It was less than a year ago that I had "an epiphany" (well, more a eureka kind of experience, not the way I usually make breakthroughs)... about "where we exist," where our consciousness actually lies in the greater physical universe we inhabit.
Until then... I was grounded in a kind of "common sense," like almost everyone else on earth. I long ago gave up the "common sense" which says that"down is down" and thus that the world is flat.
I had outgrown the kind of "common sense" which is unable to accept the idea that time is just another physical dimension. But I still tacitly assumed the idea that "we," our consciousness," is basically just a pattern or form of the matter which comprises our universe. Crudely, "yeah, we are just globs in the universe, mainly occupying some volume of that universe." I later realized that there are more kinds of matter and life than I noticed at first, but the basic principle was still there. It's like the Rosicrucians who say: "We do not believe in anything supernatural. It's just that the laws of nature are a bit bigger than most of you seem to recognize as yet."
That's where I was. I knew about the many-worlds theories of quantum mechanics, which say that
the cosmos or multiverse is infinite dimensional, made up of more universes co-existing in parallel than our universe has stars. But I didn't believe them. I knew we could explain what we see in physics in an ultraconservative model, a model so simple even Einstein might accept it (maybe, if he doesn't mind the possibility of just a few dice in there).
BUT THEN: this past year, as I worked out how such an ultraconservative model actually plays out, in some simple experiments in optics ("what does a photon do when it goes through your sunglasses?"), the shock came. In a string of thought... comparing that photon in a polarizer to me in the polarizing environment of the US government at the time... I realized that CONSCIOUSNESS is a pattern or form pertaining to SCENARIOS within that universe, not to ultimate outcomes as such.
Thus IN PRACTICE, we humans get to live in a world of parallel universes -- really, parallel SCENARIOS -- rather than the one true objective reality. I am still assimilating what this really means for our lives.
My immediate responses: Plato's idea that we are like shadows projected onto the walls of a cave is a lot closer to truth than I expected. "Changing the past" was totally impossible, inherently, in the old view of consciousness; the old view was like "the Oxford standard theory of time travel" in the novels Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis, or like the theory implicit in the novel Chronoliths.
There is lots of science fiction about changing the past, but it is mostly ... not so clear in its assumptions. The new story reminded me more of a chapter by Poul Anderson in the Far Futures collection (maybe sci fi, maybe imaginative futurism). It also reminded me of Zelazny's Amber series, and a few threads in the Dune sequence. Another cosmos altogether from what I had assumed.
Yet old habits die hard. When we talk about survival of the human species, I have agonized a lot about "what is the probability that we go extinct within a few thousand years?" That's a complicated theme in itself... but... it ignores the fact that the future of our timeline is not the same as the future of humanity. What if we start thinking of our timeline as just one of the threads in a larger system, like a thread within a quantum computer as conceived by David Deutsch?
Before last year, ever so much of my life revolved around elaboration and understanding of two mathematical objects, which I call J and lambda. There are important English and Chinese words which partially translate key aspects of these central mathematical objects -- words like hope and fear, qi, prana, cathexis, charisma, values, prices, whatever. Knowing the mathematical core is very important in many spheres, to making correct decisions among other things. But decisions today are so ignorant and scary that the issue of extinction is quite serious. (Shelby doesn't quite get it that he is actually murdering his own grandchildren as he displays his unquestionable power to do so.)
But now, there is another "simple" scalar object, the Z term in the new physics, which might be translated as the "destiny" or "judgment" term. It appears in my article recently published in International Journal of Bifurcation and Chaos, and in the article submitted to QIP. Just as my lambda in ADP can be described as an extension or generalization of old lambda vectors very familiar in linear programming and microeconomics, this new Z is an extension of things very familiar in thermodynamics (but no, not so much like the Z of Feynmann path physics).
Does it "feel like" Anderson's story? Will our suicidal actions end up dialing down the Z of our timeline, to he point where information exchanged with other timelines is our main useful product here?
I wonder in some detail, but there are limits even to my willingness to go too far in print.
Best of luck,