Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Arrow of Time

I was watching this on blogging heads.

Here David Albert tackles he question of "why I can remember yesterday but not tomorow."

david separates it into
1) entropic processes - like why eggs become omlettes not the other way around.
2)epistemic asymetries - what you can know about the past, and the methods to find it out are different from what you can know about the future
3) we believe we can effect the future not past.

I think as usual the error is partly in the question.

First dealing with the big question - It is important to realize that we can't directly remember ALL of yesterday and even if I think I can I am probably very much mistaken. Memory is not a perfect tape recorder of what happened - it is an inference based on data points that we collected.
Now those data points can be used to construct an image of the future or of the past. But these images cant be equal because the latter is generally a more difficult task.

Of course even that depends on the time frame

close your eyes and imagine the room one second in the future, now do the same and imagine it twenty seconds in the past.

was the process you used very different? Which was more accurate?

Of course there remains a sense of difference between memories and inferences, at least in some cases, because my brain has evolved in the presence of entropy. Memories are (generally) stored differently than logical inferences. So if we are talking about time as something fundamental let's imagine a super computer instead of my brain.

The super computer takes information from the current state of it's memory and infers what the future and the past must be. Because the past is low entropy and the future high entropy the super computer can tell a lot more about the past - but how can you say what it knows about the past is any different in nature from what it knows about the future? (aside from it probably being more detailed).

In the light of that it is not a bad assumption (although far from a universal one) to think we can influence the indeterminate future and not the fairly well determined past.


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