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"To Understand Your Past, Look to Your Future"

04.07.16

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"When formulating explanations, most of us tend to think in terms laid down by Isaac Newton over 300 years ago. This “Newtonian Schema” takes the past as primary and uses it to solve for the future, explaining our universe one time-step at a time. Some researchers even go so far as to think of the universe as the output of a forward-running computer program, a picture that is a natural extension of this schema. Even though our view of time has changed dramatically in the last century, the Newtonian Schema has somehow endured as our most popular physics framework.

But imposing old Newtonian Schema thinking on new quantum-scale phenomena has landed us in situations with no good explanations whatsoever. If these phenomena seem inexplicable, we may just be thinking about them in the wrong way. Much better explanations become available if we are willing to take the future into account as well as the past. But Newtonian-style thinking is inherently incapable of such time-neutral explanations. Computer programs run in only one direction, and trying to combine two programs running in opposite directions leads to the paradoxical morass of poorly plotted time-travel movies. In order to treat the future as seriously as we treat the past, we clearly need an alternative to the Newtonian Schema.

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