How to believe in Immortality
I'm aware that this may turn off some people. That's okay. Jump to the bottom if this is you.
For a few hundred years now, the general scientific consensus has been that immortality is at best unknowable, and at worst, ignorant superstition. I saw a scientist the other day say that we now know immortality to be impossible.
Which I find funny, because I think the bigger problem in a few years is going to be which immortality do we want? But more on that later.
Modern science tells us one major fact: we live in a multitude of universes. I saw a Discovery Channel program the other day talking about 5 different kinds of other universes that probably exist. Every direction we look, we bump into other universes interfering with things.
So it is highly probable that our universe is not alone.
Of particular interest are the universes that contain parallel histories. These universes branch off from ours at any incredible rate, spinning off different chains of time in which you ordered something other than your usual at Starbucks, and in which the breeze caught that girl's hair just a little differently, and in which presidential elections somehow didn't result in a massive outpouring of stupid commentary.
Every choice you've ever made actually went the other way. Every random meeting happened differently. Your parents raised you differently, you had different friends, you chose a different career, you went to a different school.
On the scale of the multiverse, you don't just have one history, you have millions.
This isn't really speculation. It's pretty much what science says. We might argue that science is not the philosophical be-all and end-all (and I do argue that), but it would be hypocritical of me to sit at a laptop connected to computers on the other side of the world, and deny the science that allows this all to exist.
But if we accept what science says about the universe, we have to accept that this redefines who we are. We are no longer individuals living out a narrow band of choices and circumstances; we are individuals diffused across a multitude of realities and histories. We aren't branches, we are trees. We aren't roads, we're interstate highway systems.
We're like massive rivers pouring across the multiverse.
And from that vantage point, we can see what death really is. It's not an end, it's a divergence. It's a rock in the stream - and our massive self simply flows around it.
You've had close calls before, when death brushed by and narrowly missed. But from a higher perspective it's clear that all of our close calls are points where reality put a stop to one line of history, and forced us into a different path. Different lines of our personal history come to an end, but rather than mark the end of our "self", they mark the end of one line of story.
Like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, we keep reading, and when we reach a dead end, we flip back and choose something different.
The only difference is that with Choose Your Own Adventure books, you always eventually ran out of options. But in reality, there is no limit, there is no end. We keep expanding forever.
This is called quantum immortality.
It's weird, I'll give you that. I read about it when I was 13 years old, and have been living with the idea ever since. So I probably miss some of the strangeness, some of the horror (?) that this strikes in people.
But for me, when I encountered the concept, I instantly knew what it meant. I knew that I believed it. And I knew that it made me fearless.
Immortality was no longer something shady and far away, it was something I was experiencing right now.
Whatever you believe about immortality and death, I hope you can say the same thing. I hope that it makes you fearless.
I'd love to hear your thoughts.