Time & Quantum Time
The nature of reality that spills forth from Einstein’s physics is so much more startling than the simplistic, undergraduate-beloved shibboleth: everything is relative to subjective points of view. In Einstein’s physics, there is no passage of time, no unidirectional flow from the fixed past and toward the uncertain future. The temporal component of space-time is as static as its spatial components; physical time is as still as physical space. It is all laid out, the whole spread of events, in the tenseless four-dimensional space-time manifold.
Therefore, Weyl was absolutely correct. There is only the appearance of the passage of time, in consciousness. This is the effect of the frame of reference of experience moving, through the static four-dimensional block universe defined by modern physics. As Goldstein goes on to say:
The great yawning chasm between the “out yonder” and the “in here” is stretched even wider, on the Einstein hypothesis, since objective time ― the time that is described in the equations of relativity theory ― is lacking the very feature that seems to provide the essential stab to our subjective experience of time: its inexorable flow, ultimately lighting all our yesterdays the way to dusty death. Is there anything we know more intimately than the fleetingness of time, the transience of each and every moment?
The transience of each and every moment is the moving frame of reference encountering one moment after another. It is just like the countryside flowing past, outside the window of a train. As Weyl states, it is just consciousness that is moving, not the world itself. This only makes sense in physics once the third level of logical type is introduced. As described in Logical Types, the experiencing consciousness is to the moments of time as the movie projector is to the frames of the movie film. This way the apparent paradoxes are naturally dissolved.
The Quantum Concept of Time
There is also another type of time, and this is one of the reasons the whole issue of time has remained so obscure and difficult to address. This is the quantum concept of time, which Deutsch describes in Chapter 11 of his remarkable book The Fabric of Reality (1997). Here too, the moving frame of reference is a fundamental requirement.
As with relativity, quantum theory also describes a static and unchanging universe. As stated by Julian Barbour, a physicist specialising in time:
The quantum universe just is. It is static. (1999, 256)
The fundamental definition of physical reality is the quantum state, and the quantum state does not change. On the other it seems exactly as if it does change. This is central to the great paradox of the quantum theory. As described in Measurement Problem, there is no possible explanation for the dynamics of change, the collapse dynamics, in physical reality. In order to understand all this it is necessary to understand the quantum concept of time.
The quantum state is the fundamental definition of the world, defining the matter and energy that makes up physical reality. Deutsch (2010) calls this a snapshot of the world. As he explains, the quantum universe is the collection of all possible snapshots. As he describes, this is the essence of the quantum concept of time. This is a longstanding concept that emerged from work on quantum gravity in the 1960s. As he states, like time in space-time, the time of relativity, this time does not happen either. The fabric of reality is like an endless, infinite matrix of all possible snapshots, all possible versions of the physical world. Snapshots cannot change: all possible snapshots simply exist, just like the existence of all possible numbers. They do not do anything; they are simply there in the universe. Nothing happens. Just as relativity describes a static universe, so too does quantum theory. The way to understand this is through Everett’s many-worlds theory.
Everett solved the great mystery of the change of the unchanging quantum state. There is only the appearance of change. But this has not been accepted because it relies on experience as a fundamental, and this makes no sense at all in the science of physics. As described in Many Worlds, it is the inside view, the world hologram which changes, while the physical reality, even including the body of the observer, remains the same, defined by the same quantum state. The solution is simple once we have the moving frame of reference of experience to explain the puzzle. Just as consciousness passes from moment to moment in space-time, it passes from snapshot to snapshot in the quantum concept of time.
This is the enactment of the quantum concept of time. Nothing like this can possibly happen in the world of a specific snapshot, defined by a specific quantum state, which is why it all makes no sense in the current paradigm. Again, this is a phenomenon of a completely different type. Only with the moving frame of reference of experience can we account for the transition from frame to frame in the quantum concept of time. This is illustrated in Measurement Problem.
In both time and quantum time, it is clear that the dynamics happen only subjectively. In relativity the vital distinction between past present and future can only be a subjective phenomenon. As Goldstein states:
The distinctions we make between the past and the present and the future ― distinctions which are so emotionally fraught and without which we can’t even begin to describe our inner worlds ― only have relevance within those inner worlds. Objective time, as it is characterized in relativity, can’t support the distinction between the past and the present and the future. Or, as Einstein told [philosopher and Vienna Circle member] Rudolf Carnap, “the experience of the now means something special for man, something essentially different from the past and the future, but this important difference does not and cannot occur within physics.
But it does occur. There is no way to say which frame of a movie is Now, just looking at it on the surface of a DVD. It is a meaningless question. All the frames are Now: they all simply exist. But when you are watching the movie, Now is the frame you are looking at. In exactly the same way there is no Now in relativity. But when consciousness is crawling up the worldline of the observer, this is the inexorable flow, in the transience of each and every moment in sequence. The moment we have a moving frame of reference, a third-logical-type phenomenon, the seemingly intractable paradox of relativity disappears. The Now and the passage of time are retrodicted, meaning this is the explanation of scientific facts we know for sure but have not been able to understand.
The great paradox of quantum theory is automatically resolved also. As Everett states, there is only the appearance of change, the ‘collapse of the state vector’. As he describes, what is actually happening is that as each observation is made, this alters the record of observations. Since this is what defines the determinacy of the physical world of this individual, effectively, this changes the determinacy of the physical world of this individual. But this, of course, cannot actually happen in physical reality. It can only happen in the reality of the world hologram, the many-worlds reality of the world superposition. This is a completely different type of domain, a second-logical-type phenomenon. And it operates as an information process, as described in the box in Quantum Immortality. The matter and energy world cannot change in this way. There can be no change of the quantum state. The only way for change to be encountered is for the frame of reference to change. Which is what happens – in experience.
The great paradox of relativity is solved by the third-logical-type phenomenon – the consciousness that is to the moments of reality as the projector is to the frames of the movie film. This not only explains the passage of time and the now. It explains how the quantum mechanical dynamics come to be enacted. Again, this occurs in experience, and there alone. It is the movement of the frame of reference of consciousness that breathes fire into the equations of physics.