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Memories of the 28th Century

The Illusion of Time

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I recently ran into the theory that time is an illusion, yet again. I have been seeing and hearing that idea for years, but the people who express that notion have not yet managed to get that concept to be reflected in observable reality. Or, they can claim that time is an illusion all they want, but until I look outside and watch events that occurred a few thousand years ago as they take place, I will have my doubts. I understand how watching old light allows one to observe what happened a very long time ago, but that is not the same as time being an illusion.

Maybe the people pushing this idea didn't even look at classical physics, much less consider it a description of the world that we live in. Or maybe they never thought about what they were saying, when they said that time is an illusion.
Remember that if time doesn't actually exist, then the Big Bang is taking place right now, and you have been alive forever. Maybe they have a special definition of time that makes it something other than what it is. Time is quite simple; it is the separation between events. If time is an illusion that you can get into your car to go somewhere, and get out of the car after going there and returning. Time is an essential component of velocity and separation and acceleration.
I have read other articles about time not existing, and they all had similar problems: they seemed to define time as something other than what it is. I have seen articles in which the idea of time was the hours and minutes that people mention, but we all understand that the units of time are inconsequential.

I just searched a little for information about how time is illusory, and they mentioned the expectation that the past has happened and that the future has not yet happened, but we all understand that the past, present, and future are local conditions. Some people may not understand that, but there are people who have trouble understanding that it is already tomorrow in some parts of the world. Again, that is a local situation. If people are looking for absolutes, then they will have to live in their own illusions. The general conditions are local and sequential. If we could expect Alexander to charge up at the head of his army and try to take over India, then it would be different, but Alexander the Great died something like 2200 years ago.

Personally, I write time travel stories, and I spend time thinking about the relationships among events in this and in parallel universes. Time is not absolute, so it is relatively simple for my characters to move off to a parallel world in which different events have happened, but I was careful to create local timelines in which time moves differently. Putting two contrary versions of the same entity into the same universe is conceptually difficult, and it may not be possible, but there is no reason think that there can't be a parallel universe in which there are different versions of the same person or event. I find such incongruities interesting and amusing, but they need not be illusory.

It just occurred to me that the answer may lie in the definition of illusory. I had a great time writing a story in which Zeus told Plato that his concept of the world as projections on the back wall of a cave was close to the situation. Then Zeus described the Hindu concept of Maya and illustrated his point by turning off the illusion. That's in the last chapter of Paradoxes and Contradictions.

I encourage readers to read the linked article that sparked this post and to think about what time is and whether it is illusory.

The article