by Steven Craig Hickman
The line that separates idealism from materialism concerns precisely the status of this circle: the “teleological” formula—“ a thing is its own result, it becomes what it always already was”
— Slavoj Zizek
Australian scientists recently discovered that reality does not exist until you measure it:
If one chooses to believe that the atom really did take a particular path or paths then one has to accept that a future measurement is affecting the atom’s past, said Truscott.
“The atoms did not travel from A to B. It was only when they were measured at the end of the journey that their wave-like or particle-like behavior was brought into existence,” he said.
Associate Professor Andrew Truscott (L) with Ph.D. student Roman Khakimov worked through an experiment using helium atom and laser screens to perform an experiment that up to now had not been possible. The point being that they discovered that quantum information from the future had an effect on the past and could be quantified and measured. Quantum weirdness…
Strangely reading Philip K. Dick’s Letter to Peter Fitting dated 3 June 28, 1974 collected in The Exegesis we come across ideas that would be reappropriated in William Gibson’s latest novel Peripheral which allows transfer of information to and from the future, etc. Dick would make this motif a cornerstone of several novels in his mid-period of the early 70’s, especially such novels as Time Out of Joint, UBIK, The Game Players of Titan and others… Gibson in his new novel allows for characters to be brought to the future via a peripheral (a cyborg avatar that users can connect to from another location) via the quantum server.
Dick will speak of such a notion below:
[…] In regards to some of the intellectual, theoretical subjects all of us discussed the day you and your friends were here to visit, I recall in particular my statement to you (which I believe you got on your tape, too) that “the universe is moving backward,” a rather odd statement on the face of it I admit. What I meant by that is something which at the time I could not really express, having had an experience, several in fact, but not having the terms. Now, by having read further, I have some sort of terms, and would like to describe some of my personal experiences using, in a pragmatic way, the concept of tachyons, which are supposed to be particles of cosmic origin which fly faster than light and consequently in a reversed time direction. “They would thus,” Koestler says, “carry information from the future into our present, as light and X rays from distant galaxies carry information from the remote past of the universe into our now and here.”
Koestler also points out that according to modern theory the universe is moving from chaos to form; therefore tachyon bombardment would contain information which expressed a greater degree of Gestalt than similar information about the present; it would, thus at this time continuum, seem more living, more animated by a conscious spirit… This would definitely give rise to the idea of purpose, in particular purpose lying in the future. Thus we now have a scientific method of considering the notion of teleology, I think, which is why I am writing you now, to express this, my own sense of final causes, as we discussed that day.1
This notion that beings of the future could control aspects of the past through the use of quantum information or tachyon emissions, etc. doesn’t seem so far fetched now that scientists have shown it to be true at least at the quantum level. Weirdness seems to be the order of the day!
Of course this same notion that Dick mentions in connection to teleology is the very thing Zizek in his use of the concept of “retroactive causality” formulates as follows:
Ruda opposes idealist (Hegel’s) and materialist (Badiou’s) dialectics with regard to the tension between dialectical and non-dialectical aspects of the dialectical process: from the materialist standpoint, the dialectical process “relies upon something that is not itself dialectically deducible”: “materialist dialectics has to be understood as a procedure of unfolding consequences, of the attempt to cope with something that due to the logic of retroactivity logically lies before it, is prior to it.” Ruda is, of course, not only Hegelian enough to recognize that this priority is retroactive (the event is prior to the unfolding of its consequences, but this can be asserted only once these consequences are here); he even goes to the end and proposes the Hegelian formula of the closed teleological loop between the event and its consequences— the event engenders consequences which constitute the actuality of the event, i.e., which retroactively posit their own cause, so that the event is its own cause, or, rather, its own result: the consequences that change the world are engendered by something, the event, which itself is nothing but what it will have generated … an event is the creation of the conditions of the possibility of the consequences of an event— i.e. of the event itself. This is why it had the paradoxical structure of naming a multiplicity which belongs to itself … any event is nothing but the ensemble of the consequences it yields— although it is at the same time the enabling cause of these very consequences.2
This is the notion that the collapse of the future upon the present event retroactively posits the event as a consequence of this future decision; therefore future information collapses upon the past in such a way that the causal system appears teleological (from our standpoint) when in fact it is retroactive (from the future decisional process). What we’re saying is that Time is weirder than we would like to believe… it’s as if from our perspective things, events, etc. have a purpose, a teleology; but, the truth is that it is much weirder: time is not bound to the arrow of some forward, linear movement, but can effect our present moment from the future… it seems time moves both ways: or, maybe time is a field and a force rather than as Kant thought a category internal to the Mind. Either way our conceptions of reality will have to change, because our views of Time are changed by this experiment and its successful implementation. The future has a power over us, a quantitative aspect to it that dictates our realities before we become aware of them as such: we are the result of these selective processes. This changes everything.
Nick Land asks on Urban Future (2.1): Is there really a difference being noted here? to the statement below:
… the collapse of the future upon the present event retroactively posits the event as a consequence of this future decision; therefore future information collapses upon the past in such a way that the causal system appears teleological (from our standpoint) when in fact it is retroactive (from the future decisional process). What we’re saying is that Time a weirder than we would like to believe … it’s as if from our perspective things, events, etc. have a purpose, a teleology; but, the truth is that it is much weirder: time is not bound to the arrow of some forward, linear movement, but can effect our present moment from the future …
My original thought was actually dealing with the hypothetical particle: tachyonic particle that always moves faster than light coined by Gerald Feinberg. Dick used this notion in several of his novels. Most physicists think that faster-than-light particles cannot exist because they are not consistent with the known laws of physics. If such particles did exist, they could be used to build a tachyonic antitelephone and send signals faster than light, which (according to special relativity) would lead to violations of causality. Potentially consistent theories that allow faster-than-light particles include those that break Lorentz invariance, the symmetry underlying special relativity, so that the speed of light is not a barrier.
According to the current understanding of physics, no such faster-than-light transfer of information is actually possible. For instance, the hypothetical tachyon particles which give the device its name do not exist even theoretically in the standard model of particle physics, due to tachyon condensation, and there is no experimental evidence that suggests that they might exist. The problem of detecting tachyons via causal contradictions was treated scientifically. Yet, as we know tachyons are hypothetical entities that have never been proven to exist.
It’s in this second sense that Gibson uses a similar device to allow for informatical time-travel through the use of a quantum server into the Peripherals, since light is in this sense the time-barrier beyond which classical physics cannot be breached; but at quantum levels of abstraction it can. This is the time anomaly-paradox that in the experiment conducted showing us that classical physics has now been breached using macro-technologies upon quantum processes.
All that the scientists in the new test prove is that if one chooses to believe that the atom really did take a particular path or paths then one has to accept that a future measurement is affecting the atom’s past…. If this is true then the paradox that Einstein and Arnold Sommerfeld presented in their thought-experiment in 1910 of how faster-than-light signals can lead to a paradox of causality has been confirmed in the experiment. Obviously it will need to be duplicated in other labs, etc. And there will be discussions on exactly how to interpret the facts of the case. This was just one suggested path in reasoning, not something set in stone.
1. Dick, Philip K. (2011-11-08). The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick (Kindle Locations 367-377). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
2. Zizek, Slavoj (2014-10-07). Absolute Recoil: Towards A New Foundation Of Dialectical Materialism (pp. 72-73). Verso Books. Kindle Edition.