Quantum Time

Quantum Time

As described in Relativity & Time, time is a dimension. It does not happen. But we experience the passage of time. The resolution is that the moving viewpoint of consciousness passes along the time dimension. There is also another type of time, the ‘quantum concept of time’. Deutsch describes this in Chapter 11 of his remarkable book The Fabric of Reality (1997). The concept has remained obscure despite being fundamental to understanding the operational mechanics of the quantum. 

As with relativity, quantum theory also describes a static and unchanging universe. As stated by Julian Barbour, a physicist specialising in time:

The quantum universe just is. It is static. (1999, 256)

The fundamental definition of physical reality is the quantum state, and the quantum state does not change. On the other hand it seems exactly as if it does change, which is the great puzzle.

There is the fundamental unchanging dynamics, the linear dynamics. And then, apparently, this changes, which is the collapse dynamics. This is the great paradox of the quantum theory. As described in Measurement Problem, there is no possible explanation for the change of the quantum state, the collapse dynamics, in physical reality.


The quantum state is the fundamental definition of the world, defining the matter and energy that makes up physical reality. Deutsch (2010) calls this a snapshot of the world. As he explains, the quantum universe is the physical reality of all possible snapshots. And as he describes, this is the essence of the quantum concept of time, a longstanding concept that emerged from work on quantum gravity in the 1960s.

It means that the fabric of reality is like an endless, infinite matrix of all possible snapshots, all possible versions of the physical world. And snapshots cannot change. All possible snapshots simply exist, just like the existence of all possible numbers. But we experience change of the physical reality. The reason is the same as for the experience of the passage of time. Just as the experience the passage of time is the experience of the movement of the viewpoint through the space-time of relativity, the experience of change is the experience of the movement of the viewpoint from one snapshot to another. (Through ‘Hilbert space’.)

The Appearance of Change

As described in Quantum Theory, Everett solved the great mystery of the change of the unchanging quantum state. There is only the appearance of change. But this has not been accepted because it relies on experience as a fundamental, and this makes no sense at all in the science of physics. The solution is simple once we have the moving frame of reference of experience to explain the puzzle. Just as consciousness passes from moment to moment in space-time, it passes from snapshot to snapshot in the quantum concept of time.

As we saw in Relativity & Time, the worldline is a static four-dimensional object in relativistic space. And the worldline of a conscious observer is brought to life by consciousness, which progresses up the picture into the future as Weyl describes. The horizontal planes are points in time where an observation is made.

A worldline with blobs of increasing size represening increasing indetermiancy of observations

The further we look into the future, the more the wave function spreads out like ripples on a pond, so what will be observed at a given moment in the future is increasingly indeterminate. This is symbolised with the blobs becoming more and more vague going into the future.

The figure above symbolises a process that is all contained within a specific snapshot, i.e. the world defined by a specific quantum state, defining a specific wavefunction. As shown in the figure below, symbolised by the black arrows, the viewpoint moves to a different snapshot with the making of each observation. A sequence of worldlines in a progression of observations

The moving viewpoint passes up the worldline giving rise to the experience of the passage of time, and the  progression of the linear dynamics. This is shown by the white arrows in the image.

At the point in time where an observation is made, something completely different happens. The superworld changes, thus a different quantum state defines the physical reality. The collapse dynamics operates. The viewpoint moves to a different snapshot. This is shown by the black arrows.

The collapse dynamics is the enactment of the quantum concept of time. Nothing like this can possibly happen in the world of a specific snapshot, defined by a specific quantum state, which is why it all makes no sense in the current paradigm. Again, this is a phenomenon of a completely different type. Only with the moving frame of reference of experience can we account for the transition from frame to frame in the quantum concept of time.

Interactive Destiny

Once we comprehend the quantum concept of time, interactive destiny makes perfect sense. This explains the actual mechanics. On the inside view each snapshot is a holographic universe, defined by a specific quantum state. When an observation is modified before it is added to the record of observations, the moving viewpoint arrives in a different snapshot, a different version of the holographic universe, on the path taken though the infinite possibilities. The diagram only shows one black arrow in each case, but in reality there are many possibilities, leading to different places in Hilbert space, different versions of the holographic universe with different futures. It is not, of course, that we can change or in any way influence the physical reality itself. The facts of the future are totally set and fixed in the permanent destiny of each snapshot. But as each observation is made, one passes to a different snapshot. As we can deliberately bias this process we can effectively pilot our way in the constantly branching stream of the multiple-choice movie of life.

Logical Type

This transition explains the basis Everett’s famous theory. There is only the appearance of change, the ‘collapse of the wave function’. As he describes, what is actually happening is as each observation is made is just the alteration of the record of observations. But since this is what defines the determinacy of the superworld, this changes the determinacy of the physical world of this individual. But this, of course, cannot actually happen in physical reality. It can only happen in the reality of the world hologram, the second-logical-type domain of the superworld. Here, the change of the definition of the world hologram results in the change of the quantum state of the personal world. Effectively, the collapse dynamics operates. The matter and energy world cannot change in this way. There can be no change of the quantum state. The only way for change to be encountered is for the viewpoint to change. Which is what happens – in experience. As with the effective passage of time, it is the movement of the viewpoint of consciousness that breathes fire into the equations of physics.