I've seen some odd discussions on this forum that have stuck with me. But I've seen there are some very clever physicists and philosophers on here who actually understand relativity...

In relativity theory can we say are you conscious alongside me? So if I walk past you are you still having conscious experience...? I know it seems a bit odd but there's so many forum posts and quora questions about this as the minute, so I thought I'd come to a some people who knows this stuff..

Are you consistently conscious, as in experiencing an apparent consistent stream of consciousness along side me? Like, you don't move backwards and forwards in time from your perspective when I moved back and forwards in space or anything? Like it's not like the physical processes in your brain shoot backwards and forwards for me? Because obviously time can't go backwards... Unless maybe we going faster than light.

Basically, does special relativity have any implications for how I should about your conscious experience alongside me? My guess is no, but it's always nice to hear from clever people.

There's talk about how observers are duplicated in reference frames... Honestly I think relativity must have no actual impact on communication and consciousness but no smoke without a flame perhaps?


5 Answers 5


special relativity has no implications at all for interpersonal experiences, consciousness, or communication in our ordinary lives. It only comes into play under conditions extraordinarily removed from everyday life, and even then its implications are precisely predicted by mathematics. This removes it from the province of philosophy and places it in the domain of physics.

  • Well I wanted the philosophical take not the physics one! So thank you so much. So you're sure there's no philosophical implications here that influence how we think of other people's consciousness Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 18:41

It seems that you have indeed been reading some very odd misinterpretations of Special Relativity. No, there are no duplications of people and no interruptions or reversals of conscious processes. Remember that in the frame of a passing muon, you are moving at close to the speed of light, but you don't experience any weird effects as a consequence. In any event, relativistic effects are so tiny at everyday speeds and distances that they can only be measured with atomic clocks which can measure intervals millions of times shorter than anything you would be conscious of.


does special relativity have any implications for how I should about your conscious experience alongside me?

Let's expand 'alongside' so that there is some relativistic distance. Imagine you are alongside but significantly near a black hole, so gravity is slowing down time around you so one hour for me takes 2 for you. Every 2 hours you know it is the top of the hour for me, and we can both be conscious of noting the strike of my hour at the same time. However, all the time, time is progressing slower for you.


Relativity just means that the laws of physics are the same for all observers that move with a continuous velocity (no matter if positive, negative or zero). Which means there is no absolute frame of reference and every observer could define their own inertial frame of reference in which they are the ones standing still and the rest of the world moves.

So say you have 2 spaceships in pitch black void with no known reference. Then it would be possible to determine the relative velocity, that is whether the ships move towards each other, away from each other or in unison/standing still. But you couldn't tell if that is because you are moving or because they are moving or because both of you are moving or one faster and one slower.

Both of you would have the impression that you are standing still and the other is doing the movement.

So no 2 observers can be in the same inertial frame of reference and it's an interesting thought that if a consciousness spreads beyond a point-like space how that would be effected by special relativity. However in practical terms the relative movement between these frames of reference is quite small or even 0. Like think about what it would mean if your body parts moved with relative motion that is relevant to special relativity. It would literally tear you apart and in that case consciousness would be your smallest problems. So as "you" have little to no relative speed to the rest of your body you're consciousness is continuous and any delay is "business as usual".

And with respect to the consciousness of other people it's the same problem. Like the way you'd interact with other people's consciousness is either by seeing touching or speaking with them. In any case the transmission of information happens at speeds like the speed of sound (340m/s for speaking) or the speed of light (300,000,000 m/s for seeing and probably for the neural transmission after touch). So if your two observers stand next to each other than their relative speed is small or zero compared to these numbers than it doesn't really matter all that much. And if one observer speeds away with a relative speed of 300m/s communication would actually be difficult by speech. Simply because over 300m the signal would have been damped to 0.

For light though the signals could still be transmitted however if the information transmission speed and the relative speed are on the order of magnitude then the information will reach you way later. Think of "seeing" as sending a beam of light out, the beam hitting the target and getting reflected and coming back to your eye. Now if the thing your looking at moves away with a relative speed of light, the light from your eye will take much longer to hit it and then has to go in return as well so what you see when you see it isn't where the person is now but where they were when the light had reached them.

But that doesn't mean that the other person is distorted or "living in the past", it's just a problem of when you get aware of where the other person is.


As far as I can tell special relativity seems to say that you can't think of other people around you see as being the same version of them in their own notion of now. Basically I think they must be duplicated!

Also you can't think of other people as being conscious 'now' because their now doesn't exist for you! Of course unless you and your friend are stood in exactly the same spot at exactly the same speed you cannot think of them as having experience...

I've decided that these implications are good reasons to ignore special relativity.

  • Really? This doesn't seem right surely if this was right more people would be talking about this? Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 12:35
  • What kind of logic makes you think that your identity as a person depends on how perfectly your clocks are synchronized?
    – D. Halsey
    Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 13:17
  • It's definitely more deep than clock synchronisation. If I am moving relative to you your own experience in your reference frame isn't happening for me. At least that's what relativity implies. I don't belive that
    – Danny55
    Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 13:45
  • Mate, I'm no expert but it seems like you're really over interpreting ahaha. Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 13:46
  • @D.Halsey have you got any advice regarding this answer here, do you think this guy is wrong? Why? Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 8:40

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