My setting explores the idea of there being something significant about the subjectivity of quantum states such that it's almost as if the Many Worlds interpretation of causality is somehow individually tied to every atom of existence, with overlapping trees of causality interlinking via shared experiences like some sort of infinite web.

Given this premise, I'm trying to conceive of the concepts of timelessness, precognition and omniscience and how they'd have to work in a setting like this.

  1. We're all precogs in some sense, given the infinitesimal probability of events unfolding one way or another, but that's not generally what we think of when we think of precognitive beings. Should precogs just be able to see the paths eminating from this one point in time and space?

  2. Likewise, the quality of timelessness in the sense of being outside of time, how would someone experience that in a world of infinite possibilities? Would you be stuck seeing one timeline from beginning to end or many?

  3. Would omniscience be the ability to experience all the timelines at once, and how could a being like that function? Would it even experience causality or time?

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    $\begingroup$ What does the Many Worlds Interpretation (MWI) mean to you? I ask because MWI interprets QM in such a way that many of the things you are talking about are simply unmeasurable in the sense that you and I are used to thinking of measuring. Also, have you spent much time on these terms in our typical world? Some of those terms are the subject of entire volumes of philosophy, without MWI getting involved. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Feb 20, 2018 at 22:04
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    $\begingroup$ So the question is put on hold, but my recommendation would be to look at qualia, which is the philosophical concept regarding how things "look." As for what they see, what you would see is Ψ, the wavefunction of the universe. If you are looking at MWI in particular, they would see the universe as it would be observed by all possible subjects (like looking at the world through an infinite set of eyes). And the idea of omniscience within a system is extremely difficult to define, even without QM. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Feb 21, 2018 at 14:41
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    $\begingroup$ How the creature sees timelines is probably in a timeless sense already, not as a set of railroad tracks leading towards a future, but a set of railroad tracks leading towards The Future, where The Future is defined as a wave function which can be represented as all possible worlds any subject could observe. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Feb 21, 2018 at 14:42
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    $\begingroup$ @CortAmmon You cannot see a wave function. A wave function is a mathematical construct without any real physical meaning $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Feb 21, 2018 at 14:50
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    $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 I wholeheartedly agree, but when half of the OP's question specifically targets QM and one particular interpretation of QM, it's hard to take the answer elsewhere. Personally, I think the more interesting direction to take it would be to look at the mythological oracles, like the Oracle of Delphi, and see how their abilities were described. But it's hard to translate that into QM speak. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Feb 21, 2018 at 15:16

2 Answers 2


I've been catching hell from the Quantum Qiddies who inhabit Philosophy SE for answering similar questions; let's hope they're about as creative as they appear and therefore don't come to this site. :)

That said; there's no such thing as 'meta-time'. There's no sense of time outside time that a human could perceive, and there's a very simple (though not easy) reason for that - the second law of thermodynamics.

The Law of Entropy is the ONLY law we currently have (for classical physics at least) that can only operate in one direction in time. It states that in any closed system, 'chaos' increases over time. Chaos in this case has a very special interpretation, and you should think of it as the number of possible internally ordered states that can describe the system state.

Another way of putting that is that the universe tends to even out localised variances from an equilibrium state.

In the human brain, that means that in order to remember something, the brain lays down a higher local order in the brain (to store and organise the memory) at the expense of lower global order (by expelling a relatively massive amount of heat). This is why wearing a beanie in the snow is so effective; more than 20% of our body heat is radiated through our heads.

It also means that we can only EVER remember in one direction of time, into the past. Further, it means that if we ever exist out of time, there is no entropy occurring, meaning that there is no perception of time, no memories being recorded; no meta-time (or time of time).

How would time travel work? In theory, our progression of memories would be subjective; we could remember our individual timeline and so long as we don't go somewhere that doesn't have entropy occuring, we'd remember all that we currently remember, and continue to remember from that point the things we observe in the new point in time. There is much to discuss on this point but it's out of scope for this answer. The important aspect of this is this;

1) We can't foresee the future but we can predict it because at the classical scale at least, physics seems to follow deterministic rules.

2) We can't function as we do now in a 'timeless' state as the best that can happen is that we would go into a form of stasis, not able to function in any way.

All things considered, the problem your precogs face is getting around Entropy, and I can sincerely say to them 'Good luck with that'.


I would highly recommend Quarantine by Greg Egan. It is very similar to your scenario. It's a sort of future gumshoe noir about the consequences of being able to "turn off" the collapse of quantum wavefunction. Greg Egan has a way of writing about the social implications of hard sci-fi by adding juuust one element of magic. It has clear answers to your questions. I highly recommend you read the book rather than spoiling it.

I encourage you to read the book first, its pretty short, but here's the book's answers to your questions.

In Quarantine, the "observer" which collapses the wave function is a specific function of the human bran. The human brain turns infinite possibilities into a single outcome. This is unique to humans and considered so destructive by the rest of the universe that they have quarantined Earth from observing the rest of the universe.

The protagonist has the ability to "turn off" this part of their brain, and turn it on later. It allows them to try all possibilities and select the best outcome. But strangely they don't notice anything different. All they experience is the most successful path. They just seem to be improbably lucky.

If they want to crack a combination lock, they turn off their "observer", take a guess at the lock, and it's correct! If they want to sneak past a guard, they turn off their "observer" and just happen to stroll past as the guard is looking the other way.

What's really happening is they're trying all possibilities, but only the one with the best outcome remains when the wavefunction collapses. All the rest disappear. They only remember a single history because that's the only history this version of themselves experienced. An infinite number of them tried all possible combinations, but only the version which got it right survived the wavefunction collapse.

None of their infinite individual selves have precognition. They can't see the paths. They have no knowledge of each other. Instead, they each try their own possibility as if everything is normal. Going in they have a definition of when a path is successful, and that is the version of history which is selected after the waveform collapses. The version of themselves which succeeds is the only version remaining and they only remember their own timeline.

This is exploited when the villain shows the protagonist a black box with a light on it. The protagonist is asked, as a test, to turn the light off simply by picking the version of realty where the light turns off. The protagonist has no idea what is going on inside the black box, but they dutifully turn off their "observer" until the light goes out. What's in the black box? Well, read the book.

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    $\begingroup$ "What's in the black box? Well, read the book." The cat was not amused. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Feb 21, 2018 at 7:09

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