The quantum doomsday argument

Alastair Wilson

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Abstract

If the most familiar overlapping (branching universe) interpretation of Everettian quantum mechanics (EQM) is correct, then each of us is constantly splitting into multiple people. This consequence gives rise to thequantum doomsday argument, which threatens to draw crippling epistemic consequences from EQM. However, a diverging (parallel universe) interpretation of EQM undermines the quantum doomsday argument completely. This appears to tell in favour of the diverging interpretation. But it is surprising that a metaphysical question that is apparently underdetermined by the physics should be settled by purely epistemological considerations; and I argue that the positive case for divergence based on the quantum doomsday effect is ultimately unsuccessful. I discuss how some influential treatments of Everettian confirmation handle the quantum doomsday puzzle, and suggest that it can most satisfyingly be resolved via a naturalistic approach to the metaphysics of modality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)597-615
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Volume68
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017

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