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InDefenseOfPOMO

"Time is an illusion" is not far-fetched

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InDefenseOfPOMO

I recently brought up the fact that some philosophers and physicists are suggesting that time is an illusion. My audience's response was that such an idea is absurd.

 

But we cannot sense everything at once. Our senses perceive one thing and then a completely different thing and we call the variation between the two "change". We then compare that change to some agreed-upon measure, such as a minute hand on a clock making one revolution, and call the resulting information "time".

 

However, if we could sense everything at once we might never sense "change" and time would be obsolete, if not an illusion.

 

I do not see what is so far-fetched about it.

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Sir_The_Last

I agree with time being an illusion. 😁 BTW, I find it hard to find something that is not an illusion.  Most things we see or read are created to trouble us ... Being those things real or not is beside the point. By real I mean things that happened to someone ... 

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crazy ace

 mean, time is literally relative, asi... as time is warped depending on the mass of an object, everyone should experience time slightly differently... Relativity is fun!

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Ace of Mind

I don't think it's quite as much an illusion as those lines of thought make it out to be. For one thing, time is rooted in causality and entropy, which is a fundamental foundation of much of physics. Furthermore, time is intrinsically tied to space through the effects of special relativity. Sure, under the catch-all of "what if everything we perceive and know is wrong", time might break down, but so does everything else. 

If we could sense everything at once, how would we deal with perceiving two systems that are periodic and countable, (atomic clocks, for example)  if one of the two systems is moving or has been moved at sufficiently high speeds to produce a meaningful time-space dilation? 

And, even if our current rules about time are based on our perception, time itself is not an illusion in the sense that things DO change, causality occurs, and entropy increases. If we could look at the world and simultaneously see every state it has ever been in and ever will be in, we would still be able to point at two states, albeit simultaneously, and say "look, they're different." And that difference would be the equivalent of time in this hypothetical. 

I believe that even if the rules that hold to be highly consistent and well-supported according to our current senses are an illusion, there is definitely a non-illusory property that we experience with our limited senses and derive rules that allow us to predict and control it.  

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Duke Memphis

Time flow is inconsistent around different points in the universe, but it always goes forward. Unfortunately, there's nothing we can do about that.

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gisiebob

ok, that's great and all, but what do you mean by your audience?

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Gloomy

Technically everything is an illusion in some way, even reality itself.

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InDefenseOfPOMO
18 hours ago, Duke Memphis said:

Time flow is inconsistent around different points in the universe, but it always goes forward.

 

Forward in relation to what?

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Ace of Mind
33 minutes ago, InDefenseOfPOMO said:

 

Forward in relation to what?

Forward in relation to the total entropy of sufficiently complex isolated systems, I'd expect. 

 

Any other metric I can think of seems flimsy.

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Duke Memphis
3 hours ago, InDefenseOfPOMO said:

 

Forward in relation to what?

In relation to the beginning of the universe.

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gisiebob
On 8/30/2019 at 2:14 PM, InDefenseOfPOMO said:

 

Forward in relation to what?

itself

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Sally

It may indeed be an illusion, but it's an illusion by which this world is governed.   We can't escape it as we live our lives.  

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DarkStormyKnight
On 9/1/2019 at 3:14 AM, Sally said:

It may indeed be an illusion, but it's an illusion by which this world is governed.   We can't escape it as we live our lives.  

Definitely agree with this. It's an illusory jail, but still a jail nevertheless, we just have to deal with it.

 

To be honest, I think one of the best depictions of time is in "Slaughterhouse-Five" by Kurt Vonnegut, the main character becomes unstuck in time and the narration then wanders around his life, almost at whim. He managed to transcend the illusion of time, but the rest of us are kinda stuck with it.

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InDefenseOfPOMO
On 8/29/2019 at 9:37 PM, Ace of Mind said:

I don't think it's quite as much an illusion as those lines of thought make it out to be. For one thing, time is rooted in causality and entropy, which is a fundamental foundation of much of physics. Furthermore, time is intrinsically tied to space through the effects of special relativity. Sure, under the catch-all of "what if everything we perceive and know is wrong", time might break down, but so does everything else. 

If we could sense everything at once, how would we deal with perceiving two systems that are periodic and countable, (atomic clocks, for example)  if one of the two systems is moving or has been moved at sufficiently high speeds to produce a meaningful time-space dilation? 

And, even if our current rules about time are based on our perception, time itself is not an illusion in the sense that things DO change, causality occurs, and entropy increases. If we could look at the world and simultaneously see every state it has ever been in and ever will be in, we would still be able to point at two states, albeit simultaneously, and say "look, they're different." And that difference would be the equivalent of time in this hypothetical. 

I believe that even if the rules that hold to be highly consistent and well-supported according to our current senses are an illusion, there is definitely a non-illusory property that we experience with our limited senses and derive rules that allow us to predict and control it.  

 

Your argument depends on the existence of a subject independent of an external objective reality "out there".

 

If there is no "out there" then all of reality is one.

 

The broken up sections of reality that you talk about do not necessarily mean that there exists anything like what we call "time". It could just mean that trying to piece together those broken up pieces creates the illusion of change.

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Ace of Mind
26 minutes ago, InDefenseOfPOMO said:

Your argument depends on the existence of a subject independent of an external objective reality "out there".

 

If there is no "out there" then all of reality is one.

I am having a difficult time deciphering what this means.

 

 

26 minutes ago, InDefenseOfPOMO said:

The broken up sections of reality that you talk about do not necessarily mean that there exists anything like what we call "time". It could just mean that trying to piece together those broken up pieces creates the illusion of change.

As a fall-back, I would first reiterate this:

On 8/29/2019 at 9:37 PM, Ace of Mind said:

I believe that even if the rules that hold to be highly consistent and well-supported according to our current senses are an illusion, there is definitely a non-illusory property that we experience with our limited senses and derive rules that allow us to predict and control it.  

But secondly, I don't understand how there could be musings of an 'illusion of change' in the context of the continuity of reality.

If the principle that reality exists in a particular state which is different from one instance to the next on a linear continuum were to be an illusion, what would the alternative be? In what way could the universe continue to operate while still presenting itself in the way it appears to our senses?

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kenny.

absolutely, time is an illusion, and its not very difficult to see how.

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Ace of Mind
13 hours ago, kenny. said:

absolutely, time is an illusion, and its not very difficult to see how.

Is it? I find such certainly puzzling. For me it is the opposite; in the face of the entire knowledge base on the mechanics of the universe, which is well-supported by experiments and useful for prediction and design, the properties that depend on the passage of time appear essential.
I find it difficult to see what would be so convincing about time being an illusion, other than the notion that we can't demonstrate that it isn't an illusion. 

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InDefenseOfPOMO
On 9/2/2019 at 9:21 PM, Ace of Mind said:

I am having a difficult time deciphering what this means.

 

The dualism between subject (one of us humans) and object (things "out there" that are not part of us humans) probably began with Descartes ("I think, therefore I am").

 

Take away that dualism and reality is not "out there"--us humans are an integral part of reality and in no way separate from any other part.

 

 

On 9/2/2019 at 9:21 PM, Ace of Mind said:

But secondly, I don't understand how there could be musings of an 'illusion of change' in the context of the continuity of reality.

If the principle that reality exists in a particular state which is different from one instance to the next on a linear continuum were to be an illusion, what would the alternative be? In what way could the universe continue to operate while still presenting itself in the way it appears to our senses?

 

An alternative is that all of reality is one seamless, coherent whole.

 

Just like a novel is a seamless whole. The fact that it is not seamless in the reading experience--the reader only takes it in in parts rather than all at once--does not change the fact that it is a seamless whole.

 

However, nobody who has ever read a novel has ever had the illusion that the parts he/she took in in the process were causes and effects moving in something called "time". Nobody who has ever read a novel has ever had the illusion that patterns he/she sees in the parts that he/she takes in are evidence of universal "laws".

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Ace of Mind
54 minutes ago, InDefenseOfPOMO said:

 

The dualism between subject (one of us humans) and object (things "out there" that are not part of us humans) probably began with Descartes ("I think, therefore I am").

 

Take away that dualism and reality is not "out there"--us humans are an integral part of reality and in no way separate from any other part.

 

 

 

An alternative is that all of reality is one seamless, coherent whole.

 

Just like a novel is a seamless whole. The fact that it is not seamless in the reading experience--the reader only takes it in in parts rather than all at once--does not change the fact that it is a seamless whole.

 

However, nobody who has ever read a novel has ever had the illusion that the parts he/she took in in the process were causes and effects moving in something called "time". Nobody who has ever read a novel has ever had the illusion that patterns he/she sees in the parts that he/she takes in are evidence of universal "laws".

 

Ah, interesting. There are a few places the novel analogy breaks down when compared to reality, but it's not bad. In either case though, nothing functions without a time-like effect separating states of reality.
The main thing it hinges on is that the entire novel is already written. The jury is very much still out on whether all of reality is already 'written', and whether the universe is fully deterministic or not, both outcomes have some interesting implications in general. 

I will only briefly summarize the 'not-yet-written' version; in this case, some physicists argue that the 'future' fundamentally does not exist, and that what we refer to as time is the mechanism by which the next instant of reality is generated by the current instant. This is plausible, although slightly less popular in physics, but like either theory, it is not readily verifiable. In this version, time is perhaps more closely aligned with how we experience reality, with a few exceptions due to the limitations of our perceptions, but such a mechanism would be essential to existence and would, in some form, be non-illusory. 

 

In the scenario where reality is already written, much like your novel, there still needs to be a mechanism to separate, well, everything. If a version of time were converted to the novel analogy, 'novel time' would be the separation of pages, phrases, events, etc. A novel without 'novel time' would be something like a single page fully black with ink, as all possible states collapse into each other.
Similarly, the scenario where reality is already 'written' and exists as a seamless whole is not unpopular in physics, and is, more or less, one of two camps into which most ideas about time are divided. This theory is usually referred to as the block universe theory (article grabbed from a cursory google search), and states that all of existence is already spelled out in what could be conceptualized as a giant block of coordinate space, with each location in reality defined by the axis of space and time, and our perception is limited to the exact set of space-time coordinates that we happen to be in. Thus, nothing ever changes in this universe model, only the coordinates of the point being observed change. 

However, it is easy to see that there definitely has to be something in this model that takes on the role of time; if you ripped out the 'time axis' of the block universe coordinate system, the model would collapse. 

 

Thus I would say that a more inclusive phrasing of my position would be that 'separation in time' or a 'time axis' of some form must exist, and time in that sense cannot be an illusion. However, none of our observations and well-supported laws have explicitly required the passage of time.
Thus it would be fair to say that while time itself is not an illusion, our experience of time, including things like a singular "now" or the concept of time 'flowing' from a past to a future, are not required features of time and thus could, conceivably, be illusory. We really wouldn't be able to tell either way. 

 

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Pandark

One cannot perceive both ends of any stretch of time simultaneously, but is limited to viewing a single point or moment. This contrasts our perception of the other three dimensions and may make it seem like more of an illusion. This incomplete perception results from evolution. Time and space are likely interdependent and equally real or illusory.

 

In other words, time is as much an illusion as length, width or height. That's not saying it's not an illusion, it's a paradox. When looking at the greater picture, paradoxes are unavoidable.

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