Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Past and Imagined Future

We look up into the stars and darkness of the night sky and see only the past, which are the sounds and images of many possible futures. In fact, all of what we ever hear or see is a memory of our past and in the sky we see a sun as it was eight minutes ago, a "nearby" star, Procyon, we see as it was 11 years ago, and we see the hundred billion other stars in our galaxy tens of thousands of years in their past. 

An earth-like planet that is 600 light years away may look very different today than it did 600 years ago. Remember descriptions of earth's history 600 years ago? Outside of our galaxy, there are a hundred billion other galaxies that are millions or even billions of years into the past billions of years of our universe. 

The sound of an approaching automobile can be many tenths of a second up to many seconds in the past and yet we call that our present. We remember the actions of our near and distant past and then we imagine a set of desirable futures. The futures that we imagine are based on our past knowledge and experience and with our feeling, we select a particular future that begins a journey that then becomes our reality. At each moment we choose from among a set of possible actions those that lead to a desirable journey and that selected future evolves into our reality. 

The events that we remember as our past help us to imagine possible futures, which is simply repeating the obvious. What perhaps is not so obvious is that this simple logic recursion, which evolves our feeling, is the basis of all action in the physical universe, the Schrödinger equation. While the past holds our origin, the future is our destiny and our purpose is in imagining and selecting a destiny that evolves a desirable life.

In imagining the collision of two objects, we predict a future based on a past collision for similar objects, but that future is never absolutely precise or certain. The uncertainty in our future is a fundamental part of our reality and that uncertainty describes the way our universe works. 

In other words, a replay of our universe with exactly the same initial conditions will lead to a similar but not necessarily an identical future. Likewise, given our selection of a possible future, a replay of exactly the same initial conditions will necessarily lead to a similar but not an identical choice. While our immediate future can often be predictable, our eventual destiny will never be exactly predictable. The very action of prediction, by its very nature, changes the course of the universe and it is this recursion that defines reality.