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Quantum suicide

There’s this idea called quantum suicide. Let’s say you’re alone in a room, on a Wednesday, and you have a gun pointed at your head, and you pull the trigger. You will either hear a click, or you will hear nothing and just die. But imagine a universe of multiple worlds, a multiverse that branches off into infinity along with the endless possibilities of matter rearranging itself in every way possible. In this multiverse, at the moment you pull the trigger, one world splits into two: One in which your brains are splattered on the wall, and a second in which you hear a click. In that latter world, you pull the trigger again, and in one world your brains are splattered on the wall, while in a second you hear another click and become increasingly frustrated, or perhaps find Jesus and put down your weapon and make up with your ex-wife and volunteer at a soup kitchen during your time off from managing a parking garage downtown.

The obvious upshot to this idea of reality is that we are all immortal. That is, because it is impossible to experience your own death, you will never die. Your skidding car splits one world into two, one world where you are crushed beyond recognition and your relatives must hold a closed-casket ceremony, and a second where you gasp and look over at your buddy and then you both laugh like crazy because that was close. In one world, the cells metastasize, in another you never notice them. In one world, you get the contaminated cantaloupe, in the other your neighbor Andrew does, and you stand over his coffin at the wake thinking about how short life is.

But don’t you see? Life isn’t short. It is eternal. You will never die, or rather, you will always die and you will never die, but you will not be around to experience always dying, just never dying. This may be comforting to some. You will definitely make it to the singularity. Your consciousness will surge into eternity, maybe ending up as pure energy orbiting the sun, all by yourself, because one by one all the consciousnesses out there have been eliminated by losing this quantum game, and in the ever-branching multiverse, somewhere off into eternity, after watching everyone you know or love – actually, just everyone – get shunted off onto a different branch, you will end up on a branch all by yourself. It’s not eternal life: It’s a photo negative of death, where everything disappears but you.

Maybe someone out there has figured this out and can’t stand the horror of it. Maybe that person has survived bizarre accidents and close calls and reached the chilling conclusion that his consciousness will never be extinguished, and he and his loved ones are to be eventually, inevitably, separated and placed on their different branches of the multiverse, each consciousness orbiting a different Sun off into eternity, alone. And maybe that person wants to prove to himself that this is not what will happen.

Look in your newspaper. Watch the internet. Somewhere, there is a story of a man who has tried to kill himself again, and again, and again. The story says he has finally succeeded. But maybe, somewhere, he has not.

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