/Time might not exist, according to physicists and philosophers, but that’s okay

Time might not exist, according to physicists and philosophers, but that’s okay

Key idea: Does time exist? The answer to this question may seem obvious: of course it does! Just look at a calendar or a clock. But developments in physics suggest the non-existence of time is an open possibility, and one that we should take seriously.

Original author and publication date: Sam Baron- April 14, 2022

Futurizonte Editor’s Note: As Augustine of Hippo famously said (Confessions, Book XI), if nobody asks me about time, I know what it is. If somebody asks me, then I don’t know what it is.

From the article:

How can that be, and what would it mean? It’ll take a little while to explain, but don’t worry: even if time doesn’t exist, our lives will go on as usual.

A crisis in physics

Physics is in crisis. For the past century or so, we have explained the universe with two wildly successful physical theories: general relativity and quantum mechanics.

Quantum mechanics describes how things work in the incredibly tiny world of particles and particle interactions. General relativity describes the big picture of gravity and how objects move.

Both theories work extremely well in their own right, but the two are thought to conflict with one another. Though the exact nature of the conflict is controversial, scientists generally agree both theories need to be replaced with a new, more general theory.

Physicists want to produce a theory of “quantum gravity” that replaces general relativity and quantum mechanics, while capturing the extraordinary success of both. Such a theory would explain how gravity’s big picture works at the miniature scale of particles.

Time and agency

Saying that time does not exist at any level is like saying that there are no tables at all. Trying to get by in a world without tables might be tough, but managing in a world without time seems positively disastrous.

Our entire lives are built around time. We plan for the future, in light of what we know about the past. We hold people morally accountable for their past actions, with an eye to reprimanding them later on.

We believe ourselves to be agents (entities that can do things) in part because we can plan to act in a way that will bring about changes in the future. But what’s the point of acting to bring about a change in the future when, in a very real sense, there is no future to act for?

What’s the point of punishing someone for a past action, when there is no past and so, apparently, no such action?

The discovery that time does not exist would seem to bring the entire world to a grinding halt. We would have no reason to get out of bed.

READ the full article