Author Topic: Is the future already written?  (Read 2905 times)

Is the future already written?
« on: September 10, 2018, 06:21:21 PM »
In 1905, Einstein overturned Newton’s harmonious picture of a standard universal time. He replaced it with a discordant, relative view in which different people could disagree about the duration of events, and even the order in which they happened. The young Einstein came to the remarkable realization that time was, in fact, a fourth dimension, alongside the three dimensions of space that we see around us, creating what has become known as the “block universe” picture of reality.

To explain what a block universe looks like, imagine taking successive photographs of a location, such as a series of snapshots of anxious Cambridge students hurrying across the Trinity quadrangle, books in hands, on their way to exams. If you projected the photos one after another, you would make a movie through which time appeared to pass, corresponding to our intuitive view of time’s flow. But if you stack the images on top of each other, you would see the students’ entire journeys across the quadrangle mapped out in front of you, all at once. The second example is similar to the block universe view, where past, present and future all coexist simultaneously, and the passage of time has no meaning; all events coexist side by side. ...

In the block universe, then, what someone perceives as the future is what someone else saw as the past, depending on the person’s position and motion. Events that have yet to happen for one person, it appears, have already happened for another. The future, though it remains unknown to you, seems to be written already. Einstein himself described it thus: “People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”


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The idea of eternalism, that the past, present, and future all equally real and that speed and motion determine our perception of time, makes sense to me. Eternalism seems to be supported by experiments involving high-speed aircraft measuring time variation based on speed and direction. The main arguments I have read objecting to this theory is that 1) it is counterintuitive to our lived experience and 2) it is deterministic and eliminates "free will." I don't think either of these arguments is very strong. What are your thoughts?
“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.”

― Pema Chödrön

Offline Shiranu

Re: Is the future already written?
« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2018, 06:29:07 PM »
If I can neither observe or influence it, I am rather indifferent about it one way or another. The present is the only state of time that will ever exist so long as I exist, so that's all I really need to concern myself with

It is cool to imagine time as it's own dimension though, and it certainly fits the model of the universe that we have.
"Judge a moth by the beauty of its candle." - Rumi

Offline Baruch

Re: Is the future already written?
« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2018, 06:38:14 PM »
The idea of space-time was invented by Minkowski for local (small time/small distance) situations (like experimental setups), to provide a geometric version of Einstein's algebraic special theory of relativity.  The Lorentz equations have to do with matching up two frames moving at different steady speeds that are recording the same events.  This was fortuitous, because geometry was necessary to generalize it to accelerating frames.

The general theory of relativity is based on the idea that where there is acceleration (where gravity is you always have acceleration) any two frames of reference don't match up over larger distances/times.  It is even called a chart ... each chart being a local space-time map that distorts at the edges (like ordinary Earth maps do).  The Einstein equation has to do with matching up two frames moving under the unsteady influence of gravity that are recording the same events.

So the idea that we move along a world line of already existing events ... is only true locally, not globally.  It is an artifact of the early interpretation of the special theory of relativity.  The smaller the space-time, the more accurate is the analogy.  This is why elementary particle theory is usually unconcerned about gravity.
𐎍𐎜𐎜𐎟𐎌𐎀𐎍𐎎𐎀𐎀𐎚𐎀𐎟𐎍𐎜𐎜𐎟𐎁𐎀𐎍𐎉𐎀𐎀𐎚𐎀
luu shalmaata luu balt’aata
May you be well, may you be healthy

Re: Is the future already written?
« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2018, 07:03:51 PM »
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The main arguments I have read objecting to this theory is that 1) it is counterintuitive to our lived experience and 2) it is deterministic and eliminates "free will." I don't think either of these arguments is very strong. What are your thoughts?
I don't think those arguments are very strong, either. One question I do have concerns the existence of "world lines": If quantum particles (such as electrons, etc.) don't have well-defined positions, and can, in fact, be seen as being (in some sense) everywhere at once, then how can they have well-defined world lines? And without those, how can their futures be already determined?
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"In life, unlike chess, the game continues after checkmate."
Isaac Asimov

Re: Is the future already written?
« Reply #4 on: September 10, 2018, 07:12:31 PM »
Here's a good video on the subject:


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"In life, unlike chess, the game continues after checkmate."
Isaac Asimov

Online Mr.Obvious

Re: Is the future already written?
« Reply #5 on: September 10, 2018, 07:20:23 PM »
Short answer: yes
Long answer: yes, in comic sans.

No seriously. I personally don't think The future could bE anything different than what te past lead up to. I'm not certain about time and space, but free will certainty seems like an illusion (or a delusion) stemming from lack of perspective. And without choice, The future seems set.
"If we have to go down, we go down together!"
- Your mum, requesting 69 last night.


Offline Baruch

Re: Is the future already written?
« Reply #6 on: September 10, 2018, 10:35:34 PM »
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Short answer: yes
Long answer: yes, in comic sans.

No seriously. I personally don't think The future could bE anything different than what te past lead up to. I'm not certain about time and space, but free will certainty seems like an illusion (or a delusion) stemming from lack of perspective. And without choice, The future seems set.

On a philosophical basis, not a physics basis, I have to disagree to a degree.  We are limited by what reality allows, but that is like being limited to being in a single room, but we are free to move within it.

On the other hand, given limited free will, I am not so sure about blaming and punishment.
𐎍𐎜𐎜𐎟𐎌𐎀𐎍𐎎𐎀𐎀𐎚𐎀𐎟𐎍𐎜𐎜𐎟𐎁𐎀𐎍𐎉𐎀𐎀𐎚𐎀
luu shalmaata luu balt’aata
May you be well, may you be healthy

Online Mr.Obvious

Re: Is the future already written?
« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2018, 06:32:25 AM »
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On a philosophical basis, not a physics basis, I have to disagree to a degree.  We are limited by what reality allows, but that is like being limited to being in a single room, but we are free to move within it.

On the other hand, given limited free will, I am not so sure about blaming and punishment.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but you believe conscience is formed through something either seperate from or at least more than just the physical/material?
"If we have to go down, we go down together!"
- Your mum, requesting 69 last night.


Offline Baruch

Re: Is the future already written?
« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2018, 06:53:14 AM »
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Correct me if I'm wrong, but you believe conscience is formed through something either seperate from or at least more than just the physical/material?

You meant consciousness?  No, per Spinoza ... the natural/un-natural aka supernatural are just two sides to one coin.  This was Spinoza's response to Descartes' dualism.  And the mind is much bigger than mere consciousness.  The conscious mind is just the tip of the iceberg.

Conscience is something someone develops, that little voice that tell you, don't do that, or do this.  Something we are free to ignore at our peril (assuming we aren't sociopaths).

To bring Spinoza up to date, you need Kripke Semantics ... and to understand that you have to understand the Basics of Modal Logic I posted last month.

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Basically I treat "possible worlds" as people, not things.  Each person is a world (not a planet).  A developing world that comes into existence and eventually goes out of existence.  Meanwhile we have various ways of sharing the experience.
« Last Edit: September 11, 2018, 07:28:10 AM by Baruch »
𐎍𐎜𐎜𐎟𐎌𐎀𐎍𐎎𐎀𐎀𐎚𐎀𐎟𐎍𐎜𐎜𐎟𐎁𐎀𐎍𐎉𐎀𐎀𐎚𐎀
luu shalmaata luu balt’aata
May you be well, may you be healthy

Online Mr.Obvious

Re: Is the future already written?
« Reply #9 on: September 11, 2018, 07:10:27 AM »
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You meant consciousness?  No, per Spinoza ... the natural/un-natural aka supernatural are just two sides to one coin.  This was Spinoza's response to Descartes' dualism.  And the mind is much bigger than mere consciousness.  The conscious mind is just the tip of the iceberg.

Conscience is something someone develops, that little voice that tell you, don't do that, or do this.  Something we are free to ignore at our peril (assuming we aren't sociopaths).

Aye, consiousness. My bad. :)

But consciousness, and the subconscious, would then all be formed and determined by 'the room' we walk in, no? And by our previous experiences in the room, down to the smallest seemingly insignificant detail.  Even if we don't understand correctly how, it is being formed and shaped; which will Always lead to whatever it is building up to. 

My view, at least. I can predict we're not going to come to an agreement on this, however.
"If we have to go down, we go down together!"
- Your mum, requesting 69 last night.


Offline Baruch

Re: Is the future already written?
« Reply #10 on: September 11, 2018, 07:25:50 AM »
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Aye, consiousness. My bad. :)

But consciousness, and the subconscious, would then all be formed and determined by 'the room' we walk in, no? And by our previous experiences in the room, down to the smallest seemingly insignificant detail.  Even if we don't understand correctly how, it is being formed and shaped; which will Always lead to whatever it is building up to. 

My view, at least. I can predict we're not going to come to an agreement on this, however.

If we are Russian dolls, with no hollow, just more dolls inside ... then there is no freedom.  But a Russian could claim that, wouldn't he?

Or are you just saying that cause/effect is a treadmill?  I often suspect pre-destiny believers simply don't want to take any credit for their serial killings.  Cause/effect people blame everything on their parents ...
« Last Edit: September 11, 2018, 07:29:19 AM by Baruch »
𐎍𐎜𐎜𐎟𐎌𐎀𐎍𐎎𐎀𐎀𐎚𐎀𐎟𐎍𐎜𐎜𐎟𐎁𐎀𐎍𐎉𐎀𐎀𐎚𐎀
luu shalmaata luu balt’aata
May you be well, may you be healthy

Offline SGOS

Re: Is the future already written?
« Reply #11 on: September 11, 2018, 10:32:51 AM »
I don't think about it too much.  I think about it some, but then I just throw my hands up, and get on with painting the ceiling or fixing a leaky faucet.  Having said that, I have enjoyed reading this thread so far.  No flaming or name calling at this point.  It's a breath of fresh air.

Offline Sal1981

Re: Is the future already written?
« Reply #12 on: September 11, 2018, 11:16:56 AM »
I think the Newtonian view of the past, present and future as some wound-up clockwork with the unfolding events on some set path is incorrect,  given how quantum mechanics works.

I mostly align with presentism, that only the present is real and that time, the way we experience and assign past and future events, is an illusion.
"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool" --- Richard P. Feynman

Re: Is the future already written?
« Reply #13 on: September 11, 2018, 11:22:44 AM »
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I mostly align with presentism, that only the present is real and that time, the way we experience and assign past and future events, is an illusion.

“Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.”

― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.”

― Pema Chödrön

Offline trdsf

Re: Is the future already written?
« Reply #14 on: September 11, 2018, 08:55:26 PM »
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I mostly align with presentism, that only the present is real and that time, the way we experience and assign past and future events, is an illusion.
I'm not sure I agree that the past is illusory, experientially or otherwise.  There are events that it is generally agreed happened in the past.  I will agree that the future is illusory in that it hasn't happened yet, so that we cannot speak with authority about it except in the very broadest strokes.

There was an attack with jets on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and a failed one believed to be intended for the Capitol that crashed in Pennsylvania 17 years ago today -- do you agree that these events actually happened, or is that an experiential illusion because it happened in the past and may or may not have been a real event?
Sir Terry Pratchett, on being told about the theory that the universe is a computer simulation: "If we all get out and in again, would it start to work properly this time?"

 

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