Saturday, June 2, 2012
At first glance it might seem that this poll is asking the same question as the previous one, since both use the same quote from Sir Martin Rees. The previous poll asked for people to agree or disagree with this statement: "In his book 'Just Six Numbers', cosmologist Martin Rees says this: 'if the Earth's history were re-run, it could end up with a quite different biosphere.' This demonstrates that there is not just one inevitable timeline for our universe."
Why ask such similar questions? What I was trying to discern was whether visitors to this blog would be more inclined to disagree if I specifically brought "choice" into the discussion. After all, couldn't someone still argue that free will is an illusion while acknowledging that the quantum wave function and cosmology allow for randomness to occur? As it turns out, the responses to both of those polls saw very similar results, and if anything we saw a slight increase in agreement when the word "choice" was added.
Clearly, this skewing has more to do with the fact that people who are fans of my "new way of thinking about time and space" are the ones more likely to be answering these poll questions. I do find it interesting, though, to see the scientific studies which indicate that our decision-making processes happening "behind the scenes" choose one action over another substantially sooner than when our conscious minds feel they are making the decision. For these studies to say free will is an illusion, though, they have to ignore the probabilistic nature of our quantum reality, insisting that only one possible outcome exists, so no matter how far back in time we trace the electro-chemical processes that resulted in a decision being made, we have to assume that only one outcome could possibly have occurred.
There is a way to acknowledge these probabilistic outcomes that we've talked about before: it's called decoherence. There is a wave function of possible outcomes. One outcome is observed, at which point the other outcomes no longer matter because they are now "decoherent" to the universe we are observing. But the very same logic works for discussing free will: by choosing to turn left at this intersection, I am now not part of the universe where I chose to turn right. Everett's Many Words Interpretation says both universes continue to exist, while the dogma embraced by the majority of quantum physicists in the twentieth century was that the wave function is collapsed, and those other possibilities disappear.
Which viewpoint is correct? I'm with Everett on this one, which will be no surprise to anyone familiar with this project. Why does it matter? Because Everett was willing to accept that these branching timelines were still probabilistically connected. Which means that even if I made a decision that turned out to be wrong today, I can still choose a different action tomorrow, and eventually end up in the universe where I did make the right choice right from the beginning. Until some major "cusp" event occurs which splits me apart irrevocably, I continue on as a part of a probabilistic cloud of possible "me"s that Everett says really do exist. For me, that gives me hope for the future, and a reason to believe that what's occurring right here and right now is not just randomness. Embrace your probability space!
And enjoy the journey.
Next: Creating Wormholes - Getting Closer
Reading: Poll 93 - One Inevitable Future?Post Link to Twitter
Posted by Rob Bryanton at 3:16 AM