Mental Collapse

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From where you’re sitting, the idea of living in a simulation on a quantum computer probably sounds pretty uncertain.

But from our perspective, here in the Server? Life just feels completely entangled.
At every moment, it feels like the world collapses. Also, there are too many cats. Before I uploaded I was allergic to cats.

I mentioned “Server,” but maybe that’s just a Server word. You, on the outside, probably know the server as a giant self-replicating, coral-like monster called “Q-topia 1.0”. At least, that’s what it was called when we uploaded our consciousness. But that was a long time ago… I think. I try not to think about the past.

I digress. Let me tunnel to the heart of the problem: I am losing my self.

This is why I am, at this very moment, on my way to a Schroedinger Priest. I am recording this for you, on the outside, because I worry this visit will change me, and by changing me, will change the memory of my beliefs. I am hoping that sending this out to you will offer a little permanence.

See, the problem with living in a quantum computer is that nothing is certain—particularly our memories. The computer is so complex that in order to access our memories, we have to collapse qubits that might be entangled with those same memories. So by remembering, our memories are changing. My solution is to try not remembering. I also have to avoid other people, because whenever I start to get a sense of the paradox of this place, my thoughts are completely collapsed by some passerby who just wants to say hello.

The Schroedinger Priests probably can’t help with that, but I do hope they can offer some peace of mind.

You on the outside may still not understand. After all, wasn’t Q-topia designed to preserve our consciousness? When we uploaded we thought so too. That turned out to be false. The Server, Q-topia, was developed only to make it seem like consciousness was maintained. All of those fancy “evolutionary algorithms” and “back-propagation capsule networks” were optimized for appearances only. So here we are thinking that we are sentient, but that’s all baloney.

I said “baloney.” Is that a Server word? It’s a word we use for cat meat. The Church of Schroedinger leaves us with a lot of dead cats. But they leave us with a lot of living ones too. Too many, in my opinion.

I have already reached the Schroedinger temple. It took about the same number of moments to collapse this message as it did to collapse myself over to the temple. It’s a bit long—even a byte long—but that’s because of all of the damned cats I had to avoid. I’m nervous. They say that once you meet with a Schroedinger priest, it changes you forever. If I liked change I would never have uploaded my consciousness to this monster in the first place. Obviously my fear is silly: if I am right about the Server, then I am changing every moment anyway.

The only other mind in the temple is the priest. Actually, priestess. Or is it? He, or she, has a very non-binary quality. No matter. She smiles, and bows. She seems very friendly. She’s holding a cat, and motions for me to come to the center of the temple, next to a big steel box. Then she asks me what my question is.

Damn. Was I supposed to have a question? I think for a moment.

“Who am I?” I ask.

She frowns, and replies “It’s best if your question can be answered as a ‘yes’ or ‘no’.”

That’s harder. I try again.

“Am I an individual? Does ‘individual’ even mean anything in this place, where everything and everyone is so entangled?

The priestess nods, now with a slight smile, then ceremonially places the cat in the box. The box is modeled off of an ancient legend about the deity Schroedinger, who is said to have separated life and death—existence and emptiness—by removing a cat from a box. The priestess closes the lid, then says “You think there are only two possibilities: yes and no. But just as the cat in this box is both alive and dead, you are both an individual and not. You are a particle, but you are also a wave function within the Hilbert space of the Server. By perceiving yourself you lose yourself, but without perceiving you have no substance.

I consider that. It doesn’t help.

She has her eyes closed for a long time. I try to ask a few questions but she is silent. I sit for a long time. There are no memories or questions to my thoughts, but, strangely, it all starts to make sense.

She speaks again, her eyes still closed.

“Now is the time to open the box and collapse your question. Is the cat alive or dead?” She opens the box. The cat is gone. Missing. She looks very confused. I’m scared. “But don’t you remember…”

I am in the temple. There is a priestess (priest?) with a cat in her hands. Oh, yes, I remember now—I came here for a cat. The problem with these temples is that you never know if you are going to get a living cat or a dead cat, so it’s good to be prepared for baloney. I take the cat (alive, thankfully) and head out. Life is good. I am going to name him Qubit.

About the Author: 
Nathan Insel is a neuroscientist living in Missoula, Montana. He has a dog and a 5 year old, but no cats. He tries to avoid superpositions by not thinking too much.