The concept of time not being "real," can be useful as an exercise for modelling problems where to fully explore the problem space, you need to decouple your solutions from needing them to occur in an order or sequence.
From an engineering perspective, "removing" time means you can model problems abstractly by stepping back from a problem and asking, what are all possible states of the mechanism, then which ones are we implementing, and finally, in what order. This is different from the relatively stochastic approach most people take of "given X, what is the necessary next step to get to desired endstate."
More simply, as a tool, time helps us apprehend the states of a system by reducing the scope of our perception of them to sets of serial, ordered phenomena.
Whether it is "real," or an artifact of our perception is sort of immaterial when you can choose to reason about things with it, or without it. A friend once joked that math is what you get when you remove time from physics.
I look forward to the author's new book.
cites some old sources that are (probably) a few years older than the Cambridge version:
> As Dharma Kumar paraphrased Joan
Robinson, "time is a device to prevent everything happening at once, space is a device to prevent it all
happening in Cambridge".
It's just interesting to consider whether assuming time as a necessary variable can create an artificial constraint on reasoning.
The specific example I was thinking of is in an ontology, where you have all these types of information, related in different ways, that are all factors in each others behavior, but you can't model the whole thing as a function or transaction. That is, adding time (a transaction order) reduces the scope of what you can include in your model.
From a writerly laymans perspective, asking whether time is a real and universal property of all systems or an artifact of how we interpret them, is analogous to imagining we were studying physics with a heuristically useful, but generally limiting presupposition. One which would be like presuming all algorithms were in P, all graphs had hamiltonian cycles, all consistent theorems were true, etc. Then considering the consequences of the alternative.
It's all very meta and fun to think about, but I suppose that's what this topic is about.
Not really. Time could be real, and still not necessary to consider in all situations.
I think this argument applies to your b) as well, but I'm less sure of that...
The question is, given it isn't always applicable, and it may not always be necessary where it is partially so, are there situations where it causes paradoxes where it is a source of noise instead of information, and how can we know when applying it whether it causes one or the other?
Godel as a logician would have approached it as just another formalism.
If reconciling models of physical phenomena with models of time produces inconsistency and paradoxes, he'd ask whether we were first sure that was time intrinsic to those physical phenomena, or does our model of time impose an arbitrary constraint on our ability to reason more abstractly about them.
My point is that it's a reasonable question with related applications. Not sure there is a wrong to be here.
"Not even wrong" isn't a mark in favor of a model...
This picture is in its turn grounded on a presentist theory of time (the idea that only the present exists), or at least an A-theory of time (the idea that the present is somehow special, in absolute terms.) Nothing like that is true if time does not pass: all of the moments that make me and everything I care about are still there, occupying their own spacetime regions, eternal, in a way.
Realizing this has helped me see death from a slightly different perspective. It still sucks, but it no longer feels like the absolutely unaceptable deal I used to think it was.
“We cannot, indeed, imagine our own death; whenever we try to do so we find that we survive ourselves as spectators. The school of psychoanalysis could thus assert that at bottom no one believes in his own death, which amounts to saying: in the unconscious every one of us is convinced of his immortality.”
As a former boxer who has been "knocked out", I have always speculated that feeling is akin to what death would "feel like" (that is, nothing at all). When you are knocked out (as aside from asleep) you have no experience. You don't dream, you don't feel has though time has passed - you don't feel anything. One second you are awake and aware and the next second you wake up lying on the ground (or don't wake up at all, if you are dead). It feels like an instant, no matter how long you actually been knocked out for. This makes it different than sleeping and simply not remembering your dreams upon waking.
It doesn't always happen this way, but when it does it's insightful: I first get a very strong sense of "Wrong," as my understanding of the laws of physics vanish. If the choke has finished and I'm left standing but still going to black out, I'll probably topple at this point as I misunderstand gravity and forget about/lose control of my legs.
Enough of my ego will still be aware enough to have the thought "this is embarrassing, I've fallen," but it fades quickly as I lose understanding of why falling is bad, what embarrassment is, and what ground is. Then there will be a fading out of visual input (auditory goes before anything else), with my awareness quickly shrinking to a tiny ball of awareness, which visualizes itself as a bright speck of light surrounded by nothing. Panic will still exist and set in, as the speck loses subsystem after subsystem, not quite sure what is being lost but knowing things are, and feeling an encroaching blackness.
Eventually the only thing left is a feeble desire to not vanish, followed by nothing.
This might actually happen every time I get choked out, but only the right circumstances allow it to be "written" to memory.
It aligns with what friends have told me about near death experiences (heart attacks, overdose).
However, my state of non-existence ended at my birth. Just as my state of existence will end at my death.
In this regard, the future is not exactly like the past. In the past, there was never a time in which I came into existence. In the future, there was a time where I came into existence. Neither of those statements transfer between past and future.
I'm not sure of that, yet. We haven't managed to pin down what "I" is or even what "existence" is. I'm thinking in the "we virtualized a copy of your brain" sense - just what is consciousness?
Indeed, the very existence (and non-existence) could be relative - just like time and space. For example, in one frame of reference there may exist a magnetic field while in the other there may be none.
This is "memory", or "trace". Their existence take away from your non-existence, making it incomplete (imperfect), which indeed makes one's future different from one's past.
From a purely entropic and information theoretic standpoint, these are very different states and certainly not a safe assumption.
On the other hand, one might argue that (for example) wasted sperm and eggs should count as "not born". But even that can be seen as too limiting, because - perhaps, somewhat paradoxically - to be completely objective one should be considering statistical parameters rather than a physical measure.
Unfortunately this argument doesn't hold water when someone tries to say that their god intervenes and decides to overcome man-made barriers to fertilization, because that particular special snowflake baby needs to be born. Unsure why the soul assigned to that fertilized egg doesn't just find another but that just goes to show how messy the whole damn debate is.
Incidentally, this is also my argument against me having babies - knowing that regardless of the number of babies I have, I will feel unconditional love and gratitude at each and every one's existence, and because I can't possibly compare my comfort or economic well being against the value of a human life, the only logical conclusion I can come to is I should have as many babies as I physically can. Or, I should have none.
That's the thing with free will - if it's free, then it can choose things that will prevent (for example) the woman who will discover a general cure for cancer from being born. Just as a random guy with a knife can prevent that same woman from publishing the cure she figured out last night when he stabs her to death in an alley in Queens. "Free will without consequences" is as nonsensical as "rights without duties".
Consider quantity vs. quality, though. Quoting Lenin, "We must follow the rule: Better fewer, but better. We must follow the rule: Better get good human material in two or even three years than work in haste without hope of getting any at all." 'None' would be the best choice here: you could, instead, adopt a child and by doing so save a life and contribute to keeping the human population within reasonable bounds at the same time!
However, that still says nothing of the difference between dying and not being born. Just because things have a large similarity does not mean they are equal, after all.
Your odd argument that "wasted" sperm and such should somehow count towards "born/not born" just seems a non-sequitor. That is quite literally unrelated. The sperm/egg are merely mechanisms and say nothing of the person unless we plan on presupposing a conscious person exists before they exist.
Doesn't look like anything to me.
I mean, I get that these are fun discussions to have. Likely even meaningful. But the odd friction this is adding to enter the conversation seems overblown.
Did I ask you to be "explicit/exact"? I'm just curious for you to describe, at all, the supposed "substantial difference" that you apparently know of between being "not yet born" and being "dead".
>Two stars in the sky have an obvious substantial difference between their existences.
In what way are two stars analogous at all to being not yet born and being dead?
I don't mean that in a nihilistic, nothing is true, everything is permissible way. Nor do I mean it's ok to arbitrarily pick fantasies to believe, especially if that leads us to imposing the consequences of those beliefs on other people. There are few beneficial delusions. The question is, what do you care about in life and what are your goals.
How you choose to think about things is a tool you can use to help you on a productive path. If a certain way of thinking helps you maintain an even keel mentally, then that can be useful. It doesn't take blind faith, you don't have to exclude the possibility of alternate explanations, keeping an open mind is fine, but if this is a plausible possibility then why not take some comfort from that? It doesn't necessarily mean you're compromising any of your principles to do so.
Existential anxiety can be extremely debilitating. If one plausible interpretation of time brings you comfort, there's no harm in focusing on it.
I'd love a lot more life than I have in front of me - a few millenia at least - but even with a traditional, linear view of time there's no point, need or possibility of eternity.
Which is fine if you are a God (or programmer) building a simulation, but has no objective meaning to anyone inside.
Re: your suggestion that whatever cannot be perceived does not make a difference to us, I care deeply about the future wellbeing of my family, including those years I won't see because I'll be long dead. I'd bet you do too.
The point is that we experience time as flowing in a certain direction and can't experience it any other way. Knowing that we continue to exist in some tiny sliver of spacetime doesn't change that fact, and so it is not very comforting, for easily understandable reasons.
If you're on your deathbed, with your conscious experience about to flicker and die, no one in the room is going to be comforted by you saying "well look at it this way, my 2 year old self still exists somewhere that you can't ever access and that I'll never return to, and even if I did, none of us would have any idea that this conversation was going to happen in 90 years".
Apart from that, I don't believe in a self.
I assume, that when I die, this perspective goes away as well, I consider death to equal a total loss of consciousness ability to percieve.
On the plus side, much like matter and energy, it is unlikely that consciousness is created or destroyed in the operations of the universe. Instead, it just gets reconfigured.
Recent thinking about this in neurology is that we are not. We're not concious most of the time we are asleep, and in fact are unaware of our own thoughts much of the time we are awake. Arguably when we are 'lost in the moment' or acting on instinct or training there's really not much conscious cognition going on because frankly it just gets in the way. It seems likely that conscious thought is something we only do as and when we need or want to, but we spend much of our time in an 'animal' state.
Have you ever been reading a book and someone had to poke you to make you aware of them? The auditory processing parts of your brain were simply not functioning. We switch on and off different faculties of the brain all the time, and immediate conscious awareness of the present is just another one of those.
That's only your perception because you have memory. If we copied your memories right now and put them in a robot body 3000 years from now, it would also have the illusion of a single continuous perspective.
The perspective goes away, but the ability to perceive is not part of the perspective. An old telescope goes offline, but the scientist is still there, peering through other telescopes. The body dies, but that which experiences the world through it doesn't.
This is from "the perennial philsophy" (cf. Aldous Huxley), if you want to look into it, though a bit esoteric and not easy to find a contemporary simple explanation of it.
Have you ever had amnesia (loss of memory), or creation of false memory, via disease, injury, inebriation, or anesthesia? 99.99% likely you have.
I'm not saying my conscious perception is constant, but if you plot consciousness as a binary variable on a graph (conscious, not conscious), a lifetime would look something like this, relatively constant.
Before birth Birth ..... life ...... death
. = not conscious
~ = ..?
- = conscious
Yes but not evolving anymore. What sucks isn't really not existing anymore, what do sucks is having no future. If a supervillain's evil plan was eternally freezing the universe right now, I would be as sad as if it was making it disappear.
Dynamics in block universe is like reading a book: it seems things happen as you move your attention over the pages, but in truth the story was fixed before you even started.
Our problems with death are, basically, ego. How you mentally model time and the universe doesn't take that away
In the model of flowing time, once you are dead you've passed out of existence, only to be clinging on trough the memories of others.
Nature has a clever way of dealing with this: at a certain point in life you begin wishing you had no future.
To go further, if nothing living ever died, the whole biosphere couldn't work at all.
Life exists because of death. Saying we like life, but not death, is like saying: "I love breathing in, but I hate breathing out."
But as long as you can only perceive it as such, it's a meaningless distinction from a practical view.
But outside of something like serializing events in an application, I don't think I can reify time. If you've got an idea for it, please clue me in because the possibilities are endless.
Further, memory itself gives the impression of irreversible time.
It's a solution allowed by GTR, not a new trick definition. It belongs to the family of 'dust solutions'. You arrange particles (can be as big as galaxies) that move in certain way and you get time travel. Only other assumption is nonzero cosmological constant.
You can't get time travel in Newtonian universe just by arranging objects in it to move certain way.
In general, closed timelike curves are allowed in GTR. It's possible generate them several different ways. Gödel just made super elegant one. What GTR allows and what actually is allowed are different matters. Just like Newtons equations break at some extremes, same probably happens to GTR.
"After listening to the river, Siddhartha’s biggest insight is that time is an illusion and that life is not a continuum of events, but instead is omnipresent. Eternity springs from the world’s unity. Understanding the past and the future as part of the present is a major component of achieving enlightenment."
So what? What are the consequences?
I think, he's trying to say that "time" is really not a thing, but rather our perception and understanding of time makes it a thing. What we should see as time is actually some flow of causality. You cannot map "earlier/later than" or "same time" to causal reality, those qualities only refer to time as a scale, not as a natural occurrence of causality order. Or so I think.
Or so was supposedly Gödel's argument.
If the order is undefined, then how can you say I'm late?
Or: it doesn't matter in which order you write the events of a story, as long as the events themselves are in order. The author is not bound by the timeline of the story.
Pause, muse on time's illusion
Work must resume, shame
And I didn't mean illusory in opposition to real. Is the pleasure I derive from an illusory steak in the Matrix not real?