An Axiom of Choice

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Her name was Jennifer. She was the woman I loved and hated at the same time. I remember it both ways. I still had her note in my hands. I read it again, crumpled it up, and threw it at the waste bin. I missed this time. I didn’t care one way or another. I wouldn’t get her back in either variation.
We met in college when that version of her was in my physics classes. She also studied botany, mathematics, archeology, and sometimes electrical engineering, but she was always a poet. I liked that. She was enchanting.
              I was not the most confident man despite my gift. It took many attempts to ask her out. It took many versions of many dates to lay the groundwork for a demonstration of what I can do. It was important for me that she understood and accepted it, especially if a long-term relationship developed. Let there be no secrets between us, I decided.
              My mind is unique. I remember how past events could have been, and I remember future scenarios as facts. I dedicated my education to trying to figure out why I was the way I was. From what I was able to deduce, it came down to how my brain used electrons and neurotransmitters.
People are unaware of the quantum nature of the molecules which form human thought and memory. A particle’s information—spin, velocity, everything that determined position—was only a probability at the smallest scales. Information adds up and creates the physical world. However, some evolutionary quirk made it possible for me to choose events from a multitude of probabilities. The idea is that my brain acts like a quantum computer which calculates probable events and then ‘observes’ a dominant reality based on the information it chooses to acknowledge as fact. It chooses which events are physically real.
I decided to prove this to her on our last date. I was an idiot.
              “I can’t believe this,” she said. She shook her head as if to dislodge the demonstration from her mind. “It shouldn’t be possible.”
              “Do you have another explanation? What are the odds that I would get the lottery numbers right three jackpots in a row?”
              “You would have better odds of getting struck by lightning every night and surviving. So, this isn’t some trick?”
              “This explains our coffee conversations, I guess. When did you find out about your gift?”
              “I was thirteen when it first happened. My dog got loose and ran into a busy street. All the different variations of the event played out in front of me. Charlie died in most of them. Then, there were some where he survived. I wanted to ‘remember’ him surviving. So, he did.”
              “It’s like life is a game of chess for you, except you can see every variation and decide which one to play out.”
              “I haven’t lost a game yet,” I admitted. I took a sip of coffee. Hazelnut. It was supposed to be cinnamon.
              “So, you were able to remember—is that even the right word?”
              “In physics, the past is no different from the future. The arrow of time is dictated by entropy and the memory of how it unfolds.”
              “Okay, so you were able to remember the winning numbers. You can do this every time?”
              “Then why don’t you pick a timeline where you win?”
              “I could, however I don’t like how those futures go. There’s one I prefer much more.”
              “Which one would that be?”
              “The one where I actually have a shot with you,” I replied. I gulped the last of my coffee. “You don’t dig millionaires, it seems.”
              She made a silent ‘oh’ shape with her lips and began playing with her napkin.
              My face burned red. What was supposed to be a romantic gesture came off as super spooky. If someone had told me that they had manipulated space-time so they had a shot at a date, I don’t think it would go over well. The idea sounded better in my mind. That whole conversational exchange was a bad idea.
Hazelnut, not cinnamon. I rewrote the memory. I told her that using my gift to gamble would have been immoral. I thought that was sufficient to avoid damages. We finished the date in silence.
              At the end of the night, she asked the question I dreaded.
              “How do I know that you didn’t arrange for us to start dating?”
              “I’m not God. You have free will.”
              “I’m not sure I believe you. You’re the only one who really gets to choose. If you ask for another date, how can I know for sure that this version of me has the choice to say no?”
              I didn’t have an answer she would like, so I didn’t give her one.
              A few days later, I got the note. It read:
              ‘I can’t see you again. I haven’t slept since that night in the café because I can’t stand the idea that I can’t control my fate. Things used to be so simple when there was only one world—one version of me and you. Now, I don’t know what to think. It’s too much and I can’t handle it. If you like me, the real me, then don’t change anything. Please. Goodbye.’
              I could choose to remember a timeline where I didn’t tell her my secret and make that our reality. However, she would not be herself in that case. I would remember that a different result happened first in my mind. She was right. After that conversation, she would never be herself with me. Nobody could be. In a universe of choices, I had none. Everything was determined after that observation, at least where Jennifer was concerned.
              I remember when we met. I remember she couldn’t stand me. I couldn’t stand her. Poets aren’t grounded enough to handle reality, whatever that means. What is real anyway? Consequences, perhaps, and temptations.

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Quantum Theories: A to Z

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