I'm not a physicist. If I weren't so lazy and I had unlimited time perhaps I would become one so I could answer a question that's been bothering me for a while. Only today this question occurred to me in a different form than it had previously.

Does the future exist?

When I read Stephen Hawking's book A Brief History of Time, and in particular where he describes how time can be thought of as another dimension with space comprising space-time, I started to imagine the implications this would have if the universe had an actual creator.

My initial conclusion was that if space-time is tangible and if the universe was created by an entity which must necessarily exist outside of the universe and that creator has the ability to observe all of the universe then all of the following must be true.

  1. The creator would be timeless from our perspective, being outside of space-time.
  2. The creator would observe all points in space-time simultaneously, including (assuming the historical accuracy of the Bible or Qur'an for a moment) the "original sin" event, the death of Jesus, the birth of Mohammed, and my death. In effect, the creator might be called omniscient about events in the universe.
  3. The creator would have dictated the nature of space-time so not only would it be observed but it would also have been designed. In effect, free will could not exist. An omniscient creator and free-will are mutually exclusive.

Unfortunately, I don't know how physicists really understand space-time. I know that it is theorized that traveling to some point in non-contiguous space-time is possible in one direction (the past) but probably not the other (the future). Logically, if the future does not exist then one cannot travel there. However, if the future does exist, if space-time is complete and tangible, then our speculations about determinism are no longer so speculative. The events which happen at any point on the space-time continuum are set and the idea of free will (however you define it) is obsolete.

I invite discussion and, hopefully enlightenment, from people who have a different perspective and a better education. I personally don't think that space-time is complete or that time exists in both directions based on what I've learned so far.

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The first time I read about event horizons, I wondered if the fact that time stands still there would mean one could randomly come out at any point in time during the life of the black hole. Are there any cosmologists on this list who can answer that?
Hi Tom,

And I quote: "if the future does exist, if space-time is complete and tangible, then our speculations about determinism are no longer so speculative. The events which happen at any point on the space-time continuum are set and the idea of free will (however you define it) is obsolete".

Sounds like you wandered off the deep end . . . :-)

I guess I'll join you.

From what I've read, time is linear. It has but one direction: forward. But I've also read that, if there really are 11 dimensions (10 spatial dimensions, plus time) to the universe, then residing in the 11th dimension would be virtually god-like. One would be in simultaneous contact with any and all points in time and space. Time and space would hold no meaning.

Those 11 dimensions are far from proven. If time really is linear and causality is absolute, then I don't see any point in revisiting the past. If you "rewind the tape" of time, you'll just waste time recovering the same ground already covered before. It's the future that's really interesting.

The future is where speculations about determinism come into play. Just to make sure that we all understand what I mean by determinism, I'll define it here: "Determinism is the principle that causality is responsible for all events in the universe: that everything is determined by causality."

With linear time, the future hasn't happened yet. Wait . . . that phrase is monolithic: it's as if the future is some sort of all-encompassing entity. The fact is: the future occurs locally, and aggregates globally. The birth and death of an entire galaxy is irrelevant to us if it's so remote we can't even see it. While the senseless death of a starving child in Africa is tragic and heartbreaking, you'll undoubtedly never know about it on a personal level. The point is that causality permeates the entire universe and makes its mark on everything: whether or not any particular event seems momentous or even noteworthy. But how do these events affect eternity? Will anything we do stop the universe expanding? The Big Bang has predetermined the demise of the universe . . . so aren't our own lives equally predetermined?

With this frame of reference, I propose that the future does NOT exist and is NOT predetermined everywhere, for everything. The future of inanimate objects, however, IS predetermined unless they fall under the control of animate beings. Wherever life leaves an impression, the future is far from predetermined. What I'm talking about is the distinction between animate and inanimate modes of response to causality -- the difference between us and rocks. This distinction is most clear when we use humans as the example of the animate mode of response. This is because humans, unlike other lifeforms, embody ALL the phenomena of life -- motility, consciousness, intelligence and, yes, free will.

The law of causality states that: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is true of both animate and inanimate objects. The difference between the animate and inanimate modes of response to causality is that inanimate objects have only one potential reaction to an action while animate beings have variable potential reactions to an action. One major reason for this is that animate beings are complex systems. They have many functional parts that integrate, holistically, into a single entity. Animate beings are much more complex and much less predictable than inanimate objects. I'll be discussing determinism versus free will, so, for animate beings, let's stick with humans.

Whether or not you believe in determinism or free will . . . or believe free will is compatible with determinism (as I do), it's pretty difficult to deny causality (and, therefore, determinism). Without a single scientific experiment for support, we can, at any time, observe that cause always precedes effect. Conventional wisdom holds that free will is antithetical to determinism . . . but I hope to show that determinism (causality) actually creates free will.

Human identity and experience presents a problem for determinism. We all live as if we have free will: we work, play, think and plan as if we have free will. On the other hand, we can see that causality determines all events. How do we reconcile the difference? First, we need to acknowledge there might not be a difference. What if causality creates free will?

That's my basic premise: causality (determinism) creates free will. All I've written above is not essential to what follows -- I just wanted to frame free will in context of animate beings: of life.

Let's try to stick with causality. If we accept that effects can't exist without a cause, then the processes of the brain, such as memory, thought, analysis and imagination, can be thought of as effects caused by the brain. Of these effects, imagination is most relevant to free will . . . because imagination can be prescient. We can extrapolate cause and effect into the future to imagine potential scenarios that might occur. We then evaluate these potential scenarios and gauge the likelihood they might actually transpire. This is, essentially, the process of planning. We use our experience and intelligence to estimate future outcomes, then plan the steps and contingencies necessary to best ensure -- or avoid -- those outcomes. Of course, short term, simple plans are more likely to succeed than long term, complicated plans. Depending on our skill at prognostication, our success rates vary from person to person. But, on the whole, short term plans usually succeed. I know this, without question, from my professional experience as a project manager.

How does planning relate to free will? Here's the interesting, awesome, part. Our ability to mentally anticipate cause and effect represents an advantage over causality. Causality must wait for the future to unfold in the present but we can keep steps ahead of causality by extrapolating it into the future. In other words, we can (in our imagination) go where causality can't . . . and bring back conclusions that greatly affect our decisions. Steered by these conclusions, our choices guide us through potential futures in accordance with out plans.

When causality meets human intelligence, we make decisions based on forecasts of events likely in our future. There are other causal factor involved, like experience, heredity, education, circumstances, etc., but it's prescient imagination that steers our decisions in self-directed ways. When determinism meets human imagination, it becomes self determinism: free will.

So, back to your quote at the beginning of this post . . . the past is set but the future is not. Our individual destinies are NOT written in the stars (may the force be with you) -- our destinies are ours to make. We (as well as ALL life forms) might eventually face extinction as the universe grows cold and fades away. Our collective destinies might be extinction but our individual destinies are ours to make, Most of us will die obscure deaths but a select few -- as long as humanity survives -- will be remembered by history.
Very well stated. Better than anything else I've read actually, though that may be my fault.

You referred to an eleventh dimension which is in contact with all points in space and time. That must not include points in time in my future or that would be a paradox. It would imply that the future does exist, though we agree that it does not.
Hey Tom,

Like I said, it's far from proven. There's a guy, named Rob Bryanton, who makes YouTube videos about the 10th dimension and other things quantum. Here's his explantion of the 10th dimension . . .

Like I said, it's far from proven.

Agreed.

This video is on String Theory (10 dimensions) while your other post touched on 11 dimensions also known as M Theory. Both theories aim to reconcile the two areas of physics: quantum mechanics and general relativity into a quantum theory of gravity.

Far from proven, "it is widely believed that testing either theory directly would require prohibitively expensive feats of engineering and will require new mathematical and physical ideas to mesh together its very different mathematical formulations."

I have read Brian Green's "The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory" and Michio Kaku's "Parallel Worlds: A Journey Through Creation, Higher Dimensions, and the Future of the Cosmos." Their video documentaries on string theory and M Theory are available on YT. M Theory is an elegant piece of work. It can be a good candidate for the Unified Theory but testing and proving it remains the biggest hurdle.

For time travel. I still find Richard Gott's work more elaborate.
Hey Roy,

Yeah, I thought it was 10 dimensions plus time but time was included as the 4th dimension.

I also enjoy layman books on physics by science popularizers like Brian Greene and Lawrence Krauss. But I find many books on physics are too rigorous for me. I have one by Roger Penrose that I had to skip huge sections of because they left me in a fog.
Yikes, I confused Newton's 3rd law of motion with the law of causality.

"Every action has an equal and opposite reaction" is Newton's 3rd law of motion.

"Every material effect must have an adequate antecedent cause" is the law of causality.
The idea that time has a beginning comes from Plato. John made it the opening paragraph of his gospel, and it was later elaborated by Augustine to become a dogma in the catholic church.
Hugh Ross might very well be right when he says that Hawking got it from studying the bible:

“As Steven Hawking, one of the three authors, boasted many years thereafter, we proved that time was created. We proved that time has a beginning. But through his contacts with certain Christians like his wife Jane, who's an Anglican, as a friend of mine from Cal Tech, Don Page, who had daily Bible studies with Steven and Jane Hawking while he was doing research pointed out, if you prove that time has a beginning, that it was created, it eliminates all theological possibilities but Jesus Christ.”

Nothing in physics says that time had a beginning.

It is all part of Plato's idealism, a philosophy that claims the world acts according to divine math and that observations and experiments are of little or no use. It traces back to the pythagoreans and has been a major world view ever since.
And it still is! Plato called his school Akademia. These days the modern Akademias eagerly tell us that Big Bang computer models “proves” that more than 95% of our world has never been observed! And this thread now seems to have wandered off topic and straight into the pure imaginary world of multidimensional universes.
This is not only improper use of math, it is once again replacing reality with math equations.
The dark ages never ended!

Math is a useful tool when properly applied to the real world. But it works just fine in Harry Potter's world as well.

Does this mean the world is a magic place where causality no longer prevails?
"And this thread now seems to have wandered off topic and straight into the pure imaginary world of multidimensional universes."

I disagree that theoretical dimensions greater than 3 are purely imaginary. When the concept of the atom, the fundamental particle of all matter, was first proposed it might have been called purely imaginary. It took a long time to achieve a sufficient level of knowledge and technology to have the ability to observe such particles but we can now say definitively that they are not imaginary. Just because our senses cannot detect something, like other spacial dimensions, does not qualify them as imaginary.

True, there exist mathematical models of the universe which were created to solve a particular problem and they may not reflect reality. Or they may reflect a reality we are only now just barely able to imagine. From this perspective extra dimensions are certainly imaginary, but not impossible. :)
There was no doubt that matter existed, long before it's building bricks were visualized. The modern atom was discovered through experiments and not by multidimensional speculations.

No observation or experiment ever confirmed or suggested more than 3 spatial dimensions.

The possibility of gods and flying reindeers doesn't make them real.
@klypp,

Until Einstein's space/time equivalence, we only had 3 dimensions. Now we have 4. I'm not about to close my mind to the potential of other dimensions . . . particularly when the only math that explains observations from particle accelerators need extra dimensions.

Let's not go overboard with certainty. It's comforting, for some, to be certain. But I prefer the attitude that, "When the unknown becomes known, the obvious response is to adjust". On the frontiers of science, the unknown is becoming known. Some of today's speculations and theories will become tomorrow's facts and principles.
Nobody would stake their lives on the existence of extra dimensions. They're a mathematical necessity for certain models of the universe. There's also a holographic model of the universe that nobody is staking their lives on. Any reasonably intelligent person understands implicitly that these models are just theoretical for now.

But because nobody really knows for sure, that leaves the door open to the possibility that one of these models truly represents reality in a legitimate way.

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