How does this compare with Einstein´s discovery that there is no moment that
is the same NOW for everyone?
[mailto:everything-l...@googlegroups.com] För Kim Jones
Skickat: den 2 januari 2009 04:01
Till: Everything List
Ämne: Smolin's View of Time
Edge Question 2009: "What Will Change Everything?"
What do we think about this? Smolin seems to disagree with most of
what we are on about on this list. My mind remains open in all
directions, particularly as Smolin appears to be enjoying substantial
advances in his field of Quantum Gravitation. Does his argument about
time have legs?
Maybe we can get him back on this list to talk to us if we yell loud
enough in his direction...
Physicist, Perimeter Institute; Author, The Trouble With Physics
THE LIBERATION OF TIME
I would like to describe a change in viewpoint, which I believe will
alter how we think about everything from the most abstract questions
on the nature of truth to the most concrete questions in our daily
lives. This change comes from the deepest and most difficult problems
facing contemporary science: those having to do with the nature of time.
The problem of time confronts us at every key juncture in fundamental
physics: What was the big bang and could something have come before
it? What is the nature of quantum physics and how does it unify with
relativity theory? Why are the laws of physics we observe the true
laws, rather than other possible laws? Might the laws have evolved
from different laws in the past?
After a lot of discussion and argument, it is becoming clear to me
that these key questions in fundamental physics come down to a very
simple choice, having to do with the answers to two simple questions:
What is real? And what is true?
Many philosophies and religions offer answers to these questions, and
most give the same answer: reality and truth transcend time. If
something is real, it has a reality which continues forever, and if
something is true, it is not just true now, it was always true, and
will always be. The experience we have of the world existing within a
flow of time is, according to some religions and many contemporary
physicists and philosophers, an illusion. Behind that illusion is a
timeless reality, in modern parlance, the block universe. Another
manifestation of this ancient view is the currently popular idea that
time is an emergent quality not present in the fundamental formulation
The new viewpoint is the direct opposite. It asserts that what is real
is only what is real in the moment, which is one of a succession of
moments. It is the same for truth: what is true is only what is true
in the moment. There are no transcendent, timeless truths.
There is also no past. The past only lives as part of the present, to
the extent that it gives us evidence of past events. And the future is
not yet real, which means that it is open and full of possibilities,
only a small set of which will be realized. Nor, on this view, is
there any possibility of other universes. All that exists must be part
of this universe, which we find ourselves in, at this moment.
This view changes everything, beginning with how we think of
mathematics. On this view there can be no timeless, Platonic, realm of
mathematical objects. The truths of mathematics, once discovered, are
certainly objective. But mathematical systems have to be invented-or
evoked- by us. Once brought into being, there are an infinite number
of facts which are true about mathematical objects, which further
investigation might discover. There are an infinite number of possible
axiomatic systems that we might so evoke and explore-but the fact that
different people will agree on what has been shown about them does not
imply that they existed, before we evoked them.
I used to think that the goal of physics was the discovery of a
timeless mathematical equation that was isomorphic to the history of
the universe. But if there is no Platonic realm of timeless
mathematical object, this is just a fantasy. Science is then only
about what we can discover is true in the one real universe we find
More specifically, this view challenges how we think about cosmology.
It opens up new ways to approach the deepest questions, such as why
the laws we observe are true, and not others, and what determined the
initial conditions of the universe. The philosopher Charles Sanders
Pierce wrote in 1893 that the only way of accounting for which laws
were true would be through a mechanics of evolution, and I believe
this remains true today. But the evolution of laws requires time to be
real. Furthermore, there is, I believe, evidence on technical grounds
that the correct formulations of quantum gravity and cosmology will
require the postulate that time is real and fundamental.
But the implications of this view will be far broader. For example, in
neoclassical, economic theory, which is anchored in the study of
equilibria of markets and games, time is largely abstracted away. The
fundamental results on equilibria by Arrow and Debreu assume that
there are fixed and specifiable lists of goods, and strategies, and
that each consumer’s tastes and preferences are unchanging.
But can this be completely correct, if growth is driven by
opportunities that suddenly appear from unpredictable discoveries of
new products, new strategies, and new modes of organization? Getting
economic theory right has implications for a wide range of policy
decisions, and how time is treated is a key issue. An economics that
assumes that we cannot predict key innovations must be very different
from one that assumes all is knowable at any time.
The view that time is real and truth is situated within the moment
further implies that there is no timeless arbiter of meaning, and no
transcendent or absolute source of values or ethics. Meaning, values
and ethics are all things that we humans project into the world.
Without us, they don’t exist.
This means that we have tremendous responsibilities. Both mathematics
and society are highly constrained, but within those constraints there
are an infinitude of possibilities, only a few of which can be evoked
and explored in the finite time we have. Because time is real and the
future does not yet exist, the imaginative and social worlds in which
we will live are to be brought into being by the choices we will make.
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