Vanity thought #1375. Quantum past

The experiment I wrote about a couple of days ago suggested that in quantum mechanics time is of less importance than we normally assume. We usually think that whatever happened happened and past is cast in stone but in that experiment past was found to be dependent on what we do in the present.

To recap, in quantum mechanics elementary particles behave both like particles and like waves. As particles they take one and only one route between two points in space but as waves they propagate in all possible paths. The choice seems to be entirely random, but don’t hold me to it, I haven’t seen a convincing explanation whether it really is.

In this experiment scientists had two control points, the first one would determine whether the particle behaves like a particle or a wave, the second one would check what particle’s choice was, and then they would look at the final result which would tell them what combination of choices was there.

The trick here was that the second control point would turn on randomly AFTER the first control point was passed. Common sense tells us that by that time particle’s choice at the first control would have already been made. What the scientists found, however, is that it is not so and how the particle behaved at the first control point depends entirely on whether the second control turned on or not. When the random number generator decides what to do about the second control it also happens to control what the particle did at the first – in the past, moments before.

So, in this experiment present determines the past, not the other way around. The effect controls the cause.

Afaik, no one has observed this before and so there’s no reason to extend results of this experiment to our daily, non-quantum life, but if we think about it from Kṛṣṇa conscious POV it makes total sense. We have only an illusion of freedom here, everything that happens in the material world is governed by the law of karma and karma leaves no slack and no leeway.

As spirit souls we can make our own choices but not as far as material world is concerned, everything here is already cast in stone for millions and billions years to come. We think our decisions matter because we identify ourselves with our mind and intelligence but these material elements are like any other, they are governed by karma, driven by time, and colored by the three guṇas.

So, whatever happens here in the present is firmly and unequivocally tied to the past, and the same is true about the future. In such a deterministic universe distinctions like cause and effect lose their sense. Kṛṣṇa is the ultimate cause, everything else follows from Him, and that’s what we say about the creation, the process that is still outside our world.

Inside it’s already different. Time and guṇas are the causes of things happening and stuff moving around but we think in more immediate terms of one choice leading to one result and another choice leading to another. In fact, there are no choices, everyone must choose according to the guṇas and under pressure from time. Freedom here is an illusion.

Okay, enough with the basics.

What interests me today is our plans for the future. Normally we think that we can make plans and change the course of our lives. Our desires affect our thoughts, our thoughts affect our actions, our actions create karma, and karma brings results.

I propose that we discard this model altogether, and not because we have no actual freedom here, but because the future is truly unknown and all we have is our past, which is determined by our present.

There’s a tribe somewhere in the Amazon, or perhaps in Papua New Guinea, I don’t remember, where people have a different spatial representation of the time flow. For us the past is behind and the future is ahead, but for them the it’s the opposite. They say that we can look at our past and therefore it should be in front of us while we can’t see the future and therefore it should be in the back, outside our vision.

I’m not saying their perspective is perfect but this part about placing the past in front of us is interesting and hard to argue against.

When we dream about our future what we actually think is our past. We dig up our memories and juggle our experiences to select the ones we like. We don’t create anything new, we only pick and choose from what we already now. We seek things in our past that we want to experience again, we confirm our attachments. All our desires stem from our past and from how we see it, and so there’s no such thing as future per se. It’s just an abstraction to arrange our memories on the timeline of our past.

I mean when the future happens it becomes past and we call it future relative to the day before. And when we talk about future now, at this very moment, we talk about desires from our past. “I wish that in the next five minutes I’d experience the sensation I remember from five years ago” – that’s what we effectively think even if externally the words are “I think I will surely win this bet”.

Similarly, when at job interviews people are asked about their five year plans and visions they talk about best things they heard before, not the actual future, which is unknown. They scout their memories and think about cool things to say to the interviewer, they pick up tricks tried by others, they write their resumes following other people’s advice or layouts. It’s all about the past.

The interviewer is also looking into the interviewee’s past to see if it fits with his organization, he asks about interests and skills and experience and education – all things from the past, including questions about vision, which is a representation of the interviewee’s role models.

So, all in all, it’s only our past that is important, it determines everything about us, including our future, and so it must be important to relate to our past in the appropriate way.

I think I will continue on that tomorrow, it’s too late to start this new train of thought.

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