Book recommendation Re: [FoRK] Re: anybody remember...

Jeff Bone <jbone at place.org> on Wed Jul 11 07:01:09 PDT 2007

On Jul 11, 2007, at 8:40 AM, Eugen Leitl wrote:

> On Wed, Jul 11, 2007 at 07:57:30AM -0400, Jeff Bone wrote:
>
>> Very true...  but some folks on the list (e.g. Standish) claim that
>> their various hypotheses are indeed falsifiable.  AFAIK nobody's
>> claimed that for "Quantum Immortality"...  that in particular's not a
>> hypotheses I'd care to test. :-)
>
> http://space.mit.edu/home/tegmark/everett/everett.html
>
> ...
>
> Everett was a committed atheist. He once claimed he had a
> disproof of the Catholic faith. (He chose not to share this
> "disproof" with Lynch. He said he had shared it once with
> someone who was strongly Catholic and also strongly committed
> to logic, and that person was driven to suicide. Everett was
> afraid that Lynch would promptly use it on Catholics.)
> Atheist or not, Everett firmly believed that his many-worlds
> theory guaranteed him immortality: His consciousness, he argued,
> is bound at each branching to follow whatever path does not
> lead to death —and so on ad infinitum. (Sadly, Everett's
> daughter Liz, in her later suicide note, said she was going
> to a parallel universe to be with her father. [149a])

There's an anecdote in the book (which I don't recall from the list,  
though apparently it was discussed there) about whether one who had  
the courage of their convictions could use "QTI" to, say, win the  
lottery.  Imagine that you construct a device that has a gun, or a  
number of guns, that will fire or not depending on whether the weekly  
lottery results, when broadcast, match your ticket.  You (the  
hypothetical QTI believer) buy a ticket, flip on the TV for the  
weekly lottery results, and sit down in the device secure in your  
knowledge that you are about to win the lottery!  (I.e., if the  
ticket doesn't match, you lose, the guns fire, and you die;  if you  
win, you live.)  Since QTI "guarantees" subjective immortality, you  
will experience winning the lottery and surviving.

Several problems with this;  the likelihood of any such real device  
malfunctioning and failing to kill you --- perhaps only maiming you  
badly --- is far greater than the likelihood of winning the lottery.   
And too bad for all those countless other phase-space slices where  
your friends and family see you die.  But assume that the device can  
be constructed in an absolutely reliable manner (never mind the  
physical impossibility of this, or all the other unlikely but more  
likely than winning the lottery scenarios that might "save" you...   
it's a thought experiment.  Kids, don't try this at home!)

The problem with QTI is that it's --- by virtue of the very  
subjectivity that's at the core of the argument --- not objectively  
falsifiable.  If it's true, and you happen to win the lottery during  
the experiment above, you'd have a pretty good idea that QTI was  
true.  But if it's false, you would never know it;  and seeing  
somebody off themselves in this peculiar fashion says nothing at all  
about the "truth" or falsity of the hypothesis.

So yeah, not a particularly good piece of science.  Rather  
entertaining to contemplate, though...

jb




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