What would you do if you had the ability to move between parallel universes, to interact with yourself, who’s you, though of course only ever so slightly different? Would you use this ability for good or evil? If you’ve watched Fringe much for any portion of its five seasons, you’re familiar with Olivia/Fauxlivia, Walter/Walternate, et al.
Which version of you would you be?
[N.B. Let’s also assume that one of the proposed paradoxes of phasewalking* between universes does not rear its ugly head: i.e. two identical objects occupying the same space will mutually annihilate each other.]
[*(N.B. 2 Yes, we’re calling it phasewalking.)]
I’d like to think I’d be the “good” Joe, but if Spiderman (1) taught me anything, it was that “with great power comes great responsibility,” and I’m not sure I’d be ready for all that. I’ve got my own set of ethics and moral compass; how could I not be tempted to use any information gleaned from “Other Me?” The way I ostensibly understand the extremely complex conditions of parallel universes, it’s that the me “over there” would be me insofar as twins are the same person. Genetically, “Other Me” would be identical, but whatever energy that somehow registers as my conscious sentience is unique to my current self, i.e. in this universe, where you are reading this column and I’m drinking a Diet Pepsi while working at the MCC Writing Center.
That’s not to say that “Other Me” isn’t doing exactly the same thing, it’s just that I have no way of being aware of it — no more so than if I had an identical twin (of which having one, I’ve always thought, would be pretty kickass!).
In order to mentally process the idea of a you-who-is-not-you, it might require you to attempt to think three-dimensionally and beyond. Consider a Necker cube: the orientation of the cube is ambiguous and can be seen from (at least) two perspectives. Objects are passed through the cube in order to aid the viewer in seeing both perspectives. Jukka Sarasti (a homo sapiens vampiris) in Peter Watt’s Blindsight was capable of viewing both perspectives of a Necker cube simultaneously — an image as difficult to wrap one’s mind around as the fourth through tenth dimension(s) of string- and M-theories [the latter of which includes Time as an additional — eleventh — dimension).
But considering another you opens up a ton of possibilities, from a narrative perspective. And if we can agree that the above is true, it also makes the mysteries of human consciousness even more unique. For the sake of argument, we’ll say that an infinite number of yous are out there with the caveat being that you cannot be them anymore than they can be you. Ever. [Unless we’re talking about transplanting consciousness(es), which Ray Kurzweil thinks we’ll be able to do . . . eventually. And that’s where things start getting dicey.]
You could, however, use the opportunity to pull all sorts of shenanigans on unsuspecting people who think they know you. The real problem doesn’t lie in motivations or choices, it involves potentially catastrophically violating supposedly inviolable laws of physics — tearing holes in the fabric of spacetime, creating soft spots in the universal Worldweb. These are the repercussions that keep me up at night, the ones related to chaos theory.
A butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the world and creates a tsunami in another . . . .
The butterfly effect. The sensitive dependence on initial conditions, where a small change at one place in a deterministic, nonlinear system — typically chaotic — can result in large differences to a later state (whereby the butterfly illustration is used to highlight said nonlinear chaotic system, etc.).
After all, you can’t expect to rip a hole in the universe and not expect ripples.
The problem is thus [at least] twofold: 1) it would require savant-like mathematical processing to solve the given values of functions and derivatives of various orders of some truly complex, higher-level differential equations, i.e. the potential result(s) of tearing spacetime wide-the-fuck-open. And 2), when (not if) we [i.e. human beings] discover how to put the maths into practice, will we be able to resist actually doing so? That question was rhetorical: the answer is almost certainly no.
And since phasewalking between universes is going to happen, why shouldn’t it be you? Why let the guys in black suits have all the fun?
Which version of you will you be?