When I'm riding it tends to be an 'in the moment' experience. The feel of the wind in my face. The next bend, the next hazard, the sound of the engine. If it's an uncomplicated road and there are no hazards it's possible for an existential thought to pop up and smack me in the chin. Or if I stop for a moment to admire the view or reflect on what I've just seen then thoughts can start meandering along, picking up other hitchhiking thoughts along the way. These will then sometimes be dropped off in a few moments or come along for the long haul. I've had thought 'hitchhikers' for many years sometimes. Fortunately they don't often require me to stop for ice cream but they do keep saying "are we there yet?", to which I respond, "No! Stop fidgeting!"
There's a lot been written about how we should all be living in the 'now' rather than in the past or future. I'm familiar with meditation and contrary to what many think it's not about making the mind blank and not thinking. It's about noticing what's going on around you rather than letting your mind have free rein to go where it wants to. Effectively it's training the brain to be more aware of itself in each and every 'now' moment. The only problem is that 'now' doesn't really exist and current theories propose that time is all in your head too.
I'll continuum with some Space-time...
I'll briefly run through what we know about time. Einstein came up with two Theories at the start of the 20th Century. First, his Special Theory of Relativity which demonstrates how time proceeds at different rates depending on how fast you are moving. An object moving is subject to 'time dilation' so time moves more slowly when you're moving than when you're standing still. Of course the numbers are really tiny but they're still measurable. Then, his widely accepted General Theory of Relativity revealed the existence of 'space-time'. It's often called the 'fabric' of space-time as it's easier to visualise for mere mortals. As with fabric, it can be creased and warped out of shape and this is what any massive object in space does, it bends time. In bending time, time is slowed. The closer you are to that massive object the faster time moves for you, so time moves at different speeds at ground level to, say, the top of a mountain.
With time being fluid and different for everyone the net result is that there is absolutely no 'now' moment which is the same for us all. You have your own private time and so do I, they both run at a different rate to each other. The difference for us on earth is so tiny we don't need to bother about it, although for GPS satellites revolving around earth we do have to program in the difference in time experiences otherwise communications would be out of sync. So time is pretty much proven to behave in this way, as far as anything can be proved that is.
The past is still out there, as real as any other place
So this is where it gets very interesting. Modern theoretical physicists do not like to talk about time flowing from one point to the next, or as part of a linear sequence. Some say that the past and the future exist at the same time in a kind of 'block' universe, that because of the law of cause and effect, the future is predictable. Space-time has co-ordinates so effectively, like travelling to a set of co-ordinates using your satnav, there is nothing to say you can't dial in and go somewhere in the past or future. Time does not 'flow', there is no 'now', these are things that emerge from our conscious experience.
This means all the people you ever knew, all those people you loved and lost and all those children or grandchildren you may have in the future are all already there. That first bike you rode, that favourite teddy bear, that first kiss. The next ride out on your motorbike. All those experiences and things you ever had are out in space, somewhere existing as a point in time which is just as real as this moment, as you are reading this text, is for you.
So why are we not constantly moving backwards or forwards at different rates if this were all true? Experiencing time going in all directions? The theory is that the Second Law of Thermodynamics perpetuates the illusion. It states that entropy, or disorder must occur in only one direction. So things go from order to disorder, hot to cold, and cannot go the other way. Carlo Rovelli calls it 'thermal time'. Everything we know obeys that law, the universe is cooling down and things naturally decay. That's where it is proposed the illusion of time emerges from, but for all practical purposes it would not break the laws of physics if time went backwards.
Was I always determined to struggle over this subheading?
If that doesn't blow your mind enough, here's where my brain gets fried like deep fried camembert. If the future already exists, what about free will? Have all our actions been decided already? Some say yes, they have. They say free will is just an illusion, because we are incapable of knowing the future it still comes as a surprise to us. These are the determinists. Of course many people disagree, they say free will exists, we still are able to take our own choices and decide our destiny. However, that's not compatible with a block universe theory. One must be wrong or incomplete.
I, personally, am on the fence. I think there's something massive we're missing here. It may reside in the realm of quantum mechanics where those laws of relativity break down. The unification of the physics of the big and very small is something Professor Hawking sought to do and still remains elusive. For example, things like electrons are not actually in a fixed state or location, they exist as probabilities in all states and places at once, until observed (measured). Only when observed do they come into a definite existence. That means all possibilities for that election's position are on the table until that point.
Think Big! Think Small. Think Free
If I personally had to go with a theory right now about free will, it would combine relativity and quantum mechanics. I would say that our future is not absolutely defined and set yet, but only exists as a probability function. For example, I probably will post this blog, but instead there may be an infinite number of other outcomes including a meteorite hitting my house or me just deciding not to blog ever again but instead sit on a mountain and knit jumpers. Perhaps even there are multiple universes out there all with one possible outcome each making it impossible to really know what is going to happen to the 'you' that is reading this blog, until it happens. Until the event is, like the electron, observed.
That would make time travel forwards pretty difficult then. Because to make it work space-time co-ordinates would have to not only have time and space in them but also define which universe to go to and that would mean you'd need certainties and not probabilities, which quantum mechanics (or any of science for that matter) cannot provide. Time travel backwards? Perhaps that would work out yes, but you'd still need to have the time, space and universe co-ordinates, if more than one universe continued to exist in the past that is.
Oh boy! I have problems deciding which granola to eat each morning, give me a chance to go back in time to an infinite number of past events that both happened in my universe and other ones and I just may decide to stay in bed instead. Probably. Anyway, where on earth did I leave those knitting needles?
If you were affected by any of the issues in this blog and want to find out more, google 'eternalism', 'block universe theory' or you tube any well respected documentary on the subject. Carlo Rovelli is an Italian theoretical physicist and his 'The order of time' is a great read. Finally for desert look up Hugh Everett's 'Many World's' theory and of course the great man himself, Albert Einstein and his Special and General Theory of Relativity
Time takes a cigarette, puts it in your mouth