From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Thu Oct 28 2004 - 09:53:38 EDT
Gerry ----- With apologies to Einstein: while our knowledge about the past is incomplete and affected by ideology and disinformation, etc., there is always (at least for 'modern' society) a greater level of uncertainty about the future -- *especially as the time horizon is extended*. The reason is not subjective. The reason is simply that the past has happened (and therefore can't be changed, even if our _knowledge_ of and _interpretations_ of the past can change) and the future hasn't. ------------------ Paul This is what I mean by it being subjective. All we know about the laws of mechanics are that indicates that at the microscopic level they are time reversible. Time is distinct from space but past and future within time are simply positions in that dimension relative to a specified present moment. In this sense past and future are no different from left and right, which are similarly subjectively defined measures. Once you stop considering time from the way in which we experience it, once you abstract from our experience of it, what you have is the 'block world' view taken by most physicists in which events are embedded in a four dimensional block. The laws of nature establish constraints across time between events but these constraints operate in both directions at once. The future constrains the past as much as the past constrains the future. The idea that the future can be changed is an idealist illusion since it takes the view that the actor is something distinct from the universe that is being changed, rather than the actor being a determinate subsystem of the universe. It is impossible to give any practical or experimental meaning to the idea that the future can be changed. We have no independent knowledge of the future before and after our actions to see if our actions have changed the future. Indeed as soon as you try to express the idea of changing the future you get into logical contradictions. What does it mean to talk about the future prior to an action. On 10 slept 2002, the 3 July 2004 was in the future. Two days later, on 12 slept 2002 the 3 July 2004 was still in the future. How can it be said that there were two instances of the 3 July 2004 one prior to the events of 9/11 and one after? ------------------------------------- Gerry I am reminded of a line from a children's story: "All the King's horses and all the King's men can't put Humpty Dumpty together again". Now if Humpty Dumpty hadn't _already_ cracked, i.e. it was an event that had not (yet) happened, then (_if_ the cause was a a *social* event rather than a natural event that could be predicted with mathematical precision, e.g. the course of a comet) -- *especially as the time horizon is extended* -- the degree of uncertainty about what might happen is greater. Paul This relates to the most obvious asymmetry in time the tendency of entropy to increase. This worried Boatman and Maxwell a lot. Over a sufficiently long time span the probability of an egg breaking and the probability of an egg spontaneously reforming are the same. However the conditional probability of an egg breaking, conditional that is on the currently low entropy state of the universe, is much greater than the probability of an egg reforming. All time asymmetric processes are thus disequilibrium processes conditional on an initially ordered state.
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