I once imagined the universe as a giant tree, originating from a single point, unfolding forward through time, branches of causality sprouting from buds into thick strands of reality: lives born and lost, the evolution of life from random assortments of molecules in the primordial oceans, a city celebrating the rise of the of the full moon, a child discovering a finch poking at insects in the grass, a man stumbling home drunk at three thirty in the morning, coming home to a find his family sleeping, a taxi cab racing across fifth street, colliding into a rolling garbage can, the collapse of the Soviet Union, a tsunami wiping out the coast of an isolated island, a young man kneeling in a restaurant, proposing to his fiance, water flowing down a mountain stream, eroding the surface of a wet stone, shearing atoms off the contours of its submerged surface - everything: inevitable, in the words of Marcus Aurelius: woven into the pattern from the beginning.
Is the universe determined, or indeterminate?
Apparently, it depends on the interpretation of theory of quantum mechanics you subscribe to. There are both deterministic and indeterministic interpretations that are equivalent in the sense that there is no experiment possible, even in theory, that would allow scientists to validate which interpret is correct.
In the Many Worlds Interpretation (where there are multiple worlds, of which ours is only one), the universe is ultimately deterministic. In the Copenhagen interpretation (the more popular theory), the universe is ultimately indeterministic.
There is something appealing about each of these theories. If the Many Worlds theory is correct, then the V for Vendetta clip above is correct: in each individual world, the sequence of events is determined, dominoes falling forward and colliding into one another, the moments of your life unfolding from the big bang: a spring of inevitability pouring forth potentialities all the way until the heat death of the universe.
And of course, there's the appeal of the Copenhagen interpretation - which posits a single world, which, at bottom, has an inextricable element of randomness to it.
Determinism, which I subscribe to, holds that everything that happened in your life was always going to happen. In layman's terms, it means fate. The ancients were convinced of the truth of fate, and took peace in it, as do I.
The past and the future. then, are equivalent: fixed, immovable objects, mirrored between the plane of the present.
You, your life, and everything in it:
... dominoes, falling in a cascade from a single point of origin...
people I admire
Bret Easton Ellis