WARNING – reader discretion is advised. Suicide can seriously damage your health. Do not attempt this at home. Half of the article is a joke. Which half remains to be seen.
Question – what do you experience if you stick a loaded shotgun in your mouth and pull the trigger?
A pic of a shotgun suicide, turned into black and white and heavily pixelated by popular demand of the squeamish editorial team.
Well, the one things you do not experience is being dead, like the guy in the picture with his brains decorating the room. In fact, if we live in a sufficiently large multiverse (of which there may be several varieties) you can only experience a malfunction of the shotgun, no matter how many times you try to commit suicide. What you are about to read are topics partially covered in two of my books, along with much else. The first concerns the theological implications of the multiverse in The Praxis [http://www.neopax.com/praxis/index.html]. The second is a book on techno-shamanism named TechnoMage [http://www.neopax.com/technomage/index.html].
The most well known multiverse theory is the Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, which leads us to the notion of “Quantum Suicide” and by extension “Quantum Immortality” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_suicide_and_immortality]. The immortality thing stems from a peculiar consequence of the MWI (or any infinite multiverse theory) is correct. There may be no such thing as death from a subjective point of view. This situation arises because as the worlds branch, and all possible outcomes proliferate, there are always branches in which you survive, and the only branches that you can perceive are ones you survive in, not the ones you die in. This is not good news, but that’s another story for another day.
This is in fact the only way at present that the MWI can be tested. For example, if no matter how many times you try to kill yourself you find you survive by one miracle after another, then you can conclude that the MWI is true. To the equally tiny minority who surrounds you as you do this it would seem as if you had a charmed life. However, in the bulk of the worlds they would be looking at a corpse and conclude that you were an idiot.
Meanwhile, let’s consider how we might use this metaphysical technology from a practical point of view.
So, back to that shotgun moment. Your only possible experience is a misfire, no matter how many times you try to commit suicide. However, there will be vast swathes of alternate worlds where you leave a dead body. Only in a tiny percentage of worlds would you survive. What the exact numbers might be is just a guess, but a misfire rate of one in ten thousand seems plausible. This would include a significant number of misfires where it only blew your face off, jaw off, part of your neck off or blew up in your hands but otherwise left you alive.
Clearly what is needed is a method that will either kill you dead 100% or leave you alive and unharmed 100%, because otherwise there is too much of a risk of surviving horribly maimed, which is no fun at all. It also needs to be subjectively instantaneous, which might not seem obvious. The reason is that in the MWI each moment spins off myriad worlds so if, for example, you decided to stick a knife in your heart there would be a whole load of worlds where you survive with the knife just entering you, just passing the ribs, just touching the heart, entering the heart… all of which will constitute your new state of agonized being in the multiverse. So you want all or nothing.
Let’s look at a few more traditional options.
Hanging – somebody cuts you down or the rope breaks or there is an earthquake and the tree falls… all just in time to leave you lightly brain damaged or paralyzed from the neck down.
Leaping from a tall building – an improbably lucky landing saves you, albeit with nearly every bone in your body broken.
Poison (including drug overdose) – for some reason you don’t get enough in your system, or you throw up, or are found by a doctor in the nick of time and only sustain massive organ damage.
Throwing yourself under a train – by no means a surefire death. I know a doctor who managed to save the life of someone who tried this. Most of the body was a write-off, unfortunately.
Electrocution – even the electric chair often takes minutes to kill. In the multiverse you will be a lucky survivor with only massive burns to the head, hands, feet etc.
Suffocation, poison gas, drowning etc – don’t even think about it
I suspect you are beginning to get the idea. An all or nothing exit from this world without possible horrible intermediate states looks like a seriously difficult proposition. Still, there would not be much point in me writing this, or you reading it unless I thought I had come up with a solution, so stick around and find out…
The first clue is the above picture by artist James Cauty where that bastard Roadrunner finally gets what’s coming to him. We need a chain of events that, once triggered, has so little chance of failing to totally wipe you out that the odds against it are literally astronomical. This means something simple, and something based heavily on the laws of physics. Which is where a monstrous suspended weight comes in. It either drops, or does not drop. If it does drop the chances of anything stopping it before it pulps your head… well, if you do wake up from that one it will be because aliens have beamed you aboard their ship at the last millisecond. It’s that improbable. And just to make sure there are no intermediate conscious states that might stem from you screaming as you see the weight fall, you should be heavily sedated and fully unconscious.
However, at this point I need to introduce the notion of a causal chain, with each link being assigned a probability. With the shotgun it is not a case of simply firing (or not). From the point where the trigger is pulled a whole chain of events occur. The trigger (which may break), releases a hammer (or not), which strikes the firing pin (which may break or jam), which hits the percussion cap (which may fail to detonate) which initiates the powder burn (or fails to) and which finally sends the shot down the barrel (which may rupture)… Every one of these events has an independent probability of failure. In real life, the weakest link in this chain is probably failure of the percussion cap to initiate the powder. So your subjective survival is most probably the result of the weakest link in that chain failing. Now, what happens if we make the chain longer, and introduce an even weaker link?
It is here where we discover what the “For Profit” part of the subtitle means. Consider this scenario for your edification and delight…
We start with the purchase of a lottery ticket. The numbers are then fed into a computer that is programmed to scan the lottery results overnight. You are sedated and strapped under the weight, which can be released by a command from the computer. If the lottery numbers are not the winning combination this is to be triggered. So, after setting up the apparatus all you have to do is go to sleep. The only world that you will awaken into is one where you have won the lottery.
Simple in concept, but there are considerable technical difficulties. Roughly, the odds against winning the jackpot are around ten million to one. That means that the rest of the causal chain must have a probability of failure considerably less than this. How reliable is the computer? The mains power supply? The release mechanism? The Net connection? The report of the winning numbers being broadcast? It may be that you need to play the quantum suicide lottery a number of times before hitting it big. Or perhaps you could make the target link, the lottery win, less ambitious and go for odds of a thousand to one? In whatever universe you find yourself, some link in that chain will have failed to drop the weight. The trick is to make the weakest link your desired objective.
Of course, actually killing yourself in this way is incredibly selfish because you will leave vast swathes of the multiverse where your loved ones mourn your gruesome passing. I mean what unlucky person gets to go into your bedroom and discover a 23 ton weight has reduced your head to a fine paste? Clearly the answer is to take your family and friends with you on this awesome journey to improbable wealth. However, some persuasion may be necessary, so seek professional advice from a physicist or philosopher before going ahead with this plan and talking them into a mass suicide pact.
In fact, there is even more scope for Quantum Mechanics to make a better world for everyone by simply reducing the weakest link probability to a one in two chance. What governments need to do is set up Quantum Multiverse Emigration Centers. Ideally, you pair together families that dislike each other, and like Mad Max Thunderdome, two enter but only one leaves, depending on the flip of a quantum coin. The survivors in each universe inheriting the property of the emigres. Once this has been implemented worldwide the population and resources problem is solved. By some clever pairings one could use it to eliminate religious, political and ethnic strife. I mean, why share the universe with Republicans, Democrats, Christians, Muslims, Mime Artists etc, when you they can each have a world of their own? I trust my Nobel Peace Prize will be forthcoming. I’ll sleep on it…
Even more exciting, if you can get a really reliable causal chain, is the possibility of having your computer scan for interesting things and killing you if they don’t happen. Juggling possibilities, one might get to see all kinds of weird stuff, from alien invasions to Cthulhu rising.
Of course, we may not live in a multiverse or perhaps there is some other flaw in the above discussion. In which case, you need to ask yourself a question…