Consciousness: relationship to time (General)

by David Turell @, Thursday, June 29, 2017, 00:12 (113 days ago) @ David Turell

Time is something our consciousness observes, but physics treats it differently than our approach in which it has a one way arrow:

http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-time-of-our-lives

"But it is the unfolding of time, and its apparent “unidirectionality” — always moving (or so we are inclined to say) from earlier to later — that matters most in our experience of time. The attempts of physicists to explain this feature of time have on the whole been thoroughly inadequate, including the attempt, which we will discuss later in this essay, to define the direction of time in terms of an accumulation of information. The idea of time as an “arrow of information,” as it is sometimes called, shows the general inability of physics to accommodate the conscious observer that makes physical science possible — the inability, that is, to connect an objective explanation of time, understood as a feature of material events, with a person’s subjective experience of time.

***

"Physicists and philosophers of time feel that the unidirectionality of time is not simply a matter of definition but is connected with something fundamental about the universe in which we live.

***

"While every event in the universe is in theory temporally related to every other event, without an observer to experience the events and to connect them, they are neither “earlier” nor “later,” “before” or “after.” For example, an unobserved event on a distant planet does not have this ordering in relation to the events that I am aware of as going on around me now or indeed other unobserved events on that planet. This is why some have argued that, if there is an arrow of time, it must be built not out of the intrinsic properties of material events but out of the linkage of events through the succession of the experiences of them. Without this linkage, two happenings would not as it were reach beyond their own boundaries to relate to each other. Thus the basic argument for time’s arrow being a “psychological arrow.”

***

"The psychological theory of the arrow sits ill with the fact that something outside of consciousness, or a conscious individual, is the final determinant of the succession of events. What’s more, implicit in the notion that time’s arrow is based on our perception of the succession of events is the assumption that there is a succession of events to be perceived — that temporal order and direction is intrinsic to the events we perceive — that gives rise to the experience of succession. There is a confounder arising out of the fact that the order in which we perceive things also to some extent depends on us (just as what we perceive depends to some extent on where I choose to look from and the direction of my gaze). But this is not sufficient to determine the order of events, though it does determine the order of my perceptions.

***

"the forward movement of time is an accumulation of information, reflected in a difference between what we have known and what we will know; or between a remembered past of irreversible, determinate events, and an unknown, indeterminate future.

"This is expressed most clearly by Paul Davies: “The fact that we remember the past, rather than the future,” he says, “is an observation not of the passage of time but of the asymmetry of time.” Given that (as he and many others believe) memory is a matter of “information,” so the difference between the determinate past and the indeterminate future is also a matter of information. We obviously have more information about the past than we do about the future. Indeed, in one sense we have no information about the future, except at a probabilistic level. So, as the indeterminate future becomes a determinate past, information accumulates.

***

"Paul Davies again: As physicists have realized over the past few decades, the concept of entropy is closely related to the information content of a system. For this reason, the formation of memory is a unidirectional process — new memories add information and raise the entropy of the brain. We might perceive this unidirectionality as the flow of time.

***

"The notion of the unidirectionality of time, in short, is inseparable from our awareness of our mortality, of a life that has a diminishing quantity ahead and an increasing quantity behind; of birth as a one-way ticket to the grave. And a sense of our ignorance in the face of the future — contrasted with our knowledge of the past — lies at the root of the “arrow of information.” We may know how things turned out; never how they will turn out.

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"In the final count, time is a fundamental property of the relationship between the universe and the observer which cannot be reduced to anything else.

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"The project of understanding time is to try to get a clear and just idea of the nature of the relationship between the universe and the observer in respect of time. By rethinking time in this way, we may elude a form of naturalism that sees us as being at bottom material objects whose nature will ultimately be described by physics. We are more than cogs in the universal clock, forced to collaborate with the very progress that pushes us towards our own midnight. By placing human consciousness at the heart of time, it is possible to crack ajar a door through which a sense of possibility can stream."

Comment: We have consciousness, therefore we have time. That is a simplest view. Very long article, much skipped.


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