I’ve just come back from weekend seven at The Quest Institute in London and, whilst it’s been really interesting and full of learning, hasn’t yet grabbed me by the throat and shoved another blog topic at me though I’m pretty sure one will evolve because we covered a lot of ground over the last two days.
Then, when I got home, it hit me.
Who the hell am I? What is it about me that makes me the me that’s sitting here blogging to you and you’re the you that’s spending precious time in role of bloggee trying to work out what strange and convoluted concept the me that’s me is trying to get across to you this time?
We’re going to get messy in an existentially scientific mix of space time, emergent property and cellular biology, so if you’ve the stomach for the journey, strap in and let me know if any of this still makes sense by the end. By the way, I do realise that the last statement does presuppose that some sense is being made so far. I’ll leave that judgement up to you.
Now, obviously Quantum Determinism leads to the fundamental principle that, when combined with Reversibility, the content of any present wave function subject to changes must abide by the output of the corresponding evolution operator, I mean, who would expect anything else, right? The evolution operator always has an inverse, so the uniqueness of this opposition leads inexorably to the consequence that the information contained in any wave function has to be preserved no matter what happens.
Much as this may seem like a load of pseudo-scientific drivel, it is in fact one of the cornerstones of our universe (and probably other ones too). Every single physical entity is made up of particles. Every particle at its heart is a wave. Every wave contains unique information. You cannot destroy the wave, no matter what you do to the particle. Hadron Collider, do your worst! Smash those subatomic particles into as many sub-sub particles as you wish. Quarks beware. There is nothing you can do to the information they contain. The wave carries on, well, waving. Information cannot be destroyed. It here forever. Fact.
So what? I hear you cry in a Caddy shack style echo. This is what.
When you step up from sub-atomic wave physics to the human sized universe, these waves and particles coalesce into atoms, molecules and cells. Cells combine into organisms and depending on your point of view, humans are at the top of the Darwinian Tree of Life but that’s a whole other debate.
There are some tricky concepts to wrestle with at this level too. If I’m me, residing as I do in this multicellular collective that I understand to be my body, then how come I’m still me? Every single cell in my body has been replaced many times over the course of my not quite so long and somewhat uneventful life. That means that every single molecule and atom has been replaced, which in turn means that every single sub-atomic wave of information which was the me of a few years back is now no longer there unless by some random chance it was re-absorbed and used again.
Actually, that’s statistically quite likely. There is almost certainly a molecule from the cup of hemlock that Socrates drank in every glass of water that you drink. If you think that sounds weird, consider this. Socrates died quite a while back. Quite a few glasses of water have been drunk since then, so it’s very likely that the fresh water you’re drinking had proved its freshness and suitability for human consumption several times already.
Anyway, how the hell can I still be me if I contain nothing from the me that was around a few years ago other than a few randomly re-absorbed atoms? My brain has been entirely replaced. More than once, I might add, although this may come as no surprise to several people I know. So how can I still have the same memories I had from before? Click here to find out…