QR2.3.3 Specifying Time

To specify time in processing terms as was done for space, consider that our time has the following properties:

1. Sequence. Time defines a sequence of events.

2. Causality. Time lets one event cause another.

3. Unpredictability. Future time is not predictable.

4. Irreversibility. Time events cannot be reversed.

A virtual time that acts like ours must support sequence, causality, unpredictability and irreversibility.

1. Sequence

For a processing system, time based on storing a set of static states in a big database has two problems:

  • Size. The universe’s quantum states at any moment are innumerable and its cycle rate is unimaginable, so the storage needed is unbelievable
  • Inefficiency. Why fill a database with quantum events that almost never occur? Why even store all physical events, as who want to read a “history” World War II as atomic events? Or if only what is important is put on the record, how are those events selected?

Why store every event of simulation when you can just run it again? Quantum processing doesn’t allow storage but it does allow a sequence of events. Or perhaps it already has a “storage” system and the physical world is it. After all, a physical event is a selection from a multitude of quantum events. Each physical event is in essence a report – we query quantum world to get the status update we call the physical world. This report contains not only the present but also the past whether as neural memories that exist now or as dinosaur fossils that exist today. DNA is a memory not just of our ancestors but of all life on earth. In this system, genes (Dawkins, 1989), memes (Heylighen, Francis & Chielens, K., 2009) and norms (Whitworth & deMoor, 2003) survive by their generative power but that which lives for itself alone passes away. The physical world is the quantum world’s solution to its storage problem.

2. Causality

Given a sequence of events, causality is their lawful connection. The basis of this is that quantum states:

… evolve to a finite number of possible successor states(Kauffman & Smolin, 1997) p1

However rather than static states, it makes more sense to attribute this progression to dynamic processing:

Past, present, and future are not properties of four-dimensional space-time but notions describing how individual IGUSs {information gathering and utilizing systems} process information.(Hartle, 2005) p101

Quantum realism argues the same except each unit generates processing rather than information. So instead of a single causal stream, it generates all possible causal paths at once. As each processing event defines the next, no intervening states are necessary, so quantum theory’s evolution of states is the exploration of all possible events.

3. Unpredictability

A choice that creates information has by definition a known “before” and an unknown “after”. Before there are many options but after there is only one, so the choice result isn’t itself a choice as it is just one. In quantum theory, a photon approaches a screen as a quantum wave of probabilities that randomly collapses to the point where it hits. A physical event is a probability until it is randomly chosen, where random means that nothing in physical history can predict it. Even knowing every physically knowable thing, one can’t predict when a radio-active atom will emit a photon. Quantum theory tells us that every physical event involves a random quantum collapse that no prior physical “story” can explain. If our world is a machine, then it is one with:

…roulettes for wheels and dice for gears.(Walker, 2000) p87

Quantum realism concludes that quantum collapse is a server choice made outside our virtual reality, so physical events always contain an element of unpredictability even though they always have a causal history.

4. Irreversibility

All the laws of physics are time reversible, so physics wonders “Why doesn’t time run backwards?” If physical objects are just there and time is a dimension, going back in time doesn’t break any laws of physics. But in quantum theory, an object is a quantum wave that spreads until it “collapses” at a physical event. Quantum realism adds that quantum waves are processing waves and quantum collapse is a processing reboot (see later). In these terms, the question becomes “Why isn’t a quantum reboot reversible?” A reboot is when processing restarts from scratch, e.g. rebooting restarts a computer and loses any work in progress unless you saved it! One can’t undo a reboot because when a processor restarts, the previous event sequence is lost. Whatever was happening before the reboot is gone forever and likewise what exists before a quantum reboot is irreversibly gone. If quantum collapse creates physical events, that it is a reboot makes them irreversible. The quantum collapses that current physics calls imaginary create the arrow of time.

Quantum processing taking every path, punctuated by an occasional reboot or collapse, gives a time that is sequential, causal, unpredictable and irreversible, just like ours.