Time, Space and Human Perception


     Simple self-observation shows that individual perception of time is different from “mechanical” time measured with a clock. In our perception, some periods feel like forever, in other periods, time flies, some days separated in time feel as closely connected, some sequential days feel as completely disconnected.

     Analysis of human perception shows even more interesting phenomena. The picture of world is stitched together from snapshots, and this compilation depends not only on activity of the external world, but also on body’s activity, for example blinking.

     Hence, if one wants to create a model of the Human Perception, one has to introduce a concept of an Individual Time, where the Individual Time differs for different individuals.

     When there is a consistently long period between an event and information about this event delivered to an individual, there is a natural perception that an event happened, when relevant information is delivered. That was clearly felt, when people communicated across the seas, before telegraph was introduced. It took a conscious effort to realize that an event had happened long ago. Actually, a person could maintain a coherent picture of the world in assumption that events happen, when information arrived.

     The scientific elaboration on this idea led to the Relativity Theory. This theory asserts, that it is scientifically beneficial to perceive the world as one, where each individual has own picture of the world with distinctive individual time, where an event happens, when light delivers information about this event to the individual.

     Astronomers base their picture of the world on this idea: they assert that events happen, when they are observed using astronomic instruments. If needed, they compute the time between an event and its observation for cosmological models.

     The idea of Individual Time is so natural, that only a few years ago, each town has its own time, and railroads had serious difficulties with it.

     The Absolute Time, with which we are so accustomed now, is a sophisticated abstraction. It is a special model, an invariant representing common property of the Individual Time, which is common to all humans.

It is a communal model. We, being communal creatures, eagerly absorb this model and use it to organize our perception, often without involvement of conscious.

     Space travel with high speeds by a part of human community presents a challenge to the subconscious model of Absolute Time. A possibility of a space traveler to come back young, while the rest of community is substantially aged, is a phenomenon, which is difficult to fit in our communal idea of the Absolute Time.

     Simple observation that Time is not a universal absolute concept, but something reflecting specifics of organization of Humanity, brings immediate questions:

     Is it possible that there are other creatures, which organization is so different from ours, that they have nothing even close to our Time? How would we communicate with them, when they have no concept of communication? Is it possible that the Bible with it unusual handling of what we perceive as verbs and time-line is a perpetual reminder that our idea of Time is nothing more than a reflection of limitation of our perception?

     The ideas of Motion and Time are inseparable and from it we arrive to the idea of Space through analysis of the mechanics of our perception.

     There is an Individual Space – a model, which operates with directions: forward, backward, right, left, up and down. It is a model in which there is a place, where external objects could not be present (where an individual body is). When external objects move or an individual moves, their place in this Individual Space is changing.

     This is a familiar and natural model, with which we operate subconsciously.

     The Absolute Space is a sophisticated model, an invariant related to all Individual Spaces of Humanity.

     It consists of three dimensions without holes in it. Three dimensions of Absolute Space as six directions of Individual Space arrived from specifics of our perception, especially hearing and sight.

It is a communal model, which we eagerly absorb subconsciously and deploy broadly.

     Simple assertion that idea of Space is based on ideas of Time, Motion and mechanics of Human Perception brings immediate questions:

     Is it possible that there are creatures out there, which are not localized in Space? Could such creatures be present in front of our eyes, blinded by our mechanism of organization of information?

     Mechanisms of organization of Human Perception reflected in ideas of Time, Motion and Space are powerful and useful ones. They allow us creation of models of internal and external worlds, which are not limited to their physical aspects. They allow us efficient communication.

In the same time, they are a limitation, because they reflect mechanism of Perception specific to Humanity.

Is there a way to overcome this limitation? Such quest could be illuminating.

     Could we understand something about Humanity itself, if we try to perceive it beyond limitations of Time and Space? Could we discover “extra sensory perception”?

Humans are essentially finite creatures. Everything of interest is a finite construction of finite set of elements.

However, the ideas of Time, Motion and Space are witnesses that our Consciousness has access to something more than finite constructions. It has access to something that is not finite. These ideas assume infinite divisibility, continuity, something that is not reducible to any finite structure.

Hence, an attempt to find what is behind these ideas could bring us to better understanding of that accessible to us infinity.

     For that, we need to grow beyond acceptance of limitations imposed by mechanics of our Perception as absolute and immovable. We have to grow into understanding beyond the Time, Motion and Space.

     Meditation could be a helpful tool in such quest.

     Now we see that the Absolute Time and Absolute Space are methods of organization of information invented and supported by Humanity for benefits of community of humans. These methods depend on relative close proximity of humans in the human community and their perpetual communication.

     Hence, one who is interested in analysis of human mind, has to acquire a Human-centric and Earth-centric view, because basic tools of organization of information used by humans are shaped by existence of human community on the Earth.

     Surely, this does not mean that Human-centric or Earth-centric view should be forced on one engaged in any other analysis, for example physics. Still, even a physicist, who wants to communicate ideas to others, is stuck with human tools of mind and their Human- and Earth- centricity.  


[Alexander Liss 2006-03-02]