Time Reborn by Lee Smolin
After reading The Quotable Einstein, I would blithely say that “Time is an illusion although it’s an annoyingly persistent one.” Lee Smolin has convinced me otherwise.
Time is very real. Everything exists in time.
Things that are timeless do not exist. Everything happens in its moment(s). Virtues, values, and other things exist only in the context of time. Eternal truths are mythological.
As Smolin writes, “This is a book for everyone, because there is no one whose thinking about the world is not shaped by how they see time.”
This is a tremendously liberating concept. As Stanley Kauffman proposes, “Evolutionary dynamics are the exploration in time by the biosphere of what can happen next: the ‘adjacent possible.’ The same goes for the evolution of technologies, economies, and societies.” In other words, there’s room for everything to get better. Nothing’s holding us back.
If we hadn’t descended from people who, hundreds of thousands of years ago, imagined ways to harness fire, we would still be prey.
This is the grand bargain of human life: to thrive on the cusp of uncertainty. We thrive on the boundary between opportunity and danger and live with the knowledge that we can’t control everything or keep bad stuff from happening every now and then.
Imagination enabled us to turn change and surprise into opportunities to extend our domain across the planet.
If we persist in living outside time, we will not surmount the unprecedented problems raised by climate change.
We have reached the limits of the usefulness of the idea that were separate from nature.
The false idea we have to put behind us is the idea that what is bound in time is an illusion and what is timeless is real. We need to eliminate the idea that anything is, or can be, timeless.
We need a new philosophy, one that anticipates the merging of the natural and the artificial by achieving a consilience of the natural and social sciences, in which human agency has rightful place in nature.
On every scale, from an atom’s quantum state to the cosmos, and at every level of complexity, from a photon make in the ear;y universe and winging its way toward us to human personalities and societies, the key is time and the future is open.