A Trillion Of Me

I read a book that said there could be a trillion of me.

I believe it.

I believe that right now there are a trillion of me, just like me, only not just like me.

I wonder if a trillion of me is enough for there to be just minute little changes in me, so that all possible versions of me are operating simultaneously, just slightly out of synch with each of the others of me and unbeknownst to me, parallel, and untouching, except for little fleeting nodes of interference, in such a way that all of me are doing all possible things that one of me could do given enough time.

If there are enough of me then, like the million monkeys typing for a million years would have written all the great and the not so great works of literature by now, it is likely that I am doing all possible things right this very moment.

I believe this is possible. I do.

••

I read a book that said there could be a trillion of me.

I believe it.

I believe that right now there are a trillion of me — just like me, only not just like me.

I wonder if a trillion of me is enough for there to be just minute little changes in me, so that all possible versions of me are operating simultaneously, just slightly out of synch with each of the others of me and unbeknownst to me, parallel, and untouching, except for little fleeting nodes of interference, governed by forces I do not yet fathom, so that I am doing all the things that it is possible for me to do, all at once thanks the many-me’s working away so diligently at all those things it is possible for me to do.

If there are enough of me then, like the millions of monkeys typing for X number of years would have written all the great and the not-so-great works of literature by now, it is likely that I am doing all possible things right this very moment.

I believe this. I do.

••

I read a book that said there could be a trillion of me.

I believe it.

I believe that right now there are a trillion of me — just like me, only not just like me.

I wonder if a trillion of me is enough for there to be just minute little changes in me, so that all possible versions of me are operating simultaneously, just slightly out of synch with each of the others of me and unbeknownst to me, parallel, but untouching, except for little fleeting nodes of interference, governed by forces I do not yet fathom.

If there are enough of me then, like the millions of monkeys typing for X number of years would have written all the great and the not-so-great works of literature by now, and the billions of baboons scrawling on an infinite number of chalkboards the great and the not-so-great formulae of mass and momentum, of gravity and geometry, of viscosity and velocity, just by the sheer multitude of their unintelligible symbols, it is likely that I am doing all possible things right this very moment.

I believe this. I do believe it. If I think it, it just may be possible.

••

I read a book that said there could be a trillion of me.

I believe it.

I believe that right now there are a trillion of me — just like me, only not just like me, almost identical to me, but in some small ways not identical to me, some parts added to me and some parts subtracted from me.

I think that a trillion of me is not enough for there to be just minute little changes in me, so that all possible versions of me are operating simultaneously, just slightly out of synch with each of the others of me and unbeknownst to me, parallel, but untouching, except for little fleeting nodes of interference, governed by forces I do not yet fathom. It would take more than a trillion of me. It would take an infinite number of me’s to actually fulfill the me-ness of me.

If there are enough of me then, like the millions of monkeys typing for X number of years would have written all the great and the not-so-great works of literature by now, and like the bazillions of baboons scrawling on an infinite number of chalkboards would have chalked up all the great and the not-so-great formulae of mass and momentum, of gravity and geometry, of viscosity and acceleration by now, just by the sheer multitude of their unintelligible symbols, it is probable that I am doing all possible things right this very moment.

I believe this. I do believe it. If I think it, it just may be possible. In fact, I’m doing it right this very instant.

And there is just enough interference, in the form of a gentle time lag that tugs at the reality of the many me’s, that you are able to capture slices of the infinite me’s if you look closely enough, somehow.

••

I read a book that said there could be a trillion of me.

I can believe it.

I could easily believe that there might be a trillion of me — almost just like me, but not quite just like me, nearly identical to me, but in some small way not exactly identical to me, a subtle part added to me here and there and a not so subtle part subtracted from me here and there.

A trillion of me is probably not enough for there to be minuscule changes in me, so that all possible variations of me are performing coincidentally, just slightly out of whack with each of the other multitudinous versions of me and largely unbeknownst to me, aligned in parallel to me, but not touching, except for fleeting little almost accidental nodes of interference, reacting to forces I do not yet understand. It would take more than a trillion of these variations on the theme of me to do everything. It would take an infinite number of me’s to actually fulfill the potential me-ness of me.

If there are enough of me then, like the mega-millions of monkeys typing for X + 1 number of years would have written all the great and the not-so-great and the not even remotely great or even intelligible works of literature by now, and like the bazillions of baboons scrawling on an infinite number of chalkboards would have chalked up all the great and the not-so-great and the not even remotely great or even intelligible formulae of mass and momentum, of gravity and geometry, of velocity and acceleration by now, just by the precipitous plethora of their almost unintelligent symbols, it is possible that I could be doing all potential things roughly in this very moment, if time really even matters.

I believe this. I really do believe it. If I think it, it just might be possible. In fact, I’m approximately doing it this very instant.

And there is just enough interference, in the form of a gentle time lag that tugs at the reality of the many me’s, that you are able to capture very slim slices of the infinite me’s that reside in all these parallel planes, fluttering in and out of each other, courtesy of their own gently colliding and interfering intersections.

••

I read a book that said there could be a trillion of me.

I’d like to believe it.

It’s not exactly easy to believe that there might be a trillion of me — or something just about like me, but not precisely like me, nearly identical to me, but in some barely perceptible way not exactly identical to me, a significant part subtracted from me here and there and a not so significant part added to me there and here.

A trillion of me is probably not enough for there to be minuscule changes in me, so that all possible variations of me are performing in concert or just slightly out of concert, just a faint notch out of whack with each of the other multifarious versions of me and largely if not absolutely without cognition of me, aligned in parallel to me, but not contacting me or connecting with me, except for brief incidental, almost accidental nexes of interference, responding to forces I do not yet comprehend. It would take more than a trillion of these alterations of me to do everything that it is possible for me to do, if you imagined a trillion or so worlds of which I am a part. It would take an infinite number of me’s to actually fulfill the dynamic me-ness of me.

If we assume that there are enough of me then, like the zillions of monkeys typing for (X + 1)n number of years would have written all the great and the not-so-great and the not even remotely great or even remotely intelligible works of literature and graffiti and drivel and junk mail by today, and like the gazillions of gaboons scratching and scrawling on an infinite number of black or green chalkboards, whichever the case may be, would have chalked up all the great and the not-so-great and the not even remotely great or even intelligible formulae, scribbles, and failed theories of mass and momentum, of gravity and geometry, of viscosity and density and velocity and acceleration, and biology and physics by now, just by the precipitous pantheon of their practically indecipherable signs, it is conceivable that I could be doing all potential things roughly in this very moment, since time really does matter, at least if you’re remotely interested in keeping track of event and cause and effect and giving activities any sort of priority or location or coordinates or some guise, artificial or otherwise for the express purpose of identifying one thing from another.

It might come in handy to believe this or something like this. If only I could believe it. If I think therefore I am. If I ponder this, it just might be possible. Do I make it real by thinking it? Surely, I’m approximating it this very moment. As if you hadn’t figured that out. The only real question is how many of me have figured this out. Any? Many? One? None?

The fact is, if there is such as thing as a fact, that there very likely is just enough interference, in the form of some awkward space-time lag that tugs at the virtual reality of the many me’s, so that you are able to glimpse very slim slices of the infinite me’s that resonate in each of these parallel geometries, flickering in and out of each other, victim of their own violently colliding interfering intersections. But of course it doesn’t really work that way. Maybe not.

••

If someone told me there could be a trillion of me, I might believe it. I’d like to believe it.

It’s not the easiest thing on earth to believe that there might be a trillion of me — or something sort of like me, but not precisely like me, nearly identical to me, but in some way fundamentally different from me, a rudimentary part substituted in place of another or sort of cut and pasted on, or deleted. You know, they say everyone has a twin. And I have to confess sometimes I’ll see someone who “looks just like” someone else I know, but I always put the “looks just like” chunk in quotes, because they never really look just like them, they just sort of do.

They also said that each one of the millions of me is probably doing something anywhere from slightly different than me to totally different than me, so much so, that by the time you added up all the different parallel versions of me, I’d be doing all the possible things I could possibly do. So I’m thinking that if there were a trillion of me that probably wouldn’t be enough of me dictated by the minuscule changes in me, to do all those things. Just think about how all the possible variations of me would have to be performing in concert or just slightly out of concert, just a small degree out of whack with each of the other “what if there could be” versions of me and of course, none of the me’s is conscious of the other me’s, all aligned parallel to me, but never quite contacting me or rubbing against me, except for an occasional incidental, almost accidental bounce of interference, brought about by forces this someone else never quite explained to me in t he process of suggesting that there could be a trillion of me. Plus a trillion is a long way from accounting for the infinite. So it would have to take more than a trillion of these modifications of me to do everything that it is possible for me to do, if you for just a split second or so considered the idea even remotely possible that there could be a trillion or so worlds of which all of these me’s is a part. It would take an infinite number of me’s to actually have me do all the things it’s possible for me to do.

If we run with this almost preposterous notion of the trillion or so me’s and assume that there are enough of me then, like it would be the millions of monkeys you already heard about in junior high or so, who type on a million typewriters, probably the old banging on the keys type of typewriters for a million or so years, and out of just plain old dumb luck manage to write (or type rather) all the great works of literature as well as an even greater pile of just plain old waste letters, of course and meaningless drivel and hey maybe junk mail, funny huh? Or maybe you take this one step further and imagine a bazillion baboons with a pile of chalk or magic markers, scritching and scratching away on bazillion elementary school chalkboards, and, if everything goes according the grand schemes of probability, they chalk up all the great theories of math and physics and whatever else it is we associate with that thing we call science, you know, mass and momentum, specific gravity and plane geometry, maximum viscosity and engine breakdown and evolutionary biology and quantum physics. Of course, they do it mindlessly, just by the careless spectrum of their pounding or scribbling what would ordinarily be interpreted as meaningless signals, not carefully wrought and agreed-to alpha-numeric symbols. It is conceivable at some level in my head that I could be doing all things at one time, if you think of scads and scads of time zones stacked up on top of or next to each other, with scads and scads of me’s (or monkeys) operating in each one of those time zones. Or space zones. Or space/time zones. Or parallel zones. Maybe time isn’t the right way at all to give priority or location to these many me’s. I’d probably need more than time to give all the me’s some sort of useful coordinates or way of identifying one me from another.

It might come in handy to believe this or something like this. If only I could believe it. If I think therefore I am. If I ponder this, it just might be possible. Do I make it real by thinking it? There’s no way really to approximate this happening. Unless you can figure out some way to do so. You’d have to figure out how to solve the time problem, as well as the quantity problem. How do you perceive a trillion me’s, if you wanted such a thing to be possible, without falling prey to some sort of time, or maybe space problem? How do a trillion you’s manage to detect the trillion me’s and know it? How do you bring the trillion or infinite you’s together into one universe long enough to count the trillion or infinite me’s? I wonder how many of me’s are aware of this trillion me thing and I wonder how many right this second are trying to figure out this problem of detecting the many me’s? Any? Many? One? None? I also wonder, assuming that whomever it was who told me about this trillion me thing has told other people about this sometimes inspiring and sometimes disturbing idea, how many me’s and you’s are trying to figure out how it works. And are looking for evidence of it? Any? Many? One? None?

The truth is, if there is such as thing as truth, this is all just one of those virtual things, the reality of which is only theoretical. Some guy figured it out in his head and is having one heck of a time putting it on paper, pounding away on his own word processor, hunting and pecking and rearranging the feeble words with which he must contain or deliver his thoughts, hoping to wrangle together some sort of indisputable Pythagorean-style proof that this trillion me thing could really work anywhere else but in his head. If time and space were more malleable in his hands or our hands, as it might be in some people’s heads, then proving the many me’s might be more tangible and manageable. Then maybe you could open a portal or slice open a cross-section and glimpse the neatly (or perhaps not so neatly) stacked sediment of the infinite me’s that pile up and desiccate in the parallel archeological striations of these parallel me geometries. Perhaps then you’d find evidence of an occasional weaving in and out of the various me’s, who other than an infrequent case of interference, operate without awareness of or consciousness of their isolated partners, who until those moments of incidental and infrequent and incoherent interferences, did not know or care whether the others were real or virtual, or never existed at all.

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••

If someone told me there could be a trillion of me, I wouldn’t believe it. And all this stuff about parallel universes?

I mean, come on. Who are they kidding? They can’t even make a twin that’s really identical in this universe, let alone another one or two or, yeah, a trillion of them.

Remember how they used to pose those kinds of brain teasers when you were a kid? They’d say, imagine a million monkeys, typing on a million typewriters. If you gave them a million years, they’d probably type all the great works of literature. And I’d wonder, okay, so if the million monkeys works, then maybe you could have a gillion gibbons writing on a million chalkboards and if you gave them a gillion years, they’d probably produce all the great ideas of science and math. So what to that what if.

Now they’re trying to get me to imagine a trillion copies of me, living out their little day-to-day lives in a trillion copies of this universe that all co-exist alongside each other, with each unaware of the presence of the others. And maybe under some circumstances, these things interfere with each other and maybe when they do, it changes the course of my own personal world-line or path of existence or something. Then, well things get pretty confusing then, like I’m supposed to understand the implications of this interference, based on some sort of evidence that quantum photons get detected in the eye of some sort of quantum frog and that means there’s a trillion me’s. Or something like that.

I’d prefer to sit here, one guy, one universe, have another beer and watch reruns. That’s all the parallel universe I need. Lucy over and over again. Andy over and over again. The only thing that interferes is the commercials. Yeah, they’re slightly different from one time to the next. Otherwise, they really are identical, same ‘ol, same ol’. And as far as this virtual reality thing, I’m pretty convinced that I’m real sitting there on the couch. And that there’s nothing more virtual than a TV program. Two worlds colliding. I can buy that idea. I believe it. This trillion parallel me thing is just some guy’s imagination running off at the mouth. Thought problems? Word problems? Story problems? I had enough of those in third grade. It takes two wagons to carry all the watermelons home. Either that or two trips. No way it takes two me’s. Who can’t figure that out? You tell me. I don’t care what anyone else says about another me, let alone a trillion me’s. Who needs ‘em?

That’s what I say.

— -••

I saw a book in a bookstore that said there could be a trillion of me.

I don’t believe it.

I believe that right now there is one of me, just me, no one else is like me. Not even close. In this world. Or any other.

And this one of me is enough to do all the things I need to do for me, all the things that one can do along the arrow of time, with or without the interference of other people, other events, other ideas. The only things parallel in this world are railroad tracks, power lines, any section of the interstate, or some desktops crunching some big numbers in a deep blue sea chess match.

Forget monkeys, just give the one of me one typewriter and let me go at it blindly for as long as possible, maybe even a million years, and I’d never type all the great works of literature, or stumble onto all the great theories of science or mathematics, probably not even one of either. One of me isn’t even equal to a million monkeys typing for a million years. It is likely that all I can ever do, is exactly what I am doing right this very moment. One guy. One universe. One spill of words. One time. That’s it.

That’s about all I can believe.

SignedSWood

(Originally written and shared with David Deutsch via email in 1997, then lost in the detritus of digitally parallel hoohah only to be rediscovered in a restored Zip drive here in 2021 on the heels of an selfishly exploratory pandemic.)

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