Thursday, December 16, 2004

Q&A with Gregg Rosenberg

Gregg Rosenberg was nice enough to correspond with me via e-mail and gave me permission to post this Q&A exchange we had (his answer actually addresses not just my question as posed below but also the related comments I made on my last post here).

Q: My main question is: have you thought any more about the problem of time? In the book, it seemed a bit of a challenge to link the subjective time of consciousness back to the emergence of time (and space) from the causal mesh at a more primitive level (sections 10.6 and 14.3.2). Now, it's very possible I didn't comprehend some of the arguments there, but I was wondering if there is any other way to address the status of time as something which inherently accompanies (not emerges from) causality and experience?

A: I would not say that I divide time in 'subjective' and 'objective' time. Rather I divide it into 'subjective' and 'intersubjective' time, with intersubjective time being a relativistic construction from the structure of the causal mesh. That is, one must pick a node in the mesh and then back into a structure for time relative to that node, so intersubjective time is not an 'objective' view of time. FWIW, I think this view dovetails fairly well with the treatment of these things in quantum loop theory, which is a theory of physics that I find appealing.

Having two things is always less satisfying than having one, so I can understand why you might find my view a bit unsatisfying. Let me do my best to make it more digestible. The two kinds of time are really directed at answering two entirely different questions,

1) Why does experience contain an asymmetric flow?


2) Why does it work when we assign numerical indexes to natural events to mark their locations relative to one another?

My answer to the first question is: because real flow is needed in the world to carry asymmetric constraint within the causal nexus. Since the carriers are experiential, the flow is a flow of experience. This is subjective time.

My answer to the second question is: because each experiencer is a node in a network, and the structure of the network is such that a temporal index is useful for cross-correlating nodes in the network. This is intersubjective time.

So the two kinds of time are really "about" two remarkably different things, though one is modeled analogically on the other. Since the initial questions are about such different things, "time" is actually a very subtly ambiguous word. That's why the final position I come to has two kinds of time.

I don't personally feel as if this is an uncomfortable answer. I think it fits together nicely within the framework and also with observation and science.

BTW, the signaling system I invoke when trying to reduce spatial direction is intended to be local.

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