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The Future Can Influence the Past

Sorry, I know it’s Monday and your brain is probably already struggling. But this brain bender is too good not to share: A series of quantum experiments has shown that measurements performed in the future can influence the present.

Tollaksen’s group is looking into the notion that time might flow backward, allowing the future to influence the past. By extension, the universe might have a destiny that reaches back and conspires with the past to bring the present into view. On a cosmic scale, this idea could help explain how life arose in the universe against tremendous odds. On a personal scale, it may make us question whether fate is pulling us forward and whether we have free will.

Tollaksen’s research was inspired by the work of physicist Yakir Aharanov, who came up with a fresh interpretation of quantum mechanics that allowed it to remain deterministic:

Aharonov accepted that a particle’s past does not contain enough information to fully predict its fate, but he wondered, if the information is not in its past, where could it be? After all, something must regulate the particle’s behavior. His answer—which seems inspired and insane in equal measure—was that we cannot perceive the information that controls the particle’s present behavior because it does not yet exist.

“Nature is trying to tell us that there is a difference between two seemingly identical particles with different fates, but that difference can only be found in the future,” he says. If we’re willing to unshackle our minds from our preconceived view that time moves in only one direction, he argues, then it is entirely possible to set up a deterministic theory of quantum mechanics.

The article finishes by discussing the implications of the theory being correct – not least, that the Universe has a fixed destiny, and whether we can detect its ‘influence’ upon us now. Research into this question is actually being undertaken by famous cosmologist Paul Davies and colleagues at Arizona State University:

Cosmologists have long been puzzled about why the conditions of our universe — for example, its rate of expansion — provide the ideal breeding ground for galaxies, stars, and planets. If you rolled the dice to create a universe, odds are that you would not get one as handily conducive to life as ours is. Even if you could take life for granted, it’s not clear that 14 billion years is enough time for it to evolve by chance. But if the final state of the universe is set and is reaching back in time to influence the early universe, it could amplify the chances of life’s emergence.

….“The goal is to find out whether Mother Nature has been doing her own postselections, causing these unexpected effects to appear,” Davies says.

I wonder if this provides any support or mechanism for the positive results for the presentiment research performed by Dean Radin and Dick Bierman, in which individuals seem to have emotional reactions to future events.

Editor
  1. Democrazy
    I’m always interested in what this implies.

    If the universe is suited to life like ours in the past because of the sheer amount of life like us in the future then it means that our type of life won out in a contest of superposition.

    Bad luck for life forms different to us who, though maybe competing, lost the superposition game. If different possibility states for universes play out against each other then think of the number of possible life forms that might have lost the battle of quantum conscio-material willpower.

    I remember reading a quote from Stephen Hawking over a decade ago that said the Big Bang might not have happened until we measured it. Of course this negates the possibilities that an alien species was the ones that measured it and brought it about sometime in the past, or future.

    Another thing though…..

    What does this do for the more normal standardised God hypothesis? It seems to me that it gives another way to envisage it exploding. Perhaps it has been more of a quantum democracy that has birthed the universe, and not a (semi-benign?) quantum dictatorship.

    1. Maybe The Wrong Model
      Daydreamer,

      I think that intelligent life forms need to cooperate, not compete, in order to survive in the long run. Our ancestors probably survived in East Africa by cooperating about 72,000 years ago.

      1. Superpositon
        I definitely agree with you there.

        For my comment though I was imagining the superposition of states that QM implies.

        If you put an electron in a box, close the lid, then split the box 50/50 the probability function is spread 50/50 through the box. Measuring the position of the electron collapses the wavefunction and makes the electron ‘real’.

        Now do the same again. Put the electron in the box and close the lid. Put the separator in the box, but split it 20/80. This time the wavefunction is split giving an 80% chance of the electron in the 8/10ths section of the box.

        For your comment: perhaps we should think of the superposition of states as cooperating to give the 80% chance, but I was more thinking about the 80% winning out over the 20%, especially since in some descriptions they are all said to ‘exist’ in a state of superpostion. At the point of the collapse of the wavefunction it is described as being made real and the states of superposition that existed before disappear. So the reality with the electron in the 20% section is gone. So by comparison lifeforms in the smaller statistical slice of the superposition of states of the quantum universe lost out and did not exist once the universal wavefunction collapsed into existence.

        Looking at the universe again – The likelyhood of the laws of physics randomly turning out the way they did is extremely low, as i’m sure we all agree. It was not 20/80. More like 1 with hundreds of zeros after it. Hopefully you can see where this is going. The percentage of the superposited states that described a universe with our our laws would have had to have outweighed the others for the collapse into ours to have been likely.

        If consciousness did this, or consciousness like ours, then (in the description of QM i am referring to here) it overwhelmed the statistics of the superposition of states and when collapse occurred (big bang time?) it resulted in our laws of physics and perhaps a semi-fixed evolution towards the type of states that overwhelmed the wavefunction in the first place.

        (I say semi-fixed as maybe it still contained the statistical nature of the original wavefunction – maybe it still had freedom to evolve into any of the individual states in the superposition, or a mix of them). Hay, I like freewill 🙂

    2. noitulovE
      If the concept of Evolution is based on the idea of the past influencing the future, what do we call it if the more highly-evolved future influences the less-evolved past? Intelligent Design?

    3. Open Mind
      [quote=daydreamer]
      I remember reading a quote from Stephen Hawking over a decade ago that said the Big Bang might not have happened until we measured it. Of course this negates the possibilities that an alien species was the ones that measured it and brought it about sometime in the past, or future.
      [/quote]

      Hi Daydreamer. I seem to follow you around these pages (or vice-versa) making the same points over and over. Groundhog Daily Grail.

      The thing is that each time you post you show that you make assumptions based upon the physicalist worldview and never will you stray from that for a moment. You seem determined to make reality fit with a reductionist, billiard-ball physics that you are comfortable with.

      While I don’t share many of your views, I did grow up in a similar environment: taught from an early age that science has the answers and that anything it can’t answer right now, it will do so eventually. I’ve read and enjoyed, as a layman, the books on quantum physics and relativity and yet we come away from all that with diametrically opposed philosophies. Why might that be so? Perhaps because you were further conditioned in the university academic system whereas I wasn’t? Or maybe I’m the daydreamer and you have your feet firmly planted in the soil of rationality?

      OK, at the risk of further repetition, it seems to me that the definition of consciousness when it comes to quantum collapse is too limited. I try to think of consciousness as energy with a purpose. Thus, everything is endowed with – indeed is manifested out of – consciousness. Therefore you don’t have to wait for “intelligent” individuals to appear: human, alien or otherwise. The whole system is conscious. If a conscious entity makes a choice out of purpose, then a kind of superposition collapse would happen. That choice might be to activate a particular gene or to select a particular mutation.

      As for the nature of time: I see time as essentially a convenience for three dimensional existence. Perhaps we need to experience our universe in linear time. Perhaps, in reality, all events happen simultaneously and are connected, in dot-to-dot fashion, according to the drama being played out. In other words, all possible outcomes exist and we select from them tracing a path which becomes a “timeline”. If so, then perhaps there are conditions under which we could experience other events via a “sideways” shift of focus. Experiencing that event would count as quantum intervention and therefore as “influence”. If events are not organised in linear progression, perhaps we might focus on an event “out of time”.

      I don’t know precisely how it all hangs together though I spend a lot of “time” thinking about it. All I know is that making a root assumption about the nature of reality is inevitably limiting. Open mindedness does not mean believing in all sorts of nonsense, it means being open to ideas that might or might not be nonsense. I don’t necessarily believe in crystal healing or in astrology, but I am open to become convinced. It seems to me that is what science should be about too; not about a-priori rejection.

      Dave.

      1. Groundhog Grail,
        I am reminded here that people who agree also play groundhog 😉

        I do try and have a crack at interpreting modern mainstream into the modern non-mainstream. Its not always easy, but I think it is more interesting than thinking about what the Elves would say to the Dwarves in a debate about woodland resources. By that I mean that there are things we can talk about that are entirely imaginative, then there are things that are mixtures of the imaginative, then there are those that are not imaginative. Any might be real, but the effort in deciding which is which is what is interesting to me (or whether the categories exist), not just the final destination. It is a little like playing a game of snakes and ladders, then just moving your piece to the end and declaring yourself the winner. Obviously no-one knows everything, but building knowledge up is part of the game.

        On top of this throw philosophy, which might say that the game is not important. That perhaps the snakes and ladders board is not reality, reality is the table – or the room. Part of me says we still need to complete the game. I’m not so eager to just jump to the last step.

        Can we be that patient?

        Personally I have no comments like ‘I believe time is’ or ‘I think the Earth is’. I try and take the work of people like Einstein and try and understand it, then I ponder – if it is correct what would that mean for x/y/z. I do not try and reinterpret quantum mechanics myself, I do not feel I have the ability. I trust the people who work with it and produce things like the LHC to tell me what bits they think they understand mean for me. Our knowledge floats in a vacuum. Which ways of extending it outwards are fair? or which ways of extending imagination towards it? Would you call your own thoughts on time ‘knowledge’, enough for the rest of us? Are you confident enough of them? Obviously Einstein was. Is it wrong to try and imagine how your own ideas compare to his in their description, power, and function? If you are correct then surely your ideas and his will co-exist, but I think the way to see is to ask questions, then ask questions of the answers, and see if they fit with what data experiments like the LHC produce. Then see how they fit with other experiments.

        Then, as for philosophy, well it is just that. There are no wrongs or rights, it is only when you step outside the door that they occur. Often we talk philosophy, but we keep coming back to evidences. Sheldrake describes… ghosts attack… UFO’s land… remote viewing… These are the things that make it interesting and they are the things that add weight to other possibilities. Ultimately when we philosophically devalue evidences we play, but we do not help in understanding the stranger aspects of our lives any more than the ‘normal’ ones.

        [quote]I try to think of consciousness as energy with a purpose[/quote]

        It may well be. Sometimes people go a little far and forget that information increase, say in the structuring and formation of a planet, is described by gravity, differential melting, and heat flow. We can be more sophisticated though – perhaps gravity is an emergent property of consciousness.

        To be honest though I don’t know how to go any further than that or what that might look like or mean. I mean, it is perfectly possible to say that the laws of physics are emergent from consciousness, but without any more to go on what can we do? I wonder if we are trying to drag a library out of a paragraph?

        That’s why it emerging from maths in QM is more interesting. At least that would pin it down and apply some rigour to the idea. From the description though I’m imagining it like superposition and the two slits experiment. It appears we can determine the past by what we measure in the future. So the state of the future affects the past. However the future is in a state of superposition (as given by the cat in Schroedingers equation) so I’m sort of imagining it as a statistically overwhelming superposition in the future is what determines the past – the concept of being dragged to a point. QM is statistical up to the point of wavefunction collapse. If the wavefunction of the big bang was brought into being with the exact properties it had due to a convergence in the properties of a wavefunction in the future, well, that would be amazing, but also statistical. I guess I am imagining something like the probability function of the electron, but on a universal scale. A landscape of possible universes with unlikely outnumbered by likely. With the collapse of this wavefunction into our universe into the exact parameters of our universe occurring due to increased weighting due to some statistical affect, such as huge numbers of conscious beings of a lifetype similar to ours affecting the probability function – landing the collapse of the superposited multiverse (for want of a better name) on life like us; or consciousness like us perhaps. Hay, if we’re gonna roll QM out onto universal scales 😀

        How do you sort of imagine it might work based on what is known of QM?

        OH:
        [quote]If a conscious entity makes a choice out of purpose, then a kind of superposition collapse would happen. That choice might be to activate a particular gene or to select a particular mutation.[/quote]

        I’m going to try and avoid imagining what it would be like to have cancer whenever I see someone with it.

        1. Assumptions and bias
          [quote=daydreamer]I trust the people who work with it and produce things like the LHC to tell me what bits they think they understand mean for me.[/quote]

          And therin lies the difference. They will tell you accurately how they put together the LHC and what results they expect to see. They will give you a clear and precise account of particle trajectories and all sorts of other physical and mathematical processes amenable to calculation and experiment. Try to go deeper and ask how that fits into a philosophical framework and you will more than likely get another physicalist answer – because that is the way they have been tutored. That part is assumption and bias. The talk about the LHC and God particle doesn’t mean they are experimentally disproving God and proving a physicalist explanation for reality. But we are expected and encouraged to believe that to be the case.

          As the song goes: It Ain’t Necessarily So.

          Dave.

    4. Omega Point
      This concept of the Universe determining the events of the past was long proposed… by a theologian!

      From Wikipedia:

      Omega Point is a term coined by the French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955) to describe a maximum level of complexity and consciousness towards which the universe appears to be evolving.

      In this theory, developed by Teilhard in The Future of Man (1950), the universe is constantly developing towards higher levels of material complexity and consciousness, a theory of evolution that Teilhard called the Law of Complexity/Consciousness. For Teilhard, the universe can only move in the direction of more complexity and consciousness if it is being drawn by a supreme point of complexity and consciousness. Thus Teilhard postulates the Omega Point as this supreme point of complexity and consciousness, which in his view is the actual cause for the universe to grow in complexity and consciousness. In other words, the Omega Point exists as supremely complex and conscious, transcendent and independent of the evolving universe. Teilhard argued that the Omega Point resembles the Christian Logos, namely Christ, who draws all things into himself, who in the words of the Nicene Creed, is “God from God”, “Light from Light”, “True God from true God,” and “through him all things were made.”

      Teilhard’s term recurs in later writings, such as those of John David Garcia (1971), Frank Tipler (1994) or Ray Kurzweil, as well as in science fiction literature.

      Just like in the Big Bang, cosmologists keep going one step behind 😛

      1. You say Omega …
        Wikipedia:

        Thus Teilhard postulates the Omega Point as this supreme point of complexity and consciousness, which in his view is the actual cause for the universe to grow in complexity and consciousness. In other words, the Omega Point exists as supremely complex and conscious, transcendent and independent of the evolving universe.

        I think this is saying something similar to what I was trying to say in my previous post: “grow in complexity and consciousness” is what I called “purpose”. The Omega Point is therefore the logical conclusion of this purpose: perfection. Except that I don’t believe that perfection can ever be reached.

        It is difficult to think of this in terms of simultaneous time because future then has no meaning. Purpose, on the other hand, might. I don’t think we are adequately equipped, mentally, to imagine purpose without a before and after, rather as an ever expanding present. Well, perhaps I’m just speaking for myself there.

        Dave.

        1. You say potato…
          You say “potato”, the T-man says “God”, yo 😉

          To someone like Teilhard, the Omega Point is God bringing the whole of creation to Him, therefor attaining more perfection, until the entire Universe becomes one with God.

          To a physicist like Frank Tipler, the Omega Point is this massive super-duper computer that our highly advanced descendants will create, so that the entire Universe is stored in a perfect simulation. So perfect that it will not be different from the real thing.

          Anyway, the point is this: God is not; God is becoming… through us—which is a nice way to explain what the point is of all this bruhaha 🙂

          1. Let us not forget the Alpha
            “I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last.” Rev 1:8

            If God exists in a supra-temporal state, he can act in the past, present, and future, perhaps simultaneously. In other words, the future does not so much influence the past as exist integrally with the past.

            It is similar to a novice playing a chess master. The novice may make any number of free decisions and not so free decisions, but the outcome is certain regardless. The master understands the game from beginning to end and compensates for the result of any degree of latitude he allows his opponent.

            We are, in essence, the real uncertainty in the Universe. Our free decisions are exercised within the ordered framework of time and space (the chessboard, rules) to create an otherwise determined result.

          2. Determined through chance
            I like that allegory very very much. Maybe uncertainty and free choice are the element that God needed in order to truly become the Omega of His former Alpha. I mean, I’ve always rejected theological notions that God created the Universe “just because” (boredom, for kicks). Maybe through our lives God could finally experience uncertainty and, above all, imperfection.

      2. Always one step behind!
        I have a sort of feeling about this.

        No matter what the idea someone will have had something like it somewhere, or sometime. What’s special is how well they prove it.

        Lets imagine that someone one day proves that the universe is entirely mental, beyond any sense of logic or imagination that any of us could conceive (it probably is). It is not just mad, but madder than you might think on your craziest day. Literally nonsensical to the human mind.

        Now imagine that we find one person who, while locked up in an insane asylum, wrote something like it down in his own poo.

        Good for him perhaps. It is a meaningless question, since it is what is better for you, but for me it is the work done in showing it that is important, not that someone wrote something down once that was pretty close. The journey rather than the destination, so to speak.

        1. Journey rather than the destination.
          I don’t have a problem with that. But neither do I have a problem with geniuses that can skip steps B & C in order to get from A to D, you know? 😉

          1. Indeed. I don’t know if we’d
            Indeed. I don’t know if we’d place the line between the two in the same place, but i’d slap it at being able to show it. Einstein could have stopped at the beginning after all, but then it would just be recorded in time as an idea he once had. Show, rather than claim.

            I sometimes think it is just pointless – that nobody gets anywhere with any of it or that there is no philosophical hope out of the opinion maze. What makes me relax a little is that this problem will probably always exist. I can imagine an alien civilisation a million years into the future arguing about the same, or even dead philosophers arguing the same arguments, just transplanted one dimension over. Questions always exceed answers, even when you know the answers, because questions do not have to be real. Purpose comes from within, perhaps..

          2. Purpose

            Einstein could have stopped at the beginning after all, but then it would just be recorded in time as an idea he once had. Show, rather than claim.

            But in the end, what is the REAL purpose of showing? do people want to change the world, or do they just want others to agreeing with them? Mabe some folks are just happy in the sense that they know the answer…

            But I guess you’re right: an answer that is not shared is sterile and pointless.

            BTW, I listened to Ray Stanford being interviewed at the Paracast last week. Ray is a guy who has researched UFOs for decades, and he claims he has all this wonderful evidence that could convince any scientist; but the moment someone asks him to show this evidence in a public forum he flat out refuses! He says he’s not in the business of entertaining people, that he will only show the evidence when it’s ready and *only* to the right minds qualified to assess it through a peer-reviewed process.

            On the one hand I can understand this. After all it’s HIS bloody evidence, not mine. But on the other hand, what’s the point of having all those recordings and film and readings and photos if decades pass and the chances of showing it and making a difference go away? Maybe Ray’s not in a hurry because he already knows UFOs are real; but then, one should ask: why do people ultimately investigate things? for their personal benefit, or others’?

          3. All very good points as
            All very good points as ever,

            [quote]But in the end, what is the REAL purpose of showing? do people want to change the world, or do they just want others to agreeing with them?[/quote]

            Agreed. I was very close to saying that when I wrote the above. We might go a step further and ask ‘what is the real purpose of knowing’, though that might be more at home in the sorts of philosophical discussions that are unresolvable. I wonder whether I could say that while I don’t believe in UFO’s as an emotional statement, I do think they are real in some sort of context. It is a matter of investment perhaps; though I still like to debate based on the claimed evidence (are they a crazy machine intelligence etc).

            The only thing I would like to try and pin down are some rules of thumb regarding spotting charlatans.

  2. later that day
    If the future determines the past, at what point is the outcome fixed?

    Suppose that further on in the future there is a different version of intelligent life, which we are not considering now. Will that version wipe out our universe retroactively?

    And how do we know that this hasn’t already happened?

    1. Hmmmm

      Will that version wipe out our universe retroactively?

      Maybe that’s what UFOs are: the first signs of the incoming superposition of two realities that are divided by a thinning veil of the the 4th dimension… crashing together right in the middle.

      1. “On the one hand I can
        “On the one hand I can understand this. After all it’s HIS bloody evidence, not mine. But on the other hand, what’s the point of having all those recordings and film and readings and photos if decades pass and the chances of showing it and making a difference go away?”

        I think this is a beautiful position in that it for once asks us to get our priorities straight. It implies that the “evidence” is there but that we may be putting way too much emphasis of the value of this evidence. We may be trying to exhort an epiphany from the discovery of our alien brothers when it could actually be pretty mundane stuff – just more dudes in the universe stuck with the same fundamental imponderables even though their technic is advanced beyond ours. How important is the alien question “really?” Are we like those poor souls who venerate holy relics which turn out to be goat teeth? What if the aliens are just more of us in slightly different garb and faster rides? That might be a huge bummer for people who have invested so much personal salvation in there being space brothers. It is like he is saying that he does indeed have a box full of holy holies but so what? It is clever.

        1. I always get a chuckle out of
          I always get a chuckle out of the “problem” that the universe is freakishly suited to spawning life or supporting a large, complex frame work upon which to hang matter. It overlooks the perhaps zillions of times a universe falls apart or fails to materialize coherently. This one we observe now may have been one in a trillion that just happened to “work.” We can’t really be amazed by the “fantastic odds” because we have no idea how many previous attempts failed.

          1. Pontiac Moon
            There’s this move with Ted Danson, called Pontiac Moon.

            In it, Danson plays the role of this excentric but passionate school teacher, who tells his students that when a man ejaculates, it releases on average 100 million sperm cells —which is comparable to the entire population of the United States*.

            So, he concludes, each and every one of those students is already the best of 100 million. Weird —and gross!— but effective inspirational talk 🙂

            (*)The movie is set in 1969.

          2. Future influencing the past
            Future influencing the past is one of those ideas one has to “inhabit” by which I mean you have to pretend if possible that there is nothing extraodinary about the idea and that you see examples of it all the time every day. This is much easier said than done, but it is one of those conundrums that ought to be worn like a disguise for awhile if you can. Try it. The result might shock the crap out of you.

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