In an objective reality, time passes inevitably as matter exists by its own nature alone. In a virtual reality, time passes as processing cycles complete, e.g. in Conway’s Life simulation (Figure 2.10). As pixel patterns are born, grow and die, their “lifetime” is how many processing cycles they “live” for. If a Life pattern that repeats for twenty minutes of our time is run on a faster computer, it might only repeat for only a few seconds but its virtual life, defined as the number of cycles completed, is the same. Virtual time depends only on the number of processing cycles that occur. Since we measure time in our world by atomic clocks that count atomic cycles, it could also be virtual.
Einstein’s special relativity supports the idea that our time is virtual. In his twin paradox, after one twin travels the universe in a rocket at near the speed of light he returns a year later to find his brother an old man of eighty. Neither twin was aware their time ran differently but one twin’s life is nearly over while the other’s is still beginning. Yet the eighty-year-old twin wasn’t cheated of time, as he still got eighty years of heart beats and grandchildren to boot. That time slowed down for the rocket brother only become apparent when he re-united with his twin. In relativity, time changes are undetectable by the parties affected, just as one expects for a virtual reality.
When people first hear that time dilates they suspect a trick, that only perceived time changes but it is actual time as measured by instruments that changes so it’s no trick. And it’s not just theory, as accelerating short-lived particles makes them live many times longer than they usually do. Physical realism struggles to explain this, as time in an objective reality shouldn’t vary according to how fast one goes.
If we live in a virtual reality, time dilation is expected, as all gamers know that the screen slows down in a big battle when the computer has a lot to do. The screen frame-rate lags due to a processing load but what each avatar can do is unaffected. In other words, game time is not affected when the screen slows down.
Quantum realism therefore interprets Einstein’s theory to mean that our virtual time slows down when the quantum network has a lot to do. In the twin paradox, the rocket twin’s acceleration increased the quantum network load leaving less processing available for his life events, so he only aged a year. The twin on earth had no such load so eighty years of his life cycled by in the usual way. If our virtual time “ticks” with each quantum cycle, what slows those cycles down also slows down our time