Conjecture #5: Quantum Solipsism (Part two)

“I’m not afraid of death.  I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”–Woody Allen

I conjecture:  In a Many Worlds quantum multiverse, each individual consciousness represents a distinctly different universe.

Part Two:  Quantum suicide and quantum immortality

Warning:  Professional stunt blogger.  Closed course.  Do not attempt at home.

To recap where we left off in our last episode,  the first part of Conjecture #5 suggested that, in a universe where the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics holds sway, each conscious entity represents its own distinct universe.   I called this Quantum Solipsism.  This differs somewhat from Conjecture #4, which suggested that in a universe governed, at least philosophically, by the Copenhagen interpretation,  our consciousness represents a composite of all the potential, but not real, universes.   This brings us to part two of Conjecture #5.

Quantum Immortality

Bold notions can sometimes breed extreme potential consequences.   When Hugh Everett posited the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum weirdness in 1954,  he didn’t just espouse it, he lived it.  He believed that in a world where every sub-atomic event splits off into a real alternate universe for every possible quantum outcome, that one’s own consciousness would always survive in some of them.  Quantum Immortality.  So he ate, drank and smoked himself to an early death–at least in the universe of everyone reading this post–by the age of 51.  His son expressed anger over his father’s failure to take care of himself.  His wife initially did not comply with his wishes to have his ashes disposed of in the trash, though eventually she did.   You think his views are extreme?  Or did he live on forever in a never ending series of alternate universes?  Consider this:  the quantum view of the second law of thermodynamics is purely a statistical one.  The reason all the air molecules in a room never seem to migrate to one corner is purely a matter of probability.  There are  staggering orders of magnitude more ways for them to be relatively evenly distributed.  But if every possible combination of such molecules actually exists as a real entity,  then somewhere  there is a universe where you suffocated last night because the air molecules in your bedroom did exactly that while you slept.   And somewhere, there is a universe where Hugh Everett’s ashes reassembled themselves and he woke up in a dumpster.

Quantum Suicide

This brings us to the ultimate in extreme ideas.  Quantum Suicide.  Originally conceived by Hans Morovec  in 1987 and further developed by Max Tegmark, it is a thought experiment designed to prove once and for all if the Many Worlds interpretation of Quantum Mechanics is correct.    If you recall from my Quantum Weirdness 101-107 series,  the Copenhagen interpretation sees the cat as neither dead, nor alive, until an intelligent observer intervenes.  The Many Worlds interpretation, sees the the creation of two separate universes, one each for a dead cat and a live cat, and the observer only finds out which one he is in when he looks in the box.   The quantum suicide gun re-creates the Schrodinger’s Cat experiment from the point of view of the cat.  Theoretically, it could prove the many world’s interpretation, though there are a couple of hitches.  If Many Worlds holds true,  the subject would be the only one it would be proved to;  if it does not hold true, the subject would be dead, period.  See the video below for a complete explanation, and as stated in the warning above, do not attempt this at home.  I sure won’t.  On the other hand, I can think of a few people I wish would try it…

(Video Credit: AliceandBobTV)


  1. Nobody would really suffocate if all molecules of our breathable air coincided to be so unusually close to each other that you would call it one place. That state would not persist long enough to deplete the oxygen from our blood. It probably wouldn’t even persist long enough for us to notice it. As for living a life of utter and reckless debauchery, it’s just stupid to say that any version of the self would live on in a different quantum universe. That wouldn’t matter anyway, because if that distinct biochemical copy of me lived on, I still wouldn’t be the one experiencing this other me. If we all shared consciousness with our multiversal counterparts, we wouldn’t be distinct – we would actually be accepting a Copenhagen view of quantum consciousness.

  2. Haha, love the disclaimer at the top! Now trying to wrap my head around the rest of the post 🙂

  3. Happy new year and best wishes to you and yours for health, happiness, peace & prosperity in 2015!

  4. Do you remember Carl Sagan’s series ” The Cosmos” I loved his original phrases and observations. The concept of quantum immortality is very much a biomathematical possibility😊

    • I never watched much of “Cosmos” back in the day. I can’t say I recall exactly why–maybe something about the production style disagreed with me. As for quantum immortality being a mathematical possibility? Well…maybe so, but I wouldn’t bet my life on it.

  5. I’m just sorry about Bob.

  6. please, i don’t understand quantum physics well, this possibility that solipsism is real and may have a logical basis, is making me very scared, how likely is that to be true?

    • Honestly? Who knows? I don’t. I will say that there is a very real component to it if the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum physics is true. But nobody knows that or even how to test for it. All evidence is circumstantial. But quantum solipsism isn’t the same as classical solipsism. At least, not the way I interpret it in this thread. Solipsism suggest only the self can be known to exist, and I would guess that in an extreme case, the assertion that only the self exists. My read on quantum solipsism, in a Many Words contest, is that each conscious entity exists in its own series of parallel universes but that we interact tangentially with those around us and do assert an influence on their parallel universe. I suggest reading the quantum weirdness thread on this web site

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