Even if you’re not a science nerd or a science fiction reader you’ve probably heard of the “many worlds” theory, “alternate universe” theory, the “multiverse” or one of its many other names. The idea is that there might exist a very large, or even infinite number of universes very like this one but slightly different because something happened there that didn’t happen here. It’s a part of quantum theory, which can get very weird, but it’s not fantasy. The theory has been around since the late 1950’s, credited to American physicist Hugh Everett. The simplest explanation is that, if a particle in motion is able to go left or right it actually does both. Of course, it can’t be in two places at the same time in one universe, so a second universe is split off. In one of them the particle went left, in the other it went right. The two universes had identical histories up to that point, but are never quite the same afterward. Taking a left turn instead of a right might make a big difference, and the differences will grow greater as time goes on. Since these splits could be happening all the time, you can imagine that the number of possible universes is vast.
If a tiny micro-particle has the ability to do that, imagine what a human being could do? We’re not only a lot bigger, and able to exert a lot more influence over things, but we do it consciously: we make choices.
Imagine creating a new universe with every decision you make? Do you feel the godlike power?
Better than role-playing games. Even better than being an author. Because these universes are real! And I’d like to think that all of us (with the possible exception of psychopaths) would choose to create a universe that’s better than this one, even if only by a little bit. That would just mean choosing to take an action that would make the universe a better place.
Although the many worlds theory has terrific fiction potential, and I’ve used it a few times in stories (including my first published story “No Walls”)…I don’t actually believe it. Sorry. Just too complicated and unlikely from my point of view.
However, I know it’s possible to change this universe, creating an alternate future from the one that would have happened. It’s what we do every day. We go to work in appropriate clothes and on time, thereby preventing the alternate future where we’re out of work and on the street. Every decision we make affects the future, which means that our every choice can make the universe a better place or a worse place. Maybe we’re not gods who create a new universe every time we make up our minds, but with every action we do steer the universe we’re in.
News came this week that the level of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere increased at a record rate over the past year. This, when we’re supposed to be taking action globally to stop the greenhouse effect. Sunday September 21, 2014 people all around the world will be marching to draw attention to climate change, hoping that world leaders will actually do something meaningful about it before it’s too late. A simple web search will provide details about the event nearest you. Why not take part? Sign a petition? You’re a universe-changer with godlike power, remember? Or even if you don’t march you can make a choice to walk to the convenience store next time, turn the furnace down or the air conditioner off.
Make the right choices. Create the universe you want.