Some of you will, no doubt, be at least passingly familiar with the concept of Schrödinger’s cat; the idea postulated to explain the strange nature of quantum superpositions, in which a quantum system such as an atom or photon can exist as a combination of multiple states corresponding to different possible outcomes. The prevailing theory at the time said that a quantum system remained in this superposition until it interacted with, or was observed by, the external world, at which time the superposition collapses into one or another of the possible definite states.
Still with me?
To illustrate this. Schrödinger proposed a scenario with a cat in a locked steel chamber, wherein the cat’s life or death depended on the state of a radioactive atom, whether it had decayed and emitted radiation or not.
One of the obvious problems with this, aside from its inherent cruelty to the cat is that, depending on how long the radioactive material actually took to decay, the cat could die for a number of totally unrelated reasons, i.e. starvation or, more likely due to need for the steel box in question to be sealed to prevent stray radiation entering from outside, asphyxiation. Another possibility is that the cat could die out of sheer boredom. All of these deaths could occur without radioactive decay and would, therefore, render the experiment invalid (and pointless).
This did get me thinking, in an oddly roundabout way, about the internet and the way we interact with each other over it.
In this scenario, the “internet” is the closed box and I am the cat/wanker in question. Now, at the time of writing this particular piece of nonsense, I am most definitely not having a wank. For one thing, I’m male and multi-tasking is not my thing, and for another, my general lack of typing ability means that I primarily use my dominant hand for both activities; so if I’m doing one, I cannot be doing the other. QED.
But what about from the readers’ frame of reference?
Assuming anyone reads this, they will be reading it at a different point of time from when I wrote it. I am, therefore, unobservable because I am inside that box that is the internet. I could therefore, be wanking and or not-wanking when you read these words. As such, I would simultaneously be performing an act of masturbation, while also not masturbating at the same time. You, my dear reader, would never know unless you were able to somehow peek inside “the box” (presumably using a web cam or similar) while reading these words.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the audience; I present to you…