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subhankar karmakar

Three completely different areas of study are pointing in one counter-intuitive direction. Information theory, quantum physics, some Western and much Eastern philosophy all suggest that the Newtonian world we take for granted is an illusion. The reality is something you cannot accept: nothing exists of you but this very present thought, this thought that you are a human being in such-and-such surroundings, reading this sentence.

For an information theorist, all systems - including the universe - can be thought of as information. The information content of a system is defined by the length of the shortest formula (computer program) which can generate that system. What is the simplest explanation for the existence of the universe? That the formula is ‘count to infinity’ - a very short program indeed. Within that infinite series is every system in our infinite universe. The alternative would be to program a single universe: that would take a formula which specified every molecule in your body - something mind-bogglingly complex. So, the simplest explanation consistent with your thinking this thought is: all thoughts exists, this is one of them. There is no relationship between this thought of yours and any physical body. No relationship between your memories and a ‘past’.

From quantum physics, we learn that the Newtonian world-view is false. There are many competing interpretations, but the most parsimonious appears to be the Everett ‘Relative State’ formulation, or ‘Many Worlds Interpretation’ of quantum mechanics. This simply states that, compared with the orthodox ‘Copenhagen Interpretation’ of 1927, there is no ‘wave function collapse’ - i.e. the universe splits in all directions, rather than following the one time-line that we think of as our universe. This implies that all possible universes exist. What we think of as ‘time’ is one line connecting many ‘snapshot’ universes together. This line is purely subjective. It is not an objective feature of reality. Hence, our own existence is merely our current thought in this very universe.

Buddhism teaches us anatta: the doctrine of no-self. The thought without the thinker. The Buddha seemed to come to this conclusion on the basis of similar lines of reasoning to Liebniz: all we can operate on are our own logical constructs. You can make no true statement about a thing that is not included in the nature of that thing…

What does all of this mean in practice? That there is no practice. That ‘you’ are a disembodied thought. An immortal thought. I hope you like it.

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