000 1957-1958 Asian Flu
1,000,000 1968-1969 Hong Kong Flu

One of the major reasons for the decrease in numbers is vaccination.[6]

Vaccination involves injecting a dead version of the virus into your body so your immune system can figure out how to defend itself against it. Then when the real thing comes along, you might get sick for a while, but you are much less likely to die.

There has so far been one pandemic in the 21st century, called the Swine Flu pandemic.

Only about 16,000 people died this time. [7]

I think the most important thing to take from this is to realise that the effort that we (as a race) put into solving the most common causes of death, is paid off with an increase in longevity in the general human population.

We live much healthier lives these days than people in the early 20th century, and it’s not like we actively put any effort into it – it’s almost like we “absorb” healthy lifestyles by osmosis. Our friends exercise so we exercise as well. Our friends drink less or smoke less so we do the same.

Our environment is improving, and we are improving along with it.

Conclusion

In this chapter, we learned that humans are on average living twice as long now as they have ever lived before.

We also looked at the top five causes of death, and how prevention of these causes is actually not all that difficult.

We also looked back in time at how one of the historical number one causes of death is not such a huge deal these days because of medical advances.

Quantum Immortality

Quantum Immortality


At the time of writing, the oldest person ever to have lived was Jeanne Calment, who died at age 122 years, 164 days in 1997.

It is my belief that you, the person reading this book, will far outlive Jeanne. In fact, you will simply not die, ever.

And you won’t have to take up a special diet, or join a religious order – it’s just a consequence of how reality works.

This is an outrageous claim, so I need to explain how it works.

How does Quantum Immortality work?


Quantum Mechanics (QM) is one of the most accurately tested theories of how the universe works. QM is hard to understand, but its predictions have been tested and retested for a century, and have held up. [1] [2]

QM says that every time anything happens, every single possible version of the event happens, and one is “chosen” to become real (to “cohere”). This is described as “collapsing the wave”, or “quantum coherence”.

There is a very interesting interpretation of QM that leaves out the collapse, and simply says that all versions of the event happen, and each can be said to be separate versions of reality; each of which is as real as the one you are in right this moment. This is known as the “many-worlds interpretation”. [3]

A consequence of the many-worlds interpretation is something called “quantum immortality” [4]. It’s also known as quantum suicide, but that’s a rather negative name for something so extraordinary and life-changing.

The idea is basically this:

  1. Let’s say you are lying in a hospital bed dying, and the doctors say you have a 50/50 chance of living to see another day.
  2. The next day arrives.
  3. Because there was a 50/50 chance of living or dying, the many-worlds interpretation says that you are dead in half of the newly branched universes, and alive in the other half.
  4. You cannot experience being dead, so you wake up that morning and dare the doctors to come up with another prediction.


This works, whether the prediction was 50/50, ¼, 1 in a million, whatever! If there is even the slightest chance that you will survive, then you will survive.

Do other people die?


You have probably attended funerals, or lost friends to accidents, disease, old age.

Your question at this time is: if quantum immortality is true, then why are those people dead?

Well, let’s consider the case of cousin Bob, who died after his car brakes failed and he slammed into a car. You are at his funeral, wondering why Quantum Immortality doesn’t mean that he’s alive.

There are many ways that this could have played out – the car brakes don’t fail, the brakes fail and the car misses the tree and slides to a halt in a muddy field, the brakes fail and the car hits the tree and Bob is thrown clear through the window and survives with a broken leg, or the brakes fail and there is a funeral held a few days later, where you wonder what happened to Quantum Immortality.

The fact that you are attending a funeral means that you are conscious of a reality where Bob did not survive. Bob is not conscious of this reality, so for Bob, this reality is not real. But for you, it certainly is.

Bob could have survived the accident in many ways, and because Quantum Immortality says that Bob can only be aware of versions of reality where he can be aware, this funeral simply did not happen. The Many-Worlds interpretation says that every possibility is its own reality, so Bob actually survived his accident and this is all a non-issue for him.

Unfortunately for you, you will never speak to Bob again – he’s dead in your reality. But, you can take heart in knowing that he’s alive and well in his own reality.

This, by the way, has huge “spiritual” implications. It means that everyone lives forever, even if you see them die. All you saw was one possible version of that person dying, but you need to keep in mind that every possible version of that person exists, and at this moment, the versions which could possibly be alive somewhere are alive.

This means that there is no true death. You may see people die, but they actually experience something different. You might see someone breathe their last on a deathbed, but in their own experience, they took that one last breath, and followed it with another and yet another, until they finally got over their ailment and got out of bed.

But what about when the odds are against you?


Naysayers may say that in some cases, it’s just too unlikely that survival could happen.

Let’s say, for example, that you fall from a tall building, and there is a one in a million chance that you land on a car roof (like in so many films), and a further one in a million chance that you survive this and get off the car roof and go about your business.

Well, that’s a one in a trillion chance that you survive the fall. That couldn’t possibly happen, right?

QM says that every single possible event has a probability, and the many worlds interpretation says that they all have their own realities.

So, in most realities, you might slam into the ground and you are dead, full-stop.

Then there are the realities where you fall a little to the left or right of that spot, closer to the parked cars, but still die. And then there are further realities where a car is driving along the road below and you just miss it and slam into the road behind it.

Each of those realities are real. But you are not aware of them.

You are only aware of the realities where either a gust of wind blew you enough that you landed on a parked car, or you landed on the moving car below.

Even then, there’s a million to one chance that impact with the car roof kills you.

Well, guess what? Million to one chances are a dime a dozen to QM. In Quantum Mechanics there are practically an infinity of possible results, so there are an infinite number of worlds in which you are a survivor.

Sounds great, right? Want to go jump off a building now to test it? Don’t.

You see, even though Quantum Immortality says that you will survive, it does not say that you’ll be all in one piece…

You will survive the fall, but you will very likely break most of your important bones, and be in hospital for months or years before you can hobble out. It’s survival, but it’s not nice.

Conclusion


So, let’s summarise then with this:

You will live forever.

You will see people die over the years, but should be happy that they are living forever in their own realities.

Even though you are essentially immortal, you can still be hurt badly, so don’t do stupidly dangerous things.