In our early years other people decide our direction in life. What to eat, what to wear, where to go to school and many other choices are made for us without a lot of input from us. As we grow older, most of us gain the responsibility to make decisions for ourselves. The outcome of these decisions can be both good and bad, which shapes our being going forward. According to one interpretation of quantum mechanics, all of our outcomes still exist in alternate or parallel universes that are equal in reality but do not come into contact with one another.
Hugh Everett (1930-1982) was an American physicist who first proposed what he called the many-worlds interpretation. He grew up in Catholic school and received his undergraduate degree from Catholic University of America before moving on to Princeton. He is the father of indie rocker Mark Oliver Everett, who is known as the lead singer for the band Eels. Everett enjoyed reading science fiction and he actually read Dianetics before the church of Scientology was formed into what it is today (Everett did not become a follower). Later on in life Everett became a devout atheist, which is an awesome oxymoron.
Since this is a schmoey blog and not The New Yorker, I will explain Everett’s theory quickly before jumping into the more entertaining stuff. When Everett measured a particle, there were two possible outcomes: It was either measured as a particle or a wave. The universe is actually duplicated, splitting one outcome (particle) into one universe and the other outcome (wave) into its own distinctive but parallel universe. When this theory is applied to our everyday lives, Everett states that even before we carry out (or not carry out) a decision, two outcomes have already been determined.
As for our outcomes, scientists have many different interpretations on Everett’s theory but I feel the most entertaining and easiest way to chart outcomes is with a Bell curve. The first Bell curve in 1994 was a chart that reflected the correlation between class structure and intelligence in the United States, but many different disciplines have generated data that produced a chart like a Bell curve, which, yes, is shaped like a bell (or almost like the Snapchat logo). So let’s make an X-Y axis and chart what I’m up to in my other 26,734,378,449 universes.
In 10% of my universes, I’m either dead or infamous. At age 10, I got hit by that speeding car through the alley instead of narrowly escaping injury. At age 34, I didn’t notice that truck blowing through a red light and I turned left into the path of it. In college I got hooked on heroin and never recovered. Growing up in a broken home I was subject to many forms of abuse and I evolved into a violent criminal. The first two sentences I wrote were based on real experiences I remember. The last two sentences are fiction but if I experienced different outcomes during the course of my life, these events could have happened.
In 20% of my universes, I’m worse off than my current self. My wife realized she was married to a schmo, so she divorced me. I have involuntarily lived at my parent’s house all my life, so I’m the real life 40-year-old virgin. I married the wrong woman and we live in poverty. I can’t find meaningful employment because of my past criminal record.
In 40% of my universes, I’m living about the same. My wife and I bought the house that we viewed prior to the one we live in now. We had a daughter instead of a son. I’m typing this post on Blogspot. I graduated from a different college but with the same degree.
In 20% of my universes, I’m better off than my current self. I landed a great job when my wife and I moved back to Pittsburgh in 2008, which evolved into two promotions and a vice president position in 2014. We didn’t do the “lease to buy” option on our Nissan. I paid off my college loans instead of refinancing them twice. Dad is still alive, and I get along with my side of the family.
In 10% of my universes, I am famous and I have great influence on the masses. I was the first rap/hip-hop artist from Pittsburgh to make it big on a national and/or world stage, Wiz Khalifa came along years later. You follow me on Twitter and I tweet WAY more than Kayne West. Last year I was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame after an accomplished college and professional career. There is one particular universe that has an absurd but beneficial outcome.
In universe 18,326,817,904 famous astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson hates my guts. In 2011 I convinced the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to reinstate Pluto as the ninth planet, and during this time I discovered planets ten, eleven and twelve in our solar system. I also convinced the IAU that they should allow any business or individual to submit a bid request for naming rights to one of the planets. The proceeds would go to a charitable endowment fund which would benefit children around the globe. The bids generated $2 billion. The tenth planet is called Nike, the eleventh Sir Richard Branson and the twelfth iPlanet. Sir Richard Branson is on the board of directors for the endowment.
One life. That’s life as we know it. Some of us believe when we die, nothing happens. Some believe we go to Heaven or hell. Everett’s interpretation of life sounds absurd, but what I believe as a current Methodist and former Roman Catholic sounds absurd to a few billion people around the world as well. Everett’s theory states there are two outcomes to each decision. If we all make good choices that benefit others, maybe all of us can experience more peace than pain in this universe that we all share. That’s something we should all believe in.