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How Many Times — It’s Zero Time Theory

In: Timing & Time Perception
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P. A. Hancock Department of Psychology and Institute for Simulation and Training, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL 32826, USA

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Abstract

The flawed duality of mind and body leads logically, but fallaciously, to a conception of time divided into the physical and the psychological. The apparent question then becomes how to reconcile the two disparate perspectives and the integration of psychological constructs such as the “now” of the observer into the physis of the outer world. However, since mind is only an emergent property of a specific configuration of matter, so time becomes the inexorable delusion of living systems. The duality of time is thus a spurious inquiry motivated by flawed, but still understandably compelling premise.

1 No Time To Lose

Some of the world’s leading time researchers (Gruber et al., 2023) have offered an intriguing and innovative temporal perspective and the following commentary considers postulations and implications central to this contribution (see Note 1). It is gratifying indeed that their journey, herein recounted, takes them a manifest and consequential step along the road toward zero-time theory (see Hancock, 2019a, b, 2021). However, it is correspondingly disappointing that they neither acknowledge nor refer to that theoretical terminus. For, in their very beginning, these authors observe that: (our) “view suggests that the veridical system is a reflection of the accepted spacetime cosmologies and through natural selection begets the illusory system for functional purposes.” A muted bravo! Yet, however valuable their important recognition, their paper nonetheless continues to promulgate the delusion of an externality of physical time. It leaves these authors, as it does others (e.g., Buonomano & Rovelli, submitted; Fraser, 1987), with the conundrum of the “two-times problem” (Note 2). The subsequent, intellectual wrestling match that ensues is necessarily predicated upon the fallacious assumption of temporal multiplicities, however articulated, and so can reach neither fruition nor fulfillment. Let us explore why.

2 Time’s Conundra

Collectively, we find little trouble in believing that human beings invented the conventions of time’s measurement (Cipolla, 2003; Hancock, 2018; Landes, 2000). Indeed, much of the literature on time’s history is riddled with such chronometric and calendrical expositions (e.g., Fraser, 1972, 1975; Whitrow et al., 2003). In contrast to this ready acceptance, we find it virtually impossible to believe human beings invented what we now formally believe is time itself (Dyke, 2002; Gotshalk, 1930; Ingthorsson, 1998; Krishnamurti 2018; McTaggart, 1908, 1909; Russell, 1915; Sanford, 1968; Thomson, 2001). Of course, there is a very good reason for this inability (and see Callender, 2010; Jaffe, 2018). For, as the present authors put it, “Understandably, it is a terrible feeling believing that some of your perceptions are illusions” (Note 3). Philosophers have argued most articulately that time is an a priori construct, and so it appears equally logical to assert that indeed time is a priori to humans themselves (Kant, 1781/1987) (Note 4). However, the proposal that time is a priori to all of life (i.e., there is a physical externality that is not contingent upon the perceptual abilities of the specific structural ordering of putatively “living” matter) is one of the basic flaws that bedevils essentially all extant narratives of time’s character (cf. Barbour, 1999). Gruber et al. (2023) place much faith in a derivation of Hartle’s (2005) proposition of an information gathering and utilizing system (IGUS). This conception, most especially in graphic form, looks very much like a physicist’s “recasting” of basic psychological information processing models of the earliest incarnations of cognitive psychology (e.g., Broadbent, 1958, and see Block et al., 1999, 2000, 2010). Given that one of the authors of the present target article may legitimately be regarded as a world authority on this approach, it is not hard to see why (and see Block et al., 1998). And, sadly, there is insufficient space here to fully evaluate and debate these parallels and divergences between the respective models. Regardless of any such “downriver” disputes, the original IGUS is founded upon the basis of the reality of a four-dimensional world where even the term “information” is predicated upon an ab initio temporal assumption. It is a proposition that I have discounted now in multiple works (Hancock, 2005, 2015, 2019a, 2020) (Note 5). Given this, the employment of the word “information” which is patently, temporally loaded, the proposition necessarily implies some interpretational mechanism through which such temporal information can be understood, and the use of the “robot” IGUS as a form of the “ghost in the machine,” I find both rationally and logically unconvincing (and see Koestler, 1968). Also, information necessitates statistical change and again that is, inescapably, expressed across time (cf., Debnath & Basu, 2015). Thus, a proposition that is, from the beginning, so firmly entrenched in the traditional narrative of time’s nature is constrained, not to say trapped, by these implicit and more manifest assumptions as it seeks a new solution to time’s conundra.

3 When Time is Up

As do all delusions, so the delusion of time persists (Appelbaum et al., 2004). At heart the enigma of time are impediments of myopia and hubris. Myopia in the sense humans are very largely unable to reach back beyond their own brief span of years to comprehend, even through an act of ratiocination (Note 6), that “living” systems are simply, and only, one of many other interesting but still unprivileged arrangements of matter (and see Hancock, 2007). Hubristic in the sense that humans “elevate” themselves so highly, predicated upon the false assumption of their exceptionalism (Washington et al., 2021). As a result, and in general, they are unable to see that the physics of “reality” does not march across any bridge into a cranium but rather that each system that perceives and acts is able to do so as it fabricates its own experienced phenomenology. That we humans are able to express this in what we ourselves then term sophisticated language, as well as other elaborated ways, is just another expression of this underserved conceit. Time is a delusion and there are not many times, but simply, rather, zero time.

Notes

1.

It is frustrating that these authors have gone to such pains to provide their interesting exposition and yet reactive commentaries are constrained to word limits, especially in a time of electronic publication.

2.

It is true that, within this “traditional” framework, we can conduct many and informative studies (Hancock, 1993; Hancock & Block, 2012). Yet these result in conventional interpretations of empirical outcomes and do not question the “unquestionable” nature of time itself.

3.

My only concern here is the word illusion. I have consistently tried to use the term delusion. The divergence between these two might, at first, appear trivial. However, illusion implies the presence of something that could potentially be externally “real.” Delusion, in contrast, implies the source of the misapprehension is iatrogenic in nature, which much more closely describes the situation here.

4.

This would seem to lead to an evident fallacy in logic on my behalf. That is, how can time be a priori to human beings who then “invent” it. The answer is that each order of living system creates the interpretation of “time” most useful to its existence. As I have noted elsewhere (Hancock, 2019c), magical things occur with the closing of loops, and the emergence of a property called time is perhaps one of the strangest of them all. This apparent fallacy is also a reflection of human hubris, implicitly implying that little of meaning can have existed before the emergence of our own species. A belief which sadly obscures much understanding of the world around us.

5.

I am fully apprised that much of the target article is directed to addressing this foundational schism, but again, for reasons I am not able to fully comprehend, word count is limited in respect of commentary responses.

6.

This recalls Francis Bacon’s epithet upon the impact of the immediacy of experience that dominates over other forms of knowing, even when the latter prove more informative.

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