From Plato’s Forms to Christianity’s concept of the soul, traditional wisdom has told us that everything has its own unique essence. When we explore the tiniest of tiniest scales, however, it seems that traditional wisdom has gotten it utterly and profoundly wrong on this front. The only way to distinguish anything from anything else in the quantum world is through qualities like charge, mass, and spin; and the only way for these qualities to be acquired is through interactions with ubiquitous fields. The difference between you and everything you’ve ever seen reduces to the chaotic dance of fields and forces. You, your family and friends, that asshole who cut you off on the highway, that spider you killed in the shower, the bacteria residing in your gut, the piece of technology you’re using to read this, the air exhaling out of your lungs, the sunlight sustaining your survival, the known cosmos in its entirety—everything and all of its differences may boil down to nothing more than infinitesimal two-steps, evanescent jitters. Although this isn’t entirely accurate either, since these labels are mere metaphors for what’s really going on. In the fuzzy, dynamic universe of quanta, the concept of labels entirely breaks down. We are left only with mathematical abstractions and probabilities. No matter how you slice it, identity vanishes as a coherent concept in the universe inside of us.
Some find this unacceptable, even frightening. To me, it is a romantic and awe-inspiring aspect of reality. It satisfies many of the ‘new age’ desires for interconnectedness without appealing to pseudoscience, and it speaks to the homogeneous and limitless makeup of our beings. Despite this, the quantum world is often deemed irrelevant since it has no consequence on our perceived experiences. What do I care what’s happening on such a small scale if it has nothing to do with my day-to-day reality? To hold this opinion is to deny the import of the pursuit of truth, as the quantum scale, though far removed from our perceptions, is nonetheless fundamental to reality, fundamental to truth. Attempting to grasp the inner-workings of the cosmos is a noble pursuit in and of itself, but it’s also a quick path to enriching our day-to-day lives. It offers a peek at just how lucky we are to be alive and, particularly, to have consciousness. Traditional cosmologies explain consciousness as something bestowed upon us from on high or as existing in its essence forever and always; quantum cosmology, on the other hand, speaks to how fortunate we are that nature was ever able to transcend its singularity, its state of complete identity-less uniformity, and give rise to the unique experiences of personality, emotion, creativity, love—in short, identity. How marvelously privileged we all are to get a precious slice of spacetime for reaping these gifts of cosmic evolution.