Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Time And Minds

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Weinbaum and Wald receive messages from their future and thus gain some knowledge of future events but cannot experience those events any sooner than anyone else. One of these messages links Quincunx to Midsummer Century by Blish. (46) In this second short novel, John Martels’ personality, though not his body, is projected from 1985 to 25,000. Personalities are semi-stable electromagnetic fields. Martels’ field is projected accidentally and received by a preserved brain. He could return to 1985, although he opts not to, so his "time-projection" is genuine time travel. His experience is consistent with the Time Traveler’s theory that it is our "consciousness" or "mental existences," not our bodies, that move along time. Wald adds:

"And the consciousness of Robin Weinbaum is moving along that entity in that invisible direction." (45)

There are problems with this theory. First, it contradicts the Time Traveler’s practice, though not Wald’s. Secondly, the Time Traveler describes "mental existences" not, e. g., as "fields" but as immaterial and dimensionless which suggests that they are undetectable and even non-existent. (47) Thirdly, as before, motion "along the Time-Dimension with a uniform velocity" would take time so this dimension would not be time. (47) Fourthly, the theory suggests that, before or after the passage through human bodies of their minds, these bodies are mere automata although indistinguishable from conscious organisms.

This radical mind-body dualism leads to solipsism. Each of us has no way of knowing whether other organisms are really conscious. My neighbor’s mind, if he has one, may move along the fourth dimension more slowly or quickly than mine. Thus, it may not be present in his body when I am speaking to him. Indeed, it is unnecessary:

"He is not free in any way to change the shaping of the ultimate creature; all he can do is observe…" (45)

"…the shaping of the ultimate creature…" includes the movements of his own body and even of its vocal organs. I remember Blish suggesting in a conversation at a science fiction convention that minds might move along time at different rates but this is surely an absurd conclusion to arrive at. If the conclusion is valid, then I cannot be sure that Blish’s consciousness was present when it was suggested.

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