Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Time and Eternity

Introduction


Indian "sutras", telegrammic statements recited or written in lists, conveniently summarise philosophical propositions and arguments. "Time and Eternity" is a suitable subject for sutras because Indian philosophy addresses eternity although less can be said about it than about time. Time, a consequence of motion, is commonly but mistakenly regarded as also a direction of motion. HG Wells' Time Traveller propagates this error before introducing the machine that supposedly accelerates along time. Thus, discussion of time includes discussion of alleged motion along time and thus also discussion of fictitious time travel.

The sutras are grouped in fours for convenience but the beginning of a line of thought does not always correspond to the beginning of a new quatrain. This experimental format has limits. 
 
Time

Space is relationships between material objects.
Motion is change of spatial relationships.
Time is the relationship between relationships changed from and relationships changed to.
A static reality would be atemporal.


Three dimensions of space and one of time account for experience.
We perceive space but presuppose time.
Perceiving one three dimensional state, we remember others.
To remember a material state is to recognise it as previously perceived.


Recognition presupposes temporal endurance.
The temporal presupposition transforms immediate sensations into coherent experiences.
Objects extend and move through space but endure through time.
Extension is spatial, endurance is temporal and motion is spatiotemporal.


Motion involves both distance covered and time taken.
Endurance resembles extension, not motion.
A human body extends but does not move from its feet to its head.
It endures but does not move from its birth to its death.


To occupy adjacent points in space simultaneously is to extend between them.
To occupy adjacent points successively is to move between them.
To occupy successive moments is to endure between them.
To occupy adjacent moments successively would be to move between them.


Motion Through Time?


But we do not move through time.
However, our experience of motion and time makes us speak of motion through time.
I have heard it said that we move into the future at the rate of sixty minutes per hour.
This proposition reflects our experience but is conceptually confused.


Comparing endurance to extension entails imagining successive moments as cross-sections of the body.
Instead, we imagine succession as motion, like an insect crawling up the body.
To move is to occupy different places successively.
To endure is to occupy different moments successively.


We think that successive occupation is motion.
However, we successively occupy places because we move from place to place.
But we successively occupy moments because they succeed each other.
We exist in each successive moment without moving between them.


We do not move from one o'clock to two o'clock but exist at and between them.
There is no two o'clock before we reach it or one o'clock after we have left it.
But there is a Paris before we reach it and a London after we have left it.
"When I reach 65..." and "When I reach Paris..." have different meanings.


The age of 65 is not now waiting somewhere else until I move to it.
I can reach it by existing for another five years.
To exist is also to move but through space, not time.
We do not experience the Earth's motion through space.


Thus, we can reach 65 without apparently moving even through space.
Places co-exist in space while we move between them.
Moments succeed each other in time while we exist in them.
We experience moment 1 when it occurs, then 2 when it occurs.


We do not experience 1 while it co-exists with 2, then 2 while it co-exists with 1.
Moments do not co-exist in one spatial dimension while we successively experience them in a separate temporal dimension.
Physicists postulate extra dimensions but not to explain motion along time.

At 60 mph, 60 miles is distance covered and one hour is time taken.

At 60 minutes per hour, 60 minutes is not distance covered.
60 minutes and one hour are both time taken.
If there is no distinction between distance covered and time taken, then there is no motion.

60 miles alone are distance.

60 minutes or one hour alone is duration.
Only 60 miles in 60 minutes is motion.
Thus, 60 minutes in one hour is a period of duration, not a rate of motion.

We can reduce speed to 50 mph but not time to 50 minutes per hour.

We feel that we move through time but not around the Sun or the galactic center.
Therefore, feeling is an inadequate criterion of motion.
Four co-ordinates describe our occupation of a place at a time.

Changing the temporal co-ordinate changes the time at which we are in that place.

One co-ordinate describes a moment.
Changing the temporal co-ordinate merely changes the moment.
There is no sense in which it can change the time at which we are in the moment.

Every moment in which there is consciousness is seen as the present moment in that moment but only in that moment.

However, no single moment has any unique status.
Subjectively, the present divides time into past and future.
Objectively, there are only temporal relations of before and after.

Objective time is divisible into natural or artificial periods.

A day in 3000 CE is unchangeably later than us and earlier than our successors in 4000 CE.
Accumulating memory generates the illusion that the present moves along time so that the past grows while the future shrinks.
However, perception of a subjective present occurs in every moment of consciousness.

Therefore, it does not move from each moment to its successor.

A conscious subject and present objects are interdependent.
"Present", whether contrasted with "past and future" or with "absent", means "presented to consciousness".
Therefore, there is no moment of consciousness that the present has vacated or not yet reached.

That past moments are not now conscious might suggest that consciousness has moved from them to the present.

However, past moments were conscious.
And they do not now exist unconsciously elsewhere.
The present tense refers to the subjective present, to current periods or to several times if a single proposition is equally applicable.

Multiple applications of the present tense neither negate succession nor entail simultaneity.

Real simultaneity between apparently successive events would eliminate succession.
But alleged motion of consciousness between simultaneous events re-introduces succession.
Experience is successive.

Therefore, accounts of experience need not eliminate succession, especially not to re-introduce it.


That consciousness is present in only one moment at a time is tautologous or false.
That it is present in each moment only in that moment is tautologous.
That all moments co-exist with consciousness occupying them one at a time is false.

The latter implies that past events are still occurring now but without consciousness.

HG Wells' Time Traveller identifies endurance with extension in a fourth dimension.
He adds that immaterial subjects of consciousness successively observe three dimensional cross-sections.
However, consciousness is an organism-environment interaction.

It is not an immaterial entity intersecting otherwise unconscious four dimensional objects.

The Time Traveller identifies the fourth dimension with time.
In fact, it would be a fourth dimension of space.
Motion along it would take time.

JW Dunne argued for an infinite regress of temporal dimensions which would surely be static at infinity.

The Time Traveller also inconsistently identifies endurance with motion of objects along the fourth dimension.
The totality of objects has no external spatial relationship.
Therefore, it cannot move.

Even if it could, its motion would take time.

Therefore, the dimension moved through would not be time.
Also, such motion would not explain changes occurring within the universe.
But it is these changes that generate time.
Therefore, time is an internal feature of the universe.


Time Travel

It is not an external dimension.
A time traveller who did somehow move faster than a moving universe would leave it behind.
Therefore, he would not find it waiting for him on arrival.
He would have to wait for it to catch up.


But the Time Machine moves only through space like everything else.
It remains stationary on the Earth's surface.
It endures indefinitely with decelerated internal processes.
Returning, it reverses the direction of its endurance or duration.


Its increased speed is supposed to explain its invisibility and intangibility in transit.
But it has no speed.
Also, a bullet or propeller accelerated to invisibility remains lethally tangible.
The Time Traveller's physical and mental processes are decelerated in relation to his environment.
He sees the sun moving so fast that it becomes an arch across the sky.

A new drug does accelerate another Wells character's physical and mental processes.
Consequently, he sees his environment as immobile.
The Time Traveller in transit should be visible and tangible but apparently static.
This condition is "stasis" or time dilation, not time travel.

His sensation of speed is unaccounted for.
Dr Who's TARDIS disappears at one place and time and appears at another.
Its occupants experience reduced duration in another realm.
Poul Anderson's Time Patrolmen and Audrey Niffenegger's time travellers merely disappear and re-appear.

Twain's Connecticut Yankee finds himself in the Arthurian period and returns to the nineteenth century by suspended animation.
Preceding Wells, he uses the phrase "transposition of epochs."
Anderson's mutant time travellers sense motion but merely endure in an attenuated form.
None of these "time travellers" moves through time.

However, language has incorporated Wellsian "time travelling" terminology.
Anderson's Wardens and Rangers walk or drive along corridors that have been rotated onto the temporal axis.
Thus, they do move along time.
The height, width and length of a "time corridor" are spatial.

However, its length has been made to extend in the direction along which Earth endures.
People arriving in a corridor from different times should be separated on arrival only by spatial distances.
Therefore, they should arrive simultaneously in the corridor's temporal dimension.
But for story purposes, travellers along corridors rarely meet.

So Anderson explains merely that duration occurs in the corridors but on a different plane.
Rangers entering a corridor from a time several seconds after the central character also arrive inside it several seconds later.
This contradicts the premise that temporal intervals outside the corridor correspond only to spatial intervals within it.


The direction of endurance within a time corridor may be a fifth dimension.
Or it may correspond to an external spatial dimension.
In the latter case, a spatial corridor could give access to different periods of the corridor's internal history.
Like Twain and Wells, Anderson presents a story, not a treatise.


The speed of light is 186,000 miles per second.
Accordingly, the relativistic space time equivalence is 186,000 miles to one second.
However, the corridor equivalence is about a foot to a month.
Thus, a 6000 year time corridor need not extend for 6000 light years before it is rotated onto the temporal axis.


Paradoxes

The time travel paradoxes are circular causality and causality violation.
An effect causes or prevents its cause.
A timeline is a single sequence of events occurring along one temporal dimension, T1.
A single timeline can incorporate circular causality.

At least four alternative scenarios incorporate causality violation.
One scenario is branching timelines.
However, this involves creating universes ex nihilo.
A time traveller "changing the past" disappears into a new universe branching away from the original universe.


This is logically possible but physically questionable.
Parenthetically, timelines might diverge without time travel.
Divergence would occur at every moment of indeterminacy, not at arbitrary moments of extratemporal interference.
If divergence does occur, there is no contact between divergent universes.


Such contact does occur in fiction.
But parallel universe travel is not time travel.
Men Like Gods is not The Time Machine. 

Piper's Paratime Police regulates traffic between parallel Earths with alternative histories.

Anderson's Time Patrol regulates traffic and prevents causality violations along a single timeline.
Asimov's Eternals violate causality to increase human happiness.
Heinlein's temporal bureau closes causal circles.
One temporal agent is her own parents.


Some fictitious organisations fight wars by changing history.
But most such narratives are logically inconsistent.
Premises are ambiguous or events contradict them.
Asimov's Eternals need to complete a causal circle in a no longer existent timeline (see below).


Wardens and Rangers fight a war by manipulating the history of a single timeline.
They hope to influence their future from which they are barred by their successors.
Anderson's mutant time travellers divide into warring factions in a single timeline.
One group, the Eyrie, recruits Jack Havig, Boris and others on the original Good Friday.


When Havig organises against the Eyrie, he sends Boris to infiltrate the Eyrie on Good Friday.
Thus, Boris must have recognized his fellow Eyrie recruit as his future anti-Eyrie organizer.
The Eyrie has evidence of its future success.
Therefore, Havig's group fakes the evidence.


Thus, not events but their significance is changed.
In the second causality violation scenario,
timelines succeed each other along a second temporal dimension, T2.
Like spatial dimensions, temporal dimensions are at right angles to each other.
To travel backwards or forwards in T1 is always to travel forwards in T2.


Thus, a time traveller never returns to his original timeline.
He enters the past or future of a subsequent timeline.
He cannot complete a causal circle in his original timeline.
Timelines are identical except for changes made by a time traveller.


The first such change is his arrival.
Asimov's "Realities" are timelines and his "physiotime" is T2.
His Eternals have altered many successive timelines.
Their original timeline is far in the past of T2.


In the present of T2, it no longer exists.
Thus, return to it is impossible.
Yet such a return is necessary for the existence of the Eternals.
Of course, a text may bear other interpretations.


Attempted clarification of The End of Eternity suggests internal inconsistencies.
This problem applies to several works about frequent causality violations.
In one unproblematic text, a single time traveller deliberately prevents the Dark Ages.
Thus, a timeline of uninterrupted civilisation succeeds the Dark Ages timeline.


In another novel, a fictitious time traveller accidentally prevents Confederate victory at Gettysburg.
Thus, the American Civil War timeline succeeds a "War of Southron Independence" timeline.
In the third causality violation scenario,
a single timeline contains discontinuous events.
Thus, a time traveller with counterfactual memories appears ex nihilo at Gettysburg.


Such macroscopic quantum events are possible because time travel is.
Confederates should have occupied a position ensuring victory at Gettysburg.
But their advance was halted by the arrival of a time traveller from the independent Confederate States.
Thus, a potential future generates a time traveller who prevents that future.


In this scenario, if we perceive or remember an event, then we know that it has not been prevented from occurring.
But, if a time traveller arriving in his past remembers an event, then he does not know that it has not been prevented from occurring.
Thus, the meaning of "memory" is widened.
This scenario is counterintuitive though not logically contradictory.


Scenarios without time travel preclude any potential futures from which time travellers could arrive.
Thus, without time travel, the Confederates would have won at Gettysburg.
In the first causality violation scenario, Southron Independence occurred in the original timeline.
In the second, it occurred in the past of T2.


In the third, it never occurred.
The fourth causality violation scenario is specific to the Time Patrol series.
This scenario may not be distinct or coherent.
Patrolmen speak of one mutable timeline, not of many branching timelines.


They do not believe that a temporal round trip takes them between timelines.
They speak as if their current timeline can be prevented from existing.
Therefore, none of the first three scenarios applies.
T1/T2 terminology is not used but is implicit.


T1 is a single timeline.
T2 is the relationship between successive timelines.
Or T2 is the relationship between successive states of a single mutable timeline.
The difference is terminological.


We can say either that one timeline succeeds another or that the single timeline changes its content.
In either case, there is a relationship between a state changed from and a state changed to.
This summary uses the term "timeline", not the phrase "state of a timeline".
In the Time Patrol scenario, most time travel is along a single timeline.


Thus, it occurs within a single moment of T2.
The timeline incorporates circular causality.
Most time travellers are already a part of the past that they visit.
However, they can change past events.


 
Usually, other events change to counteract a change made by a time traveller.
However, at nexus points, a small change can alter the entire future.
Occasionally in T2, there is a quantum change to another timeline.
Quantum changes result either from time travellers or from random fluctuations in space-time-energy.


Small changes in the life of one medieval knight affect the outcome of the European church-state conflict.
Therefore, the knight is a personal causal nexus to be eliminated by the Patrol.
Unpredictable fluctuations remain when organisations of time criminals have been apprehended.
By guarding the timeline, the Patrol preserves cosmic order.


Cyrus the Great is killed in infancy.
Later, a captured Time Patrolmen is forced to play the role of the adult Cyrus.
Sixteen years into his reign, he is rescued by a fellow Patrolman.
They travel further back in time to prevent the murder of the infant Cyrus.


Thus, despite changing events, they preserve Cyrus's pivotal role in the Patrol-protected timeline.
But they leave behind in T2 a timeline in which Cyrus disappeared sixteen years into his reign.
Patrolmen claim that that timeline simply does not exist.
Therefore, they claim to inhabit the third scenario.


This entails that some passages in the story describe events that did not occur.
Even while experiencing an event, Patrolmen claim that the event may be prevented from occurring.
However, if the event is being experienced, then it is occurring.
If it is occurring, then it has not been prevented from occurring.


A timeline can be prevented from currently existing in T2.
Then that the events of that timeline never occurred is true in T1.
In Finney's second Time novel, characters who have not time travelled partially remember prevented events.
Former timelines are remembered sporadically and indistinctly, like dreams.


Finney's fifth scenario seems to be that events unwind and rewind in an altered sequence but with indistinct memories of the original sequence.
But preventing events should prevent any memory of them.
Usually in fiction, former timelines are remembered only by time travellers from them.
Causality violation entails unintended self-duplication of time travellers.


Thus, at time t1, a time traveller experiences event A.
Disliking A, he travels from t2 to t1 in order to change A to A~.
Thus, at t1, his younger self experiences A~.
The time traveller who changed A to A~ returns to t2.


At t2, the time traveller who had experienced A~ has no reason to travel back to t1.
Thus, at t2 the traveller who experienced A~ coexists with the traveller who changed A to A~.
The problems of self-duplication are probably greater than the problem of leaving A unchanged.
In the timeline guarded by the Patrol, Roger II of Sicily died in 1154 (Timeline 1).


Volstrup was a Patrolman based in Palermo during Roger's reign.
In an aberrant timeline, Roger died in battle in 1137 (Timeline 2).
The appalled Volstrup informed an earlier Patrol base.
He visited that base for consultation.


After consultation, Patrol intervention saved Roger's life at the battle in 1137 (Timeline 3).
Ostensibly, the preferred timeline was restored.
However, Timelines 1 and 3 differ in detail.
Unlike Timeline 1, Timeline 3 has Volstrup visiting an earlier base and Patrolmen intervening at the battle in 1137.


Like Timeline 1, Timeline 3 has Volstrup in Palermo not hearing about Roger's death.
That Volstrup neither informs nor visits an earlier base.
But the Volstrup who did visit an earlier base and who does remember Roger's death returns to Palermo in the 1137 of Timeline 4.
At that point, Volstrup is duplicated.


Yet Anderson writes as if there is only one Volstrup in Palermo after the battle in 1137, the one who remembers Roger's death.
Volstrup thinks that at any moment he and his environment can cease ever having been.
But that is not a consequence of causality violation.
There are potential timelines in which Volstrup was not born and therefore does not exist in adulthood.


But there is no timeline in which he was not born and therefore ceases to exist in adulthood.
Nothing can exist until a particular moment, then, at that moment, cease having existed until that moment.
An entire timeline can cease to exist in T2.
But that affects no one's experience in T1.


A time traveller departing on a successful mission to end our timeline will think that we have ceased to exist.
But he will think this in a temporal dimension at right angles to ours.
There is no cessation of existence at any moment in our T1.
It is difficult to make the Time Patrol series fully coherent.


The Literature

The time travel writers whose works are worthiest of analysis are Wells and Anderson.
The Time Machine addresses the nature of time and the future of mankind.
Anderson's six volumes address time travel paradoxes, history and the future.
The Time Patrol is the only sustained high quality time travel series.


Thus, Anderson supersedes his immediate predecessor, Robert Heinlein.
Heinlein perfected the circular causality paradox in three works with futuristic American settings.
Wells' "The Chronic Argonauts" and two short stories by John Wyndham developed this paradox in contemporary British settings.
Harry Harrison linked circular causality to history and humor.


Richard Matheson and Audrey Niffenegger each wrote one novel integrating a love story into circular causality.
Jack Finney perfected nostalgic time travel fiction focused on the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
L Sprague de Camp and Ward Moore each wrote one definitive historical causality violation novel.
There have been two or three good time travel films but several atrocious ones.


Eternity

By attending fully to the objects of immediate awareness, we enter "the eternal present".
Approaching death, we may also approach "the light of eternity", the perception of life as complete.
Hypothetical beings perceiving all human life as eternal would necessarily endure in a second temporal dimension.
Duration-less perception, beginning and ending simultaneously, would be unconsciousness.

"Eternal" means endless, changeless, timeless/atemporal or transtemporal.
Thus, energy is endless, the past is changeless, mathematics is timeless and the eternal present transcends time.
Thus also, several meanings of "eternal" would remain applicable even if the future were known to be finite.
We live in time and eternity.

A temporal process is a sequence of incomplete syntheses between change and resistance to it.
Thus, masses are more resistant then gasses, organisms more dynamic then inanimate objects etc.
A complete synthesis would be changeless but ever-new.
This might correspond to some mystical accounts of eternity.

Mundaka Upanishad: "Even as a spider sends forth and draws in its thread, even as plants arise from the earth and hairs from the body of a man, even so the whole creation arises from the Eternal."
The Dhammapada: "All things indeed pass away, but the Buddhas are for ever in Eternity."
Blake: "To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour."
Engels: "Nothing is eternal but eternally moving, eternally changing matter and the laws by which it eternally moves and changes."



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