Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Many Worlds Theory


by Madeleine Kando

I heard a snippet on public radio the other day about a new technology that allows a viewer to change the outcome of a movie. Plymouth University researcher Alexis Kirke has developed a technique that reads the minds (and bodies) of the audience by measuring heart rate, muscle tension, brainwave activity and perspiration, to monitor their reaction. Several versions of a movie are shot in advance and depending on the audience's 'reaction', the appropriate version of the next scene if selected.

It's too bad this wasn't available when so many great movies were made way back when. I have always been in the habit of mentally rewriting the ending of movies. Take a movie like 'The Manchurian Candidate'. The Soviets capture and brainwash Raymond Shaw (played by Lawrence Harvey) to become an assassin for their cause. He is supposed to kill the US Presidential Candidate, but after unwittingly shooting his sweetheart who happens upon the scene, Raymond instead takes revenge and shoots his mother, who is the 'operative' in the plot. The movie ends tragically when Raymond shoots himself after realizing what he has done and has been forced to become.

I fantasized so many times about the ending of this movie. Marco, Raymond's army buddy, played by Frank Sinatra, opens the door to the small sound booth where Raymond has positioned himself, just too late to prevent Raymond from quickly pointing his rifle at himself and pull the trigger. Why the hell didn't Marco climb the stairs a bit faster?

I read somewhere that in quantum physics, nothing is certain, as proven by the imaginary 'Schrodinger's Cat' experiment in which the cat inside his box is both dead and alive, until you actually look inside and only then does the poor cat have to make a choice. There are two potential cats, one is alive and the other is dead. It's the act of looking that determines the outcome. (Actually there are an infinite number of potential cats in the box, all waiting to collapse into a real cat).


Ever since I was a child, I have always hated the finality of the physical world. The best part of childhood is that you are under the illusion that everything is possible. Like in quantum physics, everything is 'potential'. Why cannot we just keep making things up as we go along? Obviously some life events are 'all or nothing' affairs. You cannot be a little bit born and when you are dead you are dead. But between those two repulsively final stages, we could choose which version of our life to live and if we didn't like it, just switch to another one. Just like the cat, there is an infinite number of versions of us out there.

So we could start modestly by testing our blood pressure and perspiration when we reach puberty, to see if we are more suited to be a woman or a man. (The minor hurdle of being endowed with certain anatomical features is easily fixable these days, so we wouldn't even have to collapse into another version of ourselves).

We could test the waters when it's time to find a partner and pro-create. We could suddenly decide to switch to an old lover instead of our current boring husband, or just go for the 'no babies for me' version of ourselves. Potentially they are all out there you see. We could test ourselves for certain physiological reactions to being in the proximity of animals, other human beings or plants and trees and let our heart rate monitors and electro-cardiograms help us avoid the agony of having to choose a career path.

As we prepare for the next stage in our life, the golden years, we could switch back to being a faithful wife to our abandoned husband, him being totally unaware that we ever left him.

It's unfortunate that life isn't a series of scenes like in a movie, where we can monitor our vital signs and choose a different version. But if all these copies of ourselves in these other worlds would co-exist, it would turn us into blurry, gooey blobs without clear contours. We would be smart, stupid, big, small, ugly, beautiful and everything else imaginable. So, maybe it's much better this way. Like the expression goes: 'Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get'. Let’s keep it that way. leave comment here