Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Kalieda time

People over at the ZBB have been talking about time. It's not just about tenses; what if you design a universe where you can go back and kill your Grandparent - and live. Given that the Kalieda universe is the same as our universe, the grandma issue remains a puzzle. But here's a contribution from me on how my confolks think of time ...

Kaliedan science does not view time as a sequence of events - that's just cause and effect. Rather, they view time as an accumulation of information that passes from one moment to the next moment (as perceived by humans, who they believe tend to operate by taking 'digital' snapshots of their 'analogue' surroundings). In this view, information is continually gathered, but is also lost as it is forgotten or destroyed.

Kaliedan science sees people mostly as a bundle of reactions to stimuli. Large-scale future actions of people can be predicted on knowledge of their past reactions - leopards don't change their spots. Consciousness (sp?) is an artifact of brain activity - a predictive mechanism for guessing the short- and long-term possibilities based on history. Free will exists within the constraints of habits and physical possibilities.

For Kaliedan science, time travel is not an issue. If you want to change the past, you change the information. The idea of travelling back in time to kill your grandfather is nonsensical, as your grandfather is manifest in your genetic information - which is impossible to supress. It makes a lot more sense just to claim your grandfather was in fact someone else - killing your grandfather by denying the existence of his information in you; if enough people believe you, you have killed your grandfather.

Many Kaliedan scientists are also religious people. Religion is seen as a human construct - a social contract between people which is part of humanity's genetic inheritance - a survival trait, if you like. It's also a big comfort to believe in something. God (or gods, spirits, demons etc) exists because people have constructed an information base in which god can exist, and their reactions and decisions are based on this information base - thus god is made manifest in the world without having to go to the bother of actually existing.

The cognitive metaphors associated with the passage of time vary between languages. Ramajal, the main Ambostak Society language, has a view of time a a road to be travelled upon (information is gathered as you journey along the road, you have limited information of what is in front of you, but a more extensive collection of information about the past, stored as memories, notes, photos, friends, offspring, etc). Thus the past, present and future are viewed as an integral part of space-and-motion within the language.

Gevey, the main Balhe Society language, prefers to view time as a series of interlocking circles and springs - for Gevey speakers time is a separate entity from space-and-motion; it has its own oblique case. Gevey also has two past tenses, one for acts with unavoidable consequences and the other for acts whose consequences can be ameliorated by applying some free will.

A third example are the Telik languages, spoken by the Telik peoples. Their languages' view of time is similar to the Ambostak view of time, except here the direction of travel is different - the direction of time is upwards, from the future beneath one's feet to the past above one's head. For the Telik, the future is not something that is encountered as one travels, but rather something that can be prepared, tended, planned for. The past is in the skies (some believe you can see history in the formation of clouds or the position of the stars - information that can be used to cultivate a preferred future).

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