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The user John Rennie suggested I ask the following as a new question:

If time is continuous why would the perception of time being continuous or flowing be an illusion?

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    $\begingroup$ "If time is continuous why would the perception of time being continuous or flowing be an illusion?" - Who says it is an illusion? In what context? $\endgroup$ – ACuriousMind Nov 27 '14 at 20:04
  • $\begingroup$ Could you give more information about time and illusion in your question. $\endgroup$ – tom Nov 27 '14 at 20:05
  • $\begingroup$ @ tom and ACuriousMind; if you look up the question I wrote 'About time measurement' you will see it was John Rennie who made the comments ; that time being continuous and the perception of time as flowing being an illusion are not incompatible. $\endgroup$ – user128932 Nov 27 '14 at 20:10
  • $\begingroup$ Please make the question fully consistent in itself by adding context/links. I don't really understand the question, but maybe this is related: physics.stackexchange.com/a/130022/26044 $\endgroup$ – pfnuesel Nov 27 '14 at 20:24
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    $\begingroup$ John Rennie responded on the question I wrote 'About time measurement'saying 'No there's no suggestion that time isn't continuous , the illusion is that it 'flows'. Then he wrote 'it isn't clear to me why you think that the continuity of time and the illusion of time flowing are incompatible. Then it was he ,John Rennie that suggested I ask this as a NEW question. I am only doing what he suggested. Why don't you ask him about the context or any confusion ? $\endgroup$ – user128932 Nov 27 '14 at 20:39
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Whether or not time is continuous or has some sort of discrete time step, consider the following. Imagine you had a very powerful computer at your disposal, or that the laws of physics happened to be simple enough that we could simulate something as complex as a sentient, self-aware organism using it. Now, we hit "start" on our simulation, and wait a few zillion cycles until the humans pop up. Now, we hit "pause", commit our results to storage, and turn off the computer and go have lunch. Later, we come back, and because we want to show our colleagues what we've found, we run the simulation backwards a few million years and hit "start" again. The humans are non the wiser. Can you see why it might be argued that the flow of time might be illusory?

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I looked at the previous discussion that you had about this here in the comments and I think I may have an idea about what is going on here, but I expect someone else will post a better reply here.

First I want to quote three of John Rennie's comments.

See this article on the block universe. Note that most us regard this as philosophy not physics

The interval between two timelike separated points certainly isn't an illusion. The illusion is the human perception that time flows

No, there's no suggestion that time isn't continuous. The illusion is that it flows. We wouldn't say that distance flows; it just is. The same argument applies to time. Do some Googling for block universe for more on this idea.

The way I see it is the following.

1) we can measure distance and we can measure time.

2) distance and time are not always what we expect them to be, which can be understood (or at least modelled) with relativity, particularly general relativity.

3) For example, people in different frames can measure the time to pass at different rates.

It may, therefore, be an illusion that time flows steadily the same everywhere.

In addition to this John Rennie made an interesting link, which I don't understand to the idea of the block universe.

He or someone else may provide a better answer.

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I think we're getting into the philosophical and metaphysical.

Perhaps the flow of time is an illusion in the sense we believe it to be. If we take the points on a graph, we can see a proportionate of them simultaneously, whereas we don't perceive "all time" instantly.

Not only can we record a point in the past, time appears to flow from the past, into the present and on into the future.

Do different organisms perceive this flow at the same rate? A 400 year old tree growing imperceptibly slowly, to us?

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  • $\begingroup$ If this is philosophical why did John Rennie suggest I write the question here? Why didn't he suggest I write it at the philosophy s.e. site? $\endgroup$ – user128932 Nov 27 '14 at 20:50
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps there is a physical explanation too, answers aren't always black or white. In fact, they are rarely black or white! $\endgroup$ – iantresman Nov 27 '14 at 21:00
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the key is the word "perception" no person can get another person's perception of anything. the question could be re-worded to be more amenable to physics by asking something about the physical world of matter and energy not one's internal perceptions, just a suggestion.

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  • $\begingroup$ The time-flow is a concept related to the increase of entropy and the progress of irreversible processes. We grow older, the stars loose energy, new cosmic objects appear, the universe expands, unstable elements undergo decay (which is an irreversible process). The concept of time is maybe subjective, we, people, use it to order events, but the irreversibility of processes in nature have an axis of their progressive course. Along with this, the time-flow in different frames of coordinates in movement is different. $\endgroup$ – Sofia Nov 27 '14 at 22:39
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If I do not misunderstand your question, what you are asking refers to what is called block universe. In the block universe, time does not unfold, but is equivalent to the the spatial coordinates in the sense that all the time past present and future already exists, in the same way that the negative axis, the origin, and the positive axis direction in space at any given time exists, and space does not flow. In this universe the flow of time is an illusion, a causal estructure is no much different than a spatial structure, and, the present time is a illusion. There is a infinite numbers of you's each experiencing the different presents. The more philosophical part is what is consciousness and why it exists, why a temporal structure actually has a subjective experience. Philosopher Daniel Dennet goes beyong, and states not only that time is an illusion, but that consciousness itself is an illusion too.

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    $\begingroup$ I know Daniel Dennet believes consciousness is an illusion ,he is a somewhat intense atheist. I think the mind and the consciousness are real 'entities'; both might be described as a self-sustaining self-reprogramming information and 'behavioral algorithm' management system. As such a 'living' system of constantly self-organising energy that can manipulate its own information content. And it can be functionally aware of info. not just as a sequence of its 'physical manifestations' it receives as input but as a whole network of ideas and interpretations it has 'made' or can 'make' now. $\endgroup$ – user128932 Nov 28 '14 at 5:43
  • $\begingroup$ So maybe any perception of temporal durations is real info. that a consciousness can 'input' as a real phenomenon. $\endgroup$ – user128932 Nov 28 '14 at 5:46
  • $\begingroup$ my personal viewpoint is that consciousness is one of the two fundamental irreducible "stuff" that really exist in the universe. The other is the mathematical multiverse of Max Tegmark (but extended to any consistent structure not just to computable ones). There is not such a thing as a "physical" universe. Consciousness arises when a mathematical structure is complex enough. I guess you could call that "extreme platonism"? $\endgroup$ – Wolphram jonny Nov 28 '14 at 5:52
  • $\begingroup$ If an A.I. system is built that can constantly sustain itself and also reprogram any part of itself ( without sabotaging itself) and manipulate and manage any of its information and behavioral algorithms ; this system would be like an emergent self-reprogramming self-controlling information manipulator.It would be 'similar' to the 'mind'. One does not have to use something like the 'mysterian' philosophy ( I think its called) to explain consciousness. Maybe it is just describable as a self-controlling self-sustaining information management system. $\endgroup$ – user128932 Nov 28 '14 at 6:15

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