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I would welcome any thoughts, ideas and criticism on the following hypothesis/thought experiment, especially if you notice inconsistencies or that it contradicts current physical theories:

Static Eternity Model (SEM)

  • Overview
  • Core Idea
  • Scientific and Empirical Considerations
  • Potential for Empirical Insight
  • Falsifiability
  • Non-Traditional Cycles
  • Static and Simultaneous Existence
  • Philosophical Implications
  • Determinism and Free Will
  • Reasoning
  • Temporal Perception vs. Objective Reality
  • Reconciling Human Perception with the Block Universe
  • Philosophical and Psychological Impact
  • Comparison with Other Philosophical Theories
  • Conclusion

Overview: If time is both a) quantized and b) an emergent property, we can logically propose that it operates within a specific framework or 'medium' that facilitates its manifestation. This medium is necessitated by the nature of time as not being fundamental but arising due to certain conditions or interactions within the universe. Given that time emerges under specific circumstances, it implies that there was a commencement point to time—suggesting a 'beginning' of time. This beginning marks the onset of the conditions necessary for the emergence of time. This framework, in which time is quantized and manifests emergently, might be conceptualized as a four-dimensional structure akin to what is described in the block universe hypothesis, where all moments of time, once emerged, exist simultaneously within this static continuum. The Static Eternity Model (SEM) proposes a nuanced interpretation of the block universe hypothesis, suggesting that all events, moments, and lives within the universe exist simultaneously and perpetually in a static four-dimensional spacetime continuum. This model provides an exploration of existence where every event is not only pre-determined but eternally present.

Core Idea: SEM posits that the universe, in its entirety, is composed of a sequence of events laid out in a static four-dimensional block, where time as experienced by its inhabitants progresses linearly from one moment to the next. However, from a theoretical external perspective, these moments exist simultaneously and infinitely, with no genuine beginning or end. A pivotal aspect of SEM is the notion that individual consciousnesses are, in effect, "trapped" in an eternal loop of their existence. Each life, with its every thought, decision, and moment, is perpetually replayed in exact detail within the spacetime continuum. This recurrence happens without any awareness or recollection of "past" iterations by the individuals experiencing them, making each passage through life feel unique to the consciousness undergoing it.

Scientific and Empirical Considerations: The block universe hypothesis, and by extension SEM, could potentially be informed by advancements in physics that further elucidate the nature of time and spacetime. Empirical evidence might include observations that challenge or confirm the theory of relativity, which underpins much of the block universe concept. Quantum gravity research, experiments related to time dilation and quantum entanglement, or cosmological studies observing the universe's expansion could all indirectly impact the viability of the block universe model.

Currently, no direct empirical tests can definitively prove the block universe; however, studies that add complexity and depth to our understanding of spacetime could provide supporting evidence. Additionally, any discoveries that offer a more granular understanding of the cosmic microwave background or the fundamental structure of spacetime could also influence the perception of this model.

Potential for Empirical Insight: The Static Eternity Model is not just a speculative extension of theoretical physics but a direct and inevitable implication of the block universe hypothesis. Should the foundational principles of the block universe be empirically validated, the assertions of SEM regarding the eternal recurrence of events and lives would not merely be supported; they would be confirmed as a natural and unavoidable consequence. By proving the block universe, we inherently validate the perpetual and cyclical nature of all existence as outlined in SEM, offering a radical yet logically inevitable vision of reality.

Falsifiability: Since the concepts of quantization and the emergence of time, which form foundational aspects of the Static Eternity Model, are theoretically falsifiable through empirical testing and logical analysis, it follows that SEM itself is also falsifiable. This is because the falsifiability of these underlying concepts directly influences the validity of SEM, which builds upon and extends these ideas within its framework.

Non-Traditional Cycles: In SEM, when referring to "cycles" or "loops," it's crucial to understand that these aren't sequential or repetitive in a traditional sense where one cycle ends and another begins. Instead, all instances of these cycles exist simultaneously and permanently within the four-dimensional spacetime continuum of the block universe. Each "loop" is not a repetition over time but an eternal, static existence that is laid out in the spacetime block.

Static and Simultaneous Existence: The experiences of consciousness within each loop are static—they don't "happen" again because they are always occurring within the framework of the block universe. Every moment, including every state of consciousness, exists perpetually and simultaneously. This challenges our usual understanding of cycles, which typically involve dynamic repetition over time.

Philosophical Implications: This model challenges conventional views of life and death, suggesting that death is merely a transition within an endless loop of the same existence. The implications for concepts such as free will, morality, and existential purpose are profound: each action is infinitely significant because it is eternally reenacted, yet individuals are unable to alter their course upon each iteration.

Determinism and Free Will: SEM, by extending the deterministic implications of the block universe, suggests that free will, as traditionally conceived, does not exist. All events, actions, and decisions are fixed and recur eternally in the model's framework. This does not negate the sensation or experience of making choices, but it does suggest that these choices are predetermined and unchangeable across the temporal landscape of the universe.

This deterministic view challenges traditional concepts of morality and accountability, as it implies that individuals have no actual control over their actions in a manner that could be altered on subsequent loops. Ethically, this raises questions about responsibility and growth; philosophically, it may lead to a fatalistic view of existence. However, from another perspective, it emphasizes the importance of each moment and decision as infinitely significant, since they eternally impact the fabric of the universe.

Reasoning: Extension of the Block Universe Hypothesis: By asserting that all moments are fixed and eternally existent, SEM extends the block universe hypothesis to suggest a continuous, unalterable record of existence that includes every moment of every life. Deterministic but Unknowable: While the universe's state is entirely deterministic within SEM, the specifics of this eternal recurrence are unknowable to those living within the universe. Only an external observer, unbound by the temporal dimensions, could perceive the entirety of the spacetime block.

Temporal Perception vs. Objective Reality: In the Static Eternity Model, the distinction between subjective time perception and the objective structure of time is addressed through the framework of the block universe, which posits that all time exists simultaneously at the objective level. The transition from subjective to objective perspectives is not facilitated by a physical or theoretical mechanism per se, but rather by a philosophical and conceptual understanding.

Within the framework of the Static Eternity Model, as an extension of the block universe hypothesis, time is experienced linearly and continuously by beings within the universe due to the inherent continuity of the universe's structure. In the block universe, where all events are laid out in a static four-dimensional space, the sequence of events follows a continuous, linear progression, which is the only way time can be experienced by entities embedded within that framework.

This continuity doesn't contradict the model's suggestion that objectively, all time is static and simultaneous; rather, it complements it by explaining why, from an internal perspective (that of beings within the universe), time seems to flow from one moment to the next. The linear progression of time experienced by conscious observers is a result of their situated position within the spacetime continuum, observing the universe from one moment to the next within the fixed sequence laid out in the spacetime block.

Thus, the subjective experience of time's passage is a direct consequence of the objective structure of the universe as proposed by SEM, and not just a result of cognitive limitations. This continuity ensures that each moment leads to the next in a predictable and fixed order, mirroring the deterministic nature of the universe posited by the model. This perspective helps bridge the conceptual gap between individual human experience and the broader, more abstract concept of a static, eternal block universe.

Reconciling Human Perception with the Block Universe: The block universe theory posits that all points in time—past, present, and future—exist simultaneously within a four-dimensional spacetime continuum. This objective description starkly contrasts with our subjective experience of time as flowing linearly, where we perceive events unfolding from past to future, and the future appears open and undetermined. This discrepancy between the objective framework proposed by physics and our everyday subjective experience is analogous to differing observations in phenomena such as black hole event horizons. In such scenarios, an observer falling into a black hole experiences crossing the event horizon in finite time, while an external observer never sees them cross, perceiving them as frozen in time due to gravitational effects. This divergence highlights a fundamental challenge in physics and philosophy: reconciling our intuitive understanding of time with the starkly different portrayal by theories like general relativity. Just as in black hole physics, where different observers have radically different experiences based on their relative positions and motions, the block universe theory suggests that our linear experience of time may be an artifact of our perspective within the spacetime continuum, not an absolute property of reality itself. This invites a deeper exploration of the true nature of time, urging us to question and possibly revise our foundational assumptions about reality, causality, and existence.

Philosophical and Psychological Impact: SEM has significant implications for personal identity, existential meaning, and the concept of life and death. By suggesting that life is eternally recurrent without any progression or evolution of the soul or consciousness, SEM challenges the traditional notion of personal growth. This might lead to existential reassessment for some, as it posits a universe where individual and collective human actions are both infinitely important and yet unchangeably predetermined.

Comparison with Other Philosophical Theories: Compared to other models like presentism (only the present is real), eternalism (all times are equally real), and the growing block universe (the past and present are real, but the future is not), SEM aligns most closely with eternalism but with a unique cyclical twist. Its strength lies in its radical yet logically consistent vision of eternity and determinism, providing a compelling philosophical exploration of time and existence. However, its potential weakness is its metaphysical reach beyond current empirical verification and its challenging implications for free will and morality, which might be less palatable or practical for many compared to theories that allow for a dynamic future.

This model could either alleviate existential dread by removing the fear of non-existence after death or amplify it by removing the traditional comfort found in the possibility of change and growth. It could also redefine the meaning and purpose of life, shifting focus towards living ethically within an unchangeable loop.

Conclusion: The Static Eternity Model not only reconceptualizes our understanding of time and existence but also introduces a cyclical dimension to individual lives within the cosmos. It invites us to consider the eternal nature of our actions and experiences, proposing that we live our lives in an infinite loop, with each cycle experienced afresh and without memory of previous iterations. This perspective offers a unique lens through which to contemplate the significance of our choices and the perennial nature of our existence.

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Firstly, the block universe idea of everything existing 'simultaneously' is not a consequence of general relativity. As a physicist, I don't recognise it at all.

I don't know what has motivated your idea. What problem do you think it solves?

To me, your idea is in direct conflict with one of the starkest aspects of reality, namely that things don't happen all at once. To say that they do is either nonsense or means that you are interpreting the word 'simultaneously' in some special way that means nothing to me.

You are not alone in having the weird idea that the passage of time is somehow a product of the human mind. Let me remind you that the human mind is not the only system to record the passage of time.

If you want an idea related to physics to be taken seriously, then you need to move beyond the arm waving stage to something much more specific. Let's see some formulae and calculations to back up your suggestions. Let's see how, for instance, your idea accounts for the fact that if you set a video-recorder running it will register successions of events in the same way that a human mind does. How do you suppose that comes about, and why do you feel the need to concoct a theory that does not just simply accept that successive swings of a pendulum, say, are just that- successive?

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    Many thanks indeed for the comprehensive replies. However, I still don't get it. The block universe idea, to me, is an unnecessary step backwards- there is nothing in GR that requires it, and assuming it just leads to complications. Your point about observers inside and outside a black hole isn't a good parallel, since both observers experience time passing at the rate of a second per second. Commented May 2 at 13:48
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    A much simpler picture is to assume that everything coasts at the speed of light along geodesics in a 4d spacetime, so where you are in spacetime today is a different region than the one you occupied yesterday- that's effectively how GR and SR operate. So yes, you can assume that yesterday, today and tomorrow are all there as regions in a block spacetime, but, crucially, you aren't. You were in the yesterday region, your are now in the today region, and you will be in the tomorrow region. Now that you are in the today region you no longer are in the yesterday region. Commented May 2 at 13:52
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    That interpretation I have just outlined gets rid of the grandfather paradox and all the other pop-science ideas about time travel, since if you go back to the yesterday region you won't find anything, because the Universe has moved on to the today region. Commented May 2 at 13:55
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    " and live their life perpetually over and over again " they don't though. There is nothing in SEM AFAICS that necessetates that. You yourself acknowledged in the comments that "loop" was a misleading term and that there is no repetition in time. Commented May 2 at 14:25
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    @JustPassingThrough I prefer to discuss topics separately, my question was relevant to what was said here,so it makes sense to discuss it here. I have responded on the other discussions. The ball was already in your court. Commented May 2 at 14:31
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SEM posits that the universe, in its entirety, is composed of a sequence of events laid out in a static four-dimensional block, where time as experienced by its inhabitants progresses linearly from one moment to the next. However, from a theoretical external perspective, these moments exist simultaneously and infinitely, with no genuine beginning or end.

Without some other notion of time external to these blocks, how can inhabitants "progress" through the 4th dimension of this space?

Them "progressing linearly" implies travel through this 4D space at some constant speed. Movement through the 4D space implies theres still some additional dimension of time required to account for the linear movement through the space-like "time" dimension of the 4D space, since movement implies a distance covered over a certain time.

So besides all the assumptions in this question and no real scientific basis for choosing this model, it also doesnt even really eliminate time, it just pushes it to some other 5th dimension that governs how quickly we experience progress in the space-like 4th time dimension you've described.

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  • As three-dimensional beings, humans perceive time sequentially, moving through moments without traversing additional spatial dimensions. The block universe model provides a framework for understanding the subjective passage of time within a static four-dimensional spacetime continuum. It doesn't require physical movement through higher-dimensional space but instead accounts for the subjective experience of time within our three-dimensional existence. Block universe hypothesis is not a hypothesis I came up with, I merely stated it's logical implications in SEM. Commented May 2 at 14:18
  • The 4th dimension in which the block universe is hypothesized to be in would be merely perceived as a projection in our 3 dimensions that we notice as the passing of time, and would not accurately represent the 4th dimension. Representing the full complexity of higher-dimensional spaces in lower dimensions requires abstraction and may not fully capture all aspects of the higher-dimensional reality. Commented May 2 at 14:24
  • @JustPassingThrough How does someone "perceive time sequentially, moving through moments without traversing additional spatial dimensions" if the time dimensions behave spatially? "It doesn't require physical movement through higher-dimensional space but instead accounts for the subjective experience of time within our three-dimensional existence." How does it "account" for the subjective experience, it provides no explanation for why the experience subjectively progresses in a linear way if the reality is that there is no progress. It's like an anti-explaination for what we experience.
    – JMac
    Commented May 2 at 14:52
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    @JustPassingThrough What evidence are you basing this on though? How do you know its 4 dimensional and not even higher dimensions? This seems like an idea that isnt based on any real evidence
    – JMac
    Commented May 2 at 15:45
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    @JustPassingThrough Are those ChatGPT responses or something? Two comments you made seem to throw your whole point out of the water. You say "spacetime consists of four dimensions: three spatial dimensions and one temporal dimension" how does this "temporal dimension" fit with anything else you've said? By calling it a temporal dimension you've essentially undermined your own point by clearly differentiating it from the spatial dimensions
    – JMac
    Commented May 2 at 16:27
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The primary problem with this theory is that it is written in a way that emphasises the importance of loops and cyclic natures, where in fact the theory doesn't seem to require non-linear structures aywhere and the author admits in the comments that the term is "somewhat misleading".

The second problem is that it doesn't make it clear how it differs from existing theories, e.g. "EM aligns most closely with eternalism but with a unique cyclical twist." - but what "cyclical twist"?

Thirdly, "However, its potential weakness is its metaphysical reach beyond current empirical verification" I don't see any hope for verification or falsification as it doesn't seem to make any predictions that would differ from eternalism or block universes etc.

Fourthly: It doesn't explain why we perceive time linearly, just:

Thus, the subjective experience of time's passage is a direct consequence of the objective structure of the universe as proposed by SEM, and not just a result of cognitive limitations. This continuity ensures that each moment leads to the next in a predictable and fixed order, mirroring the deterministic nature of the universe posited by the model.

but that doesn't explain anything, the subjective experience of time's passage would be exactly the same under presentism, and the same argument would apply to eternalism and block universe - so how is SEM different?

Basically it is saying that our experience of time is linear as we can only move continuously in the four 4D space, however that doesn't explain why we can't move forward or backward along a locus in that space - but we subjectively never experience that.

So AFAICS it explains nothing that isn't explained by existing theories, it makes no testable predictions, it is stated ambiguously, with obvious contradictions arising from the use of language (see comment thread).

A lot of this sort of thing is what Sabine Hossenfelder complains about in her book "lost in math" (well worth reading) where just because something can be represented elegantly using mathematics, doesn't mean that is how reality actually is. The idea of all points in time existing "simultaneously" is certainly inventive and imaginative, but there is no evidence AFAICS that supports it.

There is one problem that it might potentially solve, but that may be more due to my lack of understanding, and that is the many worlds interpretation of quantum physics. If new universes are spawned at each quantum event, that requires the creation of matter (and hence energy) from no where, violating the laws of thermodynamics*. However, if all of the "many worlds" also exist as block universes and are there all the time, then there is no such problem.

So I did manage to come up with something of potential value from the discussion.

  • the usual answer to this involves probabilities, but that seems to me a misuse of probabilities, as the many world interpretation requires all of the worlds to exist (i.e. they have probability 1).
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  • The term "loops" may indeed be misleading which is why SEM has a paragraph dedicated to clarifying this; the theory does not inherently require non-linear structures. It aims to explore the cyclical nature of existence within a static four-dimensional spacetime but may benefit from clearer language. The unique "cyclical twist" in SEM refers to its incorporation of eternalism while suggesting a perpetual (simultaneous) recurrence of events, yet this distinction could be further elucidated for clarity. Commented May 2 at 14:41
  • Verification or falsification of SEM's metaphysical assertions poses challenges, and it does not offer predictions distinct from existing theories, such as eternalism or block universes, which is explicitely mentioned in SEM. The explanation of our subjective experience of time within SEM overlaps with concepts like presentism and eternalism. Commented May 2 at 14:41
  • The 4th dimension in which the block universe is hypothesized to be in would be perceived as a projection in our 3 dimensions that we notice as the passing of time, and would not accurately represent the 4th dimension. Representing the full complexity of higher-dimensional spaces in lower dimensions requires abstraction and may not fully capture all aspects of the higher-dimensional reality. Commented May 2 at 14:42
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    "which is why SEM has a paragraph dedicated to clarifying this;" the problem is that it doesn't clarify it. "cyclical nature of existence" what cyclic nature of existence? "while suggesting a perpetual (simultaneous) recurrence of events" for which there is no evidence or theoretical justification. " and it does not offer predictions " in which case, how is it useful what insight does it bring if it makes no difference? "perceived as a projection in our 3 dimensions " so what causes the projection to move time forward rather than backward or both? Commented May 2 at 15:02
  • Perhaps the discussion would be more productive if we focus on one point at a time. I'll pick "The term "loops" may indeed be misleading which is why SEM has a paragraph dedicated to clarifying this;" SEM sets out the lifetime of objects as a locus (in the mathematical sense) in a 4D space. There is no loop there or any sort of cyclic behaviour, just a locus. There is no evidence that we travel along the projection of that locus more than once, and no justification is given for that. That is why I said the section does not clarify that point. Commented May 2 at 15:21
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I'm not a physics enthusiast, but not a physicist. I don't understand most of what's being said here. I will focus on a criticism on purely philosophical grounds.

This theory is not meaningfully falsifiable

Falsifiability: Since the concepts of quantization and the emergence of time, which form foundational aspects of the Static Eternity Model, are theoretically falsifiable through empirical testing and logical analysis, it follows that SEM itself is also falsifiable. This is because the falsifiability of these underlying concepts directly influences the validity of SEM, which builds upon and extends these ideas within its framework.

Stating that a theory is falsifiable because it depends on precursors which are falsifiable, without providing any alternative avenues for falsifiability, means that the theory is vacuous in the presence of those precursors.

In other words: Going by your own description of SEM's falsifiability, it is not making any claims. If it was making any claims, we could test those claims.

Given that it is not making any claims except those made by its precursors, everything that it includes (which I'll admit, I'm not enough of a physicist to understand) likely falls into one of the following buckets:

  1. Literal re-statements of the precursors
  2. Mathematical re-expressions of the precursors - such as projecting into a different coordinate system
  3. Inaccuracies, such as:
    1. Metaphorical re-expressions of the precursors which contain simplifications to make it easier to understand (such as drawing Space-Time as a 2D plane with a time axis and a space axis)
    2. Propositions that follow from a metaphorical re-expression, but which do not follow from the precursor. (Collect enough of these, and you might eventually find something testable enough to be independently falsifiable, though!)
    3. Non-sequiturs - propositions that are unrelated to both the precursors and the evidence. (Also known as Not Even Wrong)

It is also possible that the Falsifiability section is incorrect and that SEM is falsifiable independently of its precursors. I don't know enough physics to know one way or the other.

Why does this matter?

Falsifiability is not just an important property of a scientific theory - it is the only property of a scientific theory. A scientific theory is a system which produces testable predictions. If two competing theories both produce the same predictions, then they are not actually competing theories at all - they are competing explanations of the same theory.

When we have two competing explanations of the same theory, we tend to prefer the simpler one, because simpler things are easier to work with and easier to teach to others.

While it's possible that SEM might be covering some physics I don't understand, I think it is more likely that SEM is an over-complicated explanation of a subset of an existing theory (such as Einstein's field equations, but without the math that allows them to make accurate predictions) - which would be unnecessary and discarded in the presence of that precursor.

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  • SEM does not aim to be a scientific theory, and does not claim to be one. Its speculative nature is acknowledged multiple times, and it is proposed as a thought experiment. It does not claim to make any predictions. The core assumptions it is built upon are empirically falsifiable, such as a) quantization of time and b) time as an emergent property. Commented May 3 at 16:08
  • Other assumptions it makes are logical deductions and can be tested for logical consistency. Many scientific hypotheses follow the same pattern—that is, they are not entirely falsifiable and make no predictions—such as the Big Bang singularity, black hole singularity, black hole firewall, and black hole Hawking radiation. Commented May 3 at 16:08

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