It is my 81st birthday today. As befits such a day I have been reflecting on my life with all its mistakes and follies, but can only conclude that I’ve been in the same boat as everybody else. My life has been a playing out of the personality that I happened to have at puberty — a product of what genes I was born with and subsequently weakened or strengthened by the adult world which conditioned me as a child.
Many of the decisions I have taken since puberty have been attempts to modify my basic personality at crucial junctures in my life. Some of these have succeeded and some have failed, though which is which I cannot say myself, not being able — as Robbie Burns has said — to see myself as others see me.
Modern neurophysiology tells us, however, that all conscious decisions are preceded by a preparatory unconscious powering-up of neurons in our frontal lobes. Their electrical potential can be clearly seen and measured before our ‘free’ decision is taken. Presumably, in the case of some decisions, they may all have been dependent on one electron, whether it assists the power surge or diminishes it.
If so, then where does the electron come from? If you believe in the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics then the electron has come from nowhere and everywhere. It is only its probability of acting at the decision point that’s important. If, however, you believe in the Bohm-de Broglie interpretation then the electron was guided to add to, or detract from the power surge by a pilot wave coming from a deeper quantum field.
Until the problem of quantum physics is resolved — if it ever will — then I really won’t know whether my 81 years have been truly mine or not.