As I Walk the Straight and Measurable Arrow-of-Time

Section 2 from The Pressure of Light by Malcolm

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“An historian may, perhaps, for the more convenient carrying on of his narration, relate an event before another, to which it was in fact posterior; but then he takes notice of this disorder, if he be exact; and by that means replaces the idea in its due position. It is the same case in our recollection of those places and persons, with which we were formerly acquainted. The chief exercise of memory is not to preserve the simple ideas, but their order and position.”

– David Hume, The Treatise of Human Nature (1739), whom Einstein acknowledged as the most significant philosophical shoulders on which was built the Theory of Special Relativity.

“But what about the psychological origin of the concept of time? This concept is undoubtedly associated with the fact of ‘calling to mind,’ as well as with the differentiation between sense experiences and the recollection of these. Of itself it is doubtful whether the differentiation between sense experience and recollection (or simple re-presentation) is something psychologically directly given to us. Everyone has experienced that he has been in doubt whether he has actually experienced something with his senses or has simply dreamt about it. Probably the ability to discriminate between these alternatives first comes about as the result of activity of the mind creating order.

“An experience is associated with a ‘recollection,’ and it is considered as being ‘earlier’ in comparison with ‘present experiences’. This is a conceptual ordering principle for recollected experiences, and the possibility of its accomplishment gives rise to the subjective concept of time, i.e. that concept of time which refers to the arrangement of the experiences of the individual.”

– Albert Einstein, from his 1916 book on Special and General Relativity, in which he agrees with David Hume, but expands on the individuality of the experience of time.

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The Pressure of Light argues that knowledge accumulates in the human mind sometimes on the straight and measurable arrow-of-time, and sometimes in a time-state distorted by uncertainty and projection. In the case of both remembered-thinking-events and remembered-external-events, the mind carves out a segment of time from what it understands is a much larger time-line of events, so that we end up with memories that have a beginning and an end. On the real arrow-of-time, segmentation is a clumsy measuring tool that is understood to have blurring at the boundaries. The mind could presume an event observed in the universe outside the self stands alone on the arrow-of-time, complete just as it’s seen, but in life on the arrow-of-time the mind quickly learns to presume instead that any event is connected, either causally or contextually, to a whole cluster of unseen events on either side of those memory-carved boundaries.

When I talk about events in the universe, I can concretely know and mutually agree with others that events do happen, that they all exist somewhere on the arrow-of-time, that they often seem to repeat with varying degrees of similarity, and that each of us has very legitimate reason to hypothesize about the possibility of any particular event happening again, having already happened, and what we should all do about that. This conversation, this part of knowledge development, sits firmly on the arrow-of-time, where the unpredictable, but dependably heterogeneous path keeps a reality check on every hypothesized connection discussed. No such check exists in the mind. 

Events repeat along the arrow-of-time, but not precisely. Even the sun rising is an event that happens at a relatively different spot in the galaxy everytime it happens. Nevertheless, the perceived repetition of events is what gives my mind the capacity to understand events, to design a reaction to them for next time, to deduce knowledge based on the relatability of one event to other events, which helps even when the relatability is only sort-of there. While the connections help me develop knowledge about the world, real-time heterogeneity keeps my hypothesizing in check by constantly reminding me that while such and such has worked every time so far, every so often I’ll have to contend with a black-swan. 

In the universe, on the arrow-of-time, even if I can’t see what happened earlier on the arrow, I can at least feel certain something happened before and after any particular event I observe, likely something relatable, and possibly something I could, to some degree, deduce from my observations. Deduce as I may, I also know there are rules in this universe which can both confirm and disprove my deductions, and all the other minds in this time-dimension know the same thing, and will think about that when they hear the results of my deductions. Knowledge that accumulates in my mind through life lived fully on the arrow-of-time is knowledge that understands the true nature of time. I argue that half of knowledge does not.

Section 3: Thinking, Remembering Thinking, Thinking about a Memory of Thinking, and how that Messes with Time

Thinking, Remembering Thinking, Thinking about a Memory of Thinking, and how that Messes with Time

Section 6 from The Pressure of Light by Malcolm

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“Dear mommy! 

“Your lovely present gives me a welcome excuse to write to you again, the holiday’s silence, the cozy quietude, to have a good chat with you, as if we were sitting together in the red room while the potatoes are getting brown with jealousy and the dear sun and some other dear thing peep into the room. When I think of that room, my head starts ringing in a delightfully mad way, and a thousand memories, some old, some young, some gay and others sad, embrace each other in a child-like fashion, as if they belonged together.”

– Letter from Albert Einstein, 1897, to his surrogate mother and recent board-and-study-hostess, Pauline Winteler, in which he first writes, emphatically, about his time at the Winteler household (“…to have a good chat with you, as if we were sitting together in the red room”) and speaks so enthusiastically and without verbal check (“…the dear sun and some other dear thing”) that it can be deduced that he is speaking direct from memory, recalling information about the external universe without forming a memory of that remembering-in-action, and in which he goes on, in stark contrast to the first sentence, to write about memories of remembering the room, and memories of feelings (“…my head starts ringing in a delightfully mad way”) that he associates with those memories-of-remembering, and in which he then goes on to write about the relationship between a certain set of memories-of-remembering (“…some old, some young, some gay and others sad”) that he remembers deducing from his analysis of the internal experiences: “…embrace each other in a child-like fashion, as if they belonged together”.

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Compared to events in the universe that are agreed upon to exist by multiple thinkers, remembered-thinking-events exist far outside the boundaries of agreed-upon-reality. Unless neurologists learn how to observe and decipher the brain processing information, to observe the brain creating a memory of that same information-processing in-action and to decipher the content contained in that memory, and to observe and decipher the crystallization of memories-of-analysis-of-memories-of-thinking-remembered, conscious minds will never ever be able to confirm that a remembered-thinking-event actually happened the way it’s reported. The Pressure of Light asserts that this is impossible, regardless of how far neurology or any other science evolves, and therefore that the uncertainty of remembered-thinking is representative of its fundamental structure in this universe.

My inability to know for certain that the thinking-events in my mind actually happened means I’m even less able to know if I’m correct in presuming any particular thinking-event has connections with any other thinking-event. Any remembered thought I have is shrouded in even less confirmable deductions of what context, or past and future iterations, these events are embedded in. Thus I achieve the capacity to see, without any intuitive doubt, thinking-events that perfectly replicate previous and future events, and thinking-events that connect seamlessly with other thoughts and feelings through the context I’ve deduced and confirmed without challenge. It’s almost as if the mind is enticing me to imagine fantastical explanations for the occurence of my remembered-thinking.

My mind is littered with presumptions of cause-and-effect relationships between different thinking and feeling events I routinely experience, and the correctness of my presumptions depends on those events having a place on the arrow-of-time that I have at least a decent view of. The implications of the uncertainty that surrounds remembered-thinking leads to a very disruptive truth, that knowledge developed from reflections on thinking is incredibly blind to the realities of normal-time, even in cases as simple as knowing for certain whether the feeling led to the thought, the thought led to the feeling, or if they were both there together all along. 

In my life, uncertainty and blindness have not led to apathy, on the contrary, the unanswered questions about what surrounds supposedly-remembered-thoughts are prime for engaging my mind’s ingenuity and inventiveness. Sometimes when the mind learns that it will never confirm absolutely any knowledge it develops regarding a particular challenge, rather than seeing pointlessness to the exercise, it can see freedom, and even quiver with excitement at the chance to invent and imagine without the risk of absolute disproof. 

I’ve accumulated part of my brain’s network-of-knowledge by walking the arrow-of-time, never reflecting on the fact that I’m thinking, although still using my brain to its full capacity. The other part I accumulated by reflecting on memories-of-thinking. No matter how deeply I reflected, how hard I pushed my attention inside my mind, I still had to understand my position in space-time. Fortunately, uncertainty is not all that defines this state, because memories-of-thoughts are nevertheless defined in a length with malleable dimensions, are contextually connected to any other thinking-event as tightly as the mind wants to believe, and in this space events are perfect replications of past and future iterations, if that helps. 

I think the most important way my remembered-internal-events differ from my remembered-external-events is in how my mind comes to understand the boundaries around memories. I believe the uncertainty surrounding remembered-thinking actually makes the beginning and end carved out by my memory more real to the mind than whatever the actual boundaries are of the information-processing-event my mind has decided to have me remember. This in itself would not be a problem if there was somebody I could check my information with, because that’s how I got comfortable with all the blurring and unseen connections at the boundaries of remembered-external-events on the real arrow-of-time. Not only does this somebody not exist for what goes on in my mind, my report on the existence of the thinking event, it’s boundaries, and any connected events, is the only source of information on these events anywhere in the universe. 

The Pressure of Light hypothesizes that, in that world of uncertainty, where the capacity for projection rules time, the mind, far from recognizing the risk of self-delusion, clings to the idea that repetition, that events iterating endlessly backward and forward through time, or context-universally-connecting anything the observer wants, is reality. The mind holds dearly memories-segmented, with a beginning and an end, a unit, destined for projection, like a mirror of a certain size facing a mirror of the same size so that their measurements stay true through the infinite reflections, which only diminish because of perception. In this state the mind is quite anxious about the idea of moving steadily forward through time, although it does this quite comfortably when not remembering-thinking. Instead it moves in clunky steps from one mirror to the next, always stopping to stare into its own projections of iterations or connected events, always delaying the next step forward through time while it tries to deduce or strategize something good. This is mirror-time.

Section 4: Archetypes of Inertia