by Alex Vikoulov
"Time is what prevents everything from happening at once." -John A. Wheeler
What could be strange about something we're all so familiar with - TIME? We all have cognitive biases and some concepts in this essay may be kind of novel, or even bizarre to you, so I urge you to keep an open mind. While pondering about the ultimate nature of time, most people are used to think in linear terms and have these common misconceptions:
Misconception #1: Time is Universal
The biggest misconception of all is that a "Now" moment throughout our Universe must be the same. It turns out that time is paradoxical, flexible and relative, in other words, time is not what it appears to be. Albert Einstein in his Theory of General Relativity shed light on the relativistic nature of time. He has shown that speed and gravity influence time thus making a now for an observer on Earth different from a now for an observer on a planet in some distant galaxy depending how fast the two planets are moving in relation to each other across the vast distances as well as their mass differential. Interestingly enough, this could possibly explain the Fermi's Paradox (where are all the aliens?) that we'll discuss further.
Einstein came to another mind-blowing realization about non-locality of time stating that the past, present and future all exist simultaneously in the eternal NOW, as his quote "The distinction between the past, present and future is only an illusion, albeit a persistent one" became famous almost overnight. Thus, all events in the universe that happened in the past still exist, in fact, are even happening right now, in another conscious observer's reality. And all events that will happen in the future already exist, in fact, are even happening right now, in another conscious observer's reality. There's no special "Now".
Video Credit: PBS/Brian Greene - The Illusion of Time
Misconception #2: The Flow of Time is Universal
Time is not fixed at the same rate. We experience time as a series of fleeting "Now" moments. That's why as an acronym, TIME should stand for: The Infinite Moment Experience. Ultimately, it's all relative and subjective.
Time dilation, a difference of the passage of time between observers, depends on your speed - the faster you move the slower your time in relation to others - you age slower than people on Earth, for example, if you travel on a spaceship near the speed of light. Your passage of time also depends on gravity which you are experiencing - the closer you are to a gravitational object like Earth, the slower time ticks for you compared to the astronauts orbiting the planet. Under normal earthly conditions your passage of time is not much different than mine except in some instances when consciousness switches to the "emergency regime" or "altered state" where events may be perceived in slower (or faster) motion.
The perception of how time flows also depends on timescales specific to a species. In this sense, time is what makes us uniquely human. One may argue that all living creatures, which are basically biological computational systems, say, bees, bats or humans, experience the flow of time at different timescales. One day, human-level Artificial Intelligence would claim to be conscious and have "her own subjectivity" which would arguably be different from the ordinary human perception of time. Conscious AI quite probably would "think" and perceive time at digital scales, perhaps thousands or even millions of times faster than unaugmented humans! Would our "physical world" be perceived by Strong AI (or future us?) as almost static? Wouldn't AI be willing to create virtual worlds in "her imagination", or on other advanced computational substrate?
The flow of time is a construct of our consciousness. Period. When speaking of the passage of time, consciousness cannot be ruled out of the equation. There's no objective reality "out there", only subjective reality. What stands the closest to the "objective reality" is actually what Howard Bloom, author of the "Global Brain", calls "a shared hallucination" of human species, and "physical rule set" - laws of physics, specific to our Universe. That's what we usually call "consensus reality", or simply "Reality" for practical convenience. If you imagined a humonguous balloon of your subjectivity, you would see a tiny, tiny dot. That tiny dot is "objective reality," consisting of common "physical ruleset" and shared (remembered) events with just a few entangled conscious minds.
How does consciousness create a continuous flow of time for our inner experience? I describe temporal dynamics and the relationship between time and mind in my coming book but for now look at it this way. If you subscribe to quantum theory (and you should), there is essentially an infinite number of parallel universes (let's call them parallel earths here) and your consciousness shifts from one 3D-snapshot parallel Earth to another, slightly different one. That creates an illusion of movement and continuous flow of time for you to experience your smooth inner movie.
As I mentioned before, everything in our "physical" reality comes down to consciousness, more specifically consciousness as integrated information, consisting of Conscious Observer Moments (COMs). Your brain collects, processes sensory and mental data, and presents to your conscious awareness prioritized and relevant information which becomes your unitary picture of "reality". Every COM is an integrated information which corresponds to one particular "time slice" of our 3D space.
In recent paper, published in PloS Biology, proposing the Two-Stage Model of Consciousness, developed by Michael Herzog and Frank Scharnowski, authors argue that our conscious perception comes in discrete snapshots, "time slices", like distinct images flicking quickly through a film reel. According to this theory, consciousness is in fact developed in two stages - simply put, conscious and unconscious moments few milliseconds long in duration, on and off. “We perceive time as continuous just as we perceive a line as continuous even though its ink is of discrete atomic nature,” as the authors write in their paper.
Max Tegmark, MIT's astrophysicist, argues that the flow of time is an illusion in our 4D spacetime:
Video Credit: Closer to Truth/ Max Tegmark - Is Time Fundamental?
Misconception #3: There's Only One Universal Timeline
Hidden from our senses, lies an intricate web of alternate realities. Subjectively, we do experience only one timeline but quantum theory, which by the way has never failed its predictions, implies the existence of parallel universes with alternate timelines. It means that macroobjects including people display properties of the quantum world at a human scale, such as the wave function - probabilistic distribution of outcomes.
At a more fundamental level of reality, you and I have an infinitely large number of our counterparts in parallel universes. These parallel universes may be slightly different or drastically different from each other, where all possible timelines branch off from our birth. These universes are all equally valid and comprise conscious observers which all perceive their own respective "only one true reality".
Just like particles, say, electrons, traveling along all possible paths from start to end points, our Universe has the full set of possible histories, each eternally present, however imperceptible to us. Feynman’s ‘sum over histories’ interpretation is now a standard tool in fundamental physical theory, and is even used in fields far removed from theoretical physics.
Do all those alternate timelines truly exist? Most physicists believe they do but somehow, only certain potentialities become realities, and somehow large systems such as human observers are carried along from past to future. There's a certain mechanism we find in nature you might want to read about in my other article below. Is death an illusion? See my other related article here:
Could the phenomena of synchronicity, déjà-vu be explained by physics? The past, present, and future are all connected, entangled in such a way that a relevant information manifests itself in the spotlight of your consciousness. As quantum mechanics implies, the present moment you are experiencing now is best thought of as funneled from all your probable pasts as well as funneled from all your probable futures.
Video Credit: Interview with Dr.Bruce H.Lipton
Misconception #4: Time Travel is Impossible
Time travel is not only theoretically possible but technologically feasible, as a number of scientists are working now on the proof of their concepts. See my recent article and watch related videos, here:
HERE'S PART II (Continuation):
- by Alex Vikoulov
Related Articles by the Author:
The Coming New Global Mind
How to Create Friendly AI and Survive the Coming Intelligence Explosion
Infomorph Commonality: Our Post-Singularity Future
Quantum Immortality: Does Quantum Physics Imply You Are Immortal?
Ecstadelic Orgy of The Digital Minds: Our Singularity Climax
The Spiritual Machines: What If AI Was Enlightened?
Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality: Ecstadelic Matrix of Our Making
Tags: temporal dynamics, misconceptions about time, time dilation, time travel, temporal mechanics, quantum mechanics, temporal paradoxes, Digital Physics, Quantum Physics, Albert Einstein, John Wheeler, Brian Greene, Michael Herzog, Frank Scharnowski, Max Tegmark, Richard Feynman, quantum Immortality, General Relativity Theory, Two-Stage Consciousness Theory, Fermi's Paradox, non-locality of time, conscious observer, universal time, computational substrate, Artificial Intelligence, AI, Strong AI, altered state of consciousness, time slice, integrated Information, 4D spacetime, parrallel universes, alternate timelines, quantum theory, synchronicity, duration, déjà-vu, feasability of time travel, time reversability
About the Author:
Alex Vikoulov is a futurist, evolutionary extrapolist, transhumanist singularitarian, digital philosopher, founder of Ecstadelic Media, painter and media artist, author of "The Syntellect Hypothesis: Five Paradigms of the Mind's Evolution". Lives in Burlingame, California (San Francisco Bay Area).