Quantum Theory of Immortality


The term, 'Quantum Theory of Immortality' (QTI) was proposed in the paper, Does the Many-Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics Imply Immortality?, 1998 but the concept was mooted by Euan Squires in 1986 and has been arrived at independently by several people, perhaps as early as 1957. QTI implies that you should expect to live for ever, but nobody else can - i.e. the first person is immortal but the third person is not. The idea is based on the ediface above. The two key ideas are (1) Deutsch-Everett-MWI and (2) the assumption that you only experience those worlds in which you exist.

If QTI is true, that is not necessarily a good thing. You may indeed find that you survive attempted suicide (see Tegmark's Quantum Suicide Experiment) but in most worlds your relatives will be in mourning, and you will probably be in severe pain.

There is an ongoing debate about the validity of the argument, much of it on the basis of anthropic reasoning. At present there is no conclusive evidence to favour the Many-Worlds Interpretation over its competitors, and imprecision in the use of the concepts of identity and consciousness have hampered the resolution of the QTI question.

If you would like to find out more about the debate, please browse this site or visit the everything-list

James Higgo, July 1999

* Since writing this paper, I have developed my own position so that I now believe that a thought does not necessarily imply a thinker. All we are is our current thought, and there is no objective link to a 'future' thought. In fact, there is no time. This position leads to the same conclusion regarding mortality, however: we should not expect to die. - June 2000

James Higgo died on the 22nd of July, 2001