determinism and the anthropic principle… by Stephen Brockbank

These things are as determined after 14 billion years of the universe as the the sun, galaxies, the second law of thermodynamics and the velocity of light – ‘c’.  The universe is a deterministic event.

He didn’t know when it happened, though later he thought it was in the trajectory of walking from the car up to the cafe and then leaving the cafe and realizing something had happened.

He sits down in the cafe where the meeting is taking place, the waiter comes over and tells him that there is a phone call for him; the caller asks them to wait as he is running a little late. Returning to the table and he tells them what was said. He thinks the stress has affected him,  his eyes flashed with the bright distortions of the indicators of a migraine starting. He takes some pills with a glass of water and is surprised at how rapidly they eradicate the flashing lights. Although the meeting is innocuous enough the message and the secrecy with which it has been assembled and arranged places them in the nodal point of a secret network that nobody in the city knows about – a network impossible to access unless invited by one of the clandestine members.

His eyes and head have recovered except for a slight feeling of lightheadness and a sense of estrangement from the world. The  cafe is playing a chorus from William Byrd’s – Gloria,  he cannot remember the actual title of the piece. Being part of the network gives an impression of exhilaration, he thinks it explains the strange slightly off-centre behavior of people in the cafe and those other times when he has seen people who have received messages and phone calls, and wondered who they are. Perhaps he would feel even stranger if not for Z and PL who are chatting quite normally about the economic crisis. The currently identified keywords  of the new phase are Do they also struggle to  hide their obvious delight at participating in clandestine networks whilst trying not to be noticed by the omnipresent surveillance systems ? […] The caller arrives, as the French patisserie arrives, and joins them ordering more coffee and shots of Eastern summer fruit vodka. Information and thoughts are exchanged, decisions made, actions planned.  What seems certain later as they get up from their table, feeling slightly paranoid, is that all eyes are on them, both within the cafe and also more crucially the poor AI surveillance system trying to dissect the networks it watches, (what is on the networks is inevitably determined by  things) watching them as they cross the cafe to the telephone, listening to the innocuous messages being passed; for the outsiders they appear to belong to some secret inter-urban network and whilst others may envy the purpose with which they (we) leave, not being simply an imaginary importance but the fact that for an instant, the instant just passed he is a stranger to himself and to themselves. He feels sorry for the AI system, he always does.

He walks out of the cafe, following after Z (her) feeling recovered from his lightheadedness, saying goodbye to the others, she is walking across to where they had parked his car.  He found his keys had changed, he pauses midstride looking at the unfamiliar/familiar Porsche key hanging from his set of keys rather than the GTI one they had arrived in. He looks up from his keys,  and around and sees Z leaning against the unfamiliar black car. He asks her to drive as he’s got a headache. He isn’t certain its his car, he knows he’s never driven it before. he knows he has never seen it before.  She drives it out through the car park along the high street, They talk about Mary and the forthcoming wedding of their son. Later he wonders why people imagine that the universe next door is any different from the one they are in,  some things are determined, the NHS, Auschwitz, Z leaning against the car smiling at him, his grandchild on the swing in the garden. These things are as determined after 14 billion years of the universe as thermodynamics, the sun, galaxies and the velocity of light. The declination of neutrons falling through space, nuetrons , in free fall in space, deviate from from their straight trajectory ‘a little… just so much as you might call a change of motion’ Their deviation is as small as it can possibly be. The universe is a deterministic event. Weeks pass before he notices other slight differences between this universe and the one he had left behind. But nothing as surprising as the first day. After a few days he recognizes that it was a Lucretian intervention, the clinamen swerves, a particle falls a non-linear dynamic step. A chaotic transition enacted when walking from x to b. .  Even after a few months have passed and he has grown used to driving the Porsche he is aware that he doesn’t really prefer it to the GTI he left behind. The universe is a deterministic place he thinks every time he looks at the Porsche key. It is impossible to imagine a world in which I don’t have a GTI or Porsche key on my Keyring he thinks. Years will pass and he will never understand why the woman and his children are the same, why his few friends are identical, why his library is scarcely any different and his passwords based on variations of rhizome, spinoza and marxstraat are the same. The printed labels of passwords in the back of his notebooks are the same. How strange that people are so scared of determinism he thinks.

He wonders if Z would mind if he swapped the Porsche for a new GTI, he misses the beeps of the park assist system. It’s surprising what you miss, he thinks as he starts ordering copies of books that he used to have that are missing from his library here, though he thinks the missing volumes could be hiding on a shelf just outside his vision. Sometimes he sees Z looking at him as if wondering at some slight change in his behavior. The days secretly swap places and roles and though we may discover that they have perfidiously  replaced one another, we still find it hard to talk about the causes and effects, eventually though we do.  Perhaps its a Tuesday, grey and desolate but it is nothing but a flawed Sunday, whilst the day we talk is a real Sunday that feels as if it should be Monday, but isn’t. In the Cote in Am’. Where they/we sit in the familiar booth, drinking Chablis and eating Breton fish stew, her eyes shining in the semi-dark as he talks about walking from one universe to another by accident and how its unchanged. She speaks of love, children and growing old. The love of the day of noise,  which once would have fallen on Wednesday but now is here on this Sunday, the stories they exchange of their lives, her pale grey eyes, love and politics determined from the moment before the big bang that led to this moment. The antropic principle remains the same here as there – the values of the constants of nature, or the laws of nature that have a bearing upon the existence of life – demand that he drinks Chablis with Z…a summer shower, a parakeet flies by the restaurant window…

Perhaps the fact that your future is determined matters to you, but really it shouldn’t as the future has not happened yet…