Applying anthropic reasoning to the many-worlds hypothesis of quantum mechanics

If we believe the many-worlds hypothesis in quantum mechanics, then some portion of what we know as the law of causality might be a result of the survivorship bias of our current self which does not observe its alternative counterparts in all other worlds.

Disclaimer: I am not a physicist, so please take the physics-related aspect of this article with a grain of salt.

According to Wikipedia, survivorship bias is “the logical error of concentrating on the people or things that made it past some selection process and overlooking those that did not, typically because of lack of visibility”. The textbook example is the mistake made by a person who predicts that the world is very unlikely to be destroyed in a nuclear war because they have seen many such threads in the past but none of them had any consequences. What this person does not take into account is that if a nuclear war did take place in the past, then they would be much less likely to exist and therefore much less likely to make that prediction in the first place. In other words, out of all the realities where a nuclear war was about to take place, we can only exist in the one where it didn’t actually happen and that is why we don’t see the others.

A related concept is that of the anthropic principle, which concentrates on the fact that our universe should be allowed to accommodate for intelligent life.

Sometimes the results of the selection process aren’t being erased like a nuclear war would erase the world - they are just not visible for you. Say, for example, you read that a toast always lands with the butter-side down, and decide to test it. You take a “fair toast” and you start dropping it on purpose. But to your surprise, the toast always lands with the butter side up 20 times in a row - exactly the opposite of what you expected. But before you announce your discovery to the world and think of it as universally-valid, you have to determine, the following - how many people are testing the butter-side down hypothesis? Indeed, this number does not have anything to do with the result of your toast turning experiment, but it has everything to do with the chance that someone gets that same result and announces it. The more people experimenting with toasts right now, the bigger the chance of one of them getting an unusual result (and therefore the less significant this result is). In this case, the fallacy is easy to test by just gathering many different instances of the experiment and comparing results (i.e. the scientific method).

If we concentrate on the Many-Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, we see that it leads to an instance of survivorship bias that is as pervasive as the one from my second example and as hard to detect as the one from my first example - we, the inhabitance of universe X (as I would call the universe we are entangled with), make all of our assumptions about the true nature of reality without regard for the fact that we are observing only one of the, possibly infinitely-many, universes that exist. Every time quantum entanglement occurs, a selection process is carried out, in which the observer (i.e. you) is placed in a state that is chosen at random. All other states are isolated from him, hence the lack of visibility is also total.

The issues with the concept of causality are summarized in the so-called “problem of induction” which states that there is no concrete evidence that the future should resemble the past e.g. the sun rising yesterday does not prove that it will rise also today. The only reason why we are able to formulate theories about the world, such as the one I am laying on now, is because the world is consistent empirically speaking - same results come up again and again when we do a given experiment. If that weren’t the case, the concept of knowledge would not exist at all, as you cannot know anything about an object that does not obey some laws (deterministically or probabilistically). And you can know even less about a world that does not obey laws, so finding ouselves in such a world completely destroy our ability to know anything and form theories about it, just like an atom bomb would destroy the world literally.

Antrophically speaking, a reality that is not lawful would not allow for intelligent life to develop.

Therefore, everything that we as observers deduce about reality, in terms of cause and effect, is not truly fundamental - it is just a description of universe X (which is how I would call the universe we are entangled with), that is, for each universe in which you think that A causes B and you are right, there can be numerous others in which you are not.

If you find some errors in this article, you want to tell me how great it is, etc. you can mail me (I don’t yet know what to make of this, so I will be really glad to hear your take).

Written on July 19, 2018