Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Time And Consciousness

The relativistic view of time as a fourth dimension and of particles or objects as world lines is accepted in:

The Time Machine by HG Wells;
the Time Patrol series by Poul Anderson;
The Corridors Of Time by Poul Anderson;
October The First Is Too Late by Fred Hoyle;
The Quincunx Of Time by James Blish.

However, Wells contradicts this premise when his Time Machine is said not to extend but to move and even to accelerate along Time.

Wells and Blish refer to immaterial consciousnesses moving along Time whereas Hoyle compares each three dimensional state of the universe to a numbered pigeon hole containing written information about what is in pigeon holes with lower numbers and then postulates consciousness successively illuminating the contents of the pigeon holes. Surely it is sufficient to say that there is consciousness in some moments though not in others? Thus, some pigeon holes are lit by a small internal candle or bulb whereas others are not? No sequence of lightings of pigeon holes is necessary and indeed such a sequence would introduce a second temporal dimension although Hoyle denies this.

Of these four authors, Anderson alone avoids this particular set of conceptual difficulties.

Addendum: I could also have listed -

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut;
Jerusalem by Alan Moore.

Neither would have directly affected the point at issue but what names to conjure with!

13 comments:

  1. I don't think Wells could have been thinking in relativistic terms; special relativity wasn't proposed until 1905.

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  2. Mr Stirling,
    You are right. I write "relativistic" but "Time as a Fourth Dimension" can and did precede relativity as Wells shows. There was a guy called Hinton although I am having trouble finding his dates.
    Paul.

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  3. The thoughts were in the air -- it's often that way, just as there were dozens of thinkers who tinkered with evolutionary ideas before Darwin's synthesis. Physics was in upheaval in the late 19th century, after the Michaelson-Morley experiments and others undermined the neo-Newtonian synthesis, and Wells would have been very aware of that as he followed developments in the sciences very closely.

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  4. BTW, it's surprising how rapidly Einstein's theories were accepted, considering how radical they were. Ditto with quantum mechanics.

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    1. Scientific minds must have been well prepared for such changes.

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  5. Wells was almost a caricature of an "advanced thinker" of the period -- his enthusiasm for eugenics, for example.

    (At least he didn't go as far as D.H. Lawrence, who notably dreamed of a "lethal chamber as big as the Crystal Palace" where inferior types would be led to the sound of a military band. I'm not kidding, he really said that.

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    1. My God!
      Socially, minds were ready for change. People did not want to return from the War and the trenches to pre-1914 society. I believe that there was near revolution, including a police strike and deployment of troops, in Britain in 1919. Since then, British police have had not a trade union but a Police Federation which is not allowed to strike and Police officers cannot be members of political parties.

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    2. CS Lewis parodies Wells in THAT HIDEOUS STRENTH.

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    3. Kaor, Paul!

      And I don't think police officers should strike! If you are a law enforcement officer charged with helping to keep the peace, it would obviously be wrong for police officers to, in effect, blackmail the state into accepting their demands. That is the general view in the US, albeit police officers can support their preferred political parties. I had not known UK police officers could not join a political party, but I can see the rationale for that.

      Sean

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  6. Ah, here's the quote, from a letter of Lawrence in 1908:

    "If I had my way, I would build a lethal chamber as big as the Crystal Palace, with a military band playing softly, and a Cinematograph working brightly; then I’d go out in the back streets and main streets and bring them in, all the sick, the halt, and the maimed; I would lead them gently, and they would smile me a weary thanks; and the band would softly bubble out the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’."

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  7. And for Wells (in "Anticipations", 1902):

    "And for the rest, those swarms of black, and brown, and dirty-white, and yellow people, who do not come into the new needs of efficiency?
    Well, the world is a world, not a charitable institution, and I take it they will have to go."

    The basic attitude was extremely common then.

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    1. Dear Mr. Stirling,

      Yes, there were EVIL as well as good or useful ideas in the air in the late 19th, early 20th centuries. The views about eugenics were espoused by many, many people besides Wells and Lawrence. Here I have in mind Margaret Sanger, who advocated using abortion to eliminate "inferiors." She founded what became Planned Parenthood for that purpose. This horrible woman and her successors has been much more successful in IMPLEMENTING her eugenic views than Wells or Lawrence.

      Sean

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    2. Charles Howard Hinton, 1853-1907.

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