What is possibility?


What is referred to as probability in math and physics manifests itself in daily life as possibility. As the stuff of actuarial science, chance is the raison d’être of the insurance industry: “risk is also opportunity.” Notice the dual action at work here: probability materially produces possibility even as possibility makes everything that is, including probability, possible. What are arguably the two most important phenomena of nature, genetic mutation and quantum superposition, are manifestations of both the probability of possibility and the possibility of probability. As the more basic of the two, quantum superposition underlies genetic mutation and makes it possible. Indeed, quantum superposition makes change in general possible. Mutability, flux, randomness, coincidence, free will — the open-ended moment itself — all imply a quantum superposition of states. Let us explore some of the ramifications.

Focused as they are on the subatomic realm, physicists studying quantum superposition generally ignore how it makes everyday reality possible. Superposition is essentially a theory of simultaneity. In theory at least, and potentially in practice, superposition is an example of de-distancing, and not merely of bridging space but overcoming it. For example, theorists of quantum mechanics are exploring the possibility that superposition makes instant communication, and thus action at a distance, possible. If this supposition is correct, information may not have to travel, not even at speeds faster than light. From the point of view of praxis, this means absolutely no delay in communication, even across light-years. Through quantum entanglement, the points themselves are connected in such a way that they would be in two places at once (and at once in two places). What, as far as I can tell, theorist have not yet realized is that entanglement, if it is possible, would be so only because both time and space are already ahead of themselves. But what does this mean, that space-time is ahead of itself?

Higher than the cosmological constant is a dual repelling-attracting force, attraction and repulsion being, on a super-cosmic scale, two sides of the same thing. On this super-cosmic level, the acceleration of the expansion of space is a function of an attractive force that is pulling things from “beyond.” This “beyond” is the ahead of itself, that is, a hyperspace-time. From this godlike viewpoint, the entire future already exists, and space has already reached everywhere it is going. The essence of probability, as what remains undetermined (that is, possible in the sense of not yet actual), determines the system from what to us looks like a beyond. But since the universe is presumed not to have a beyond the outside looks like nothing. But this nothing simply means that we cannot account for phenomena that are not determinable, that may only be clear in other dimensions. Indeed, the visible universe could be, and probably is, a three-dimensional effect of something whose entirety demands other dimensions to envision. If there were a beyond, we simply would not be able to see it. At the same time, even mathematical physics, that strictest of all disciplines, now confronts the possibility of hitherto unknown dimensions as an inevitable result of its own calculations.

We said that, as quantum entanglement, superposition raises the possibility that in some higher dimension the universe is already ahead of itself. To us, it looks as if the universe were attracting itself from out of the future: hence the expansion, an expansion not only of space but of time. This is the very phenomenon we experience as the future, the way it seemingly comes out of nothing and nowhere: out of the uncertainty we see when, from our limited perspective in space-time, we look ahead.

Every place is the origin. On a super-cosmic scale, all space is superposed. It is not as if the universe can leave itself behind. We must even say that all of space is what the origin “left behind.” But, as paradoxical as it sounds, what it left behind remains in the future. This is what allows the universe, being ahead of itself, to expand into itself (after all, there is nothing else into which it could expand). It can expand into itself only because it is already ahead of itself. Of course, from our perspective in space-time, we cannot see this “ahead of itself.” Aside from our own projections, the actual future looks blank to us. But if the universe weren’t ahead of itself it could not expand into anything (i.e., it could not expand). Indeed, from the perspective of the whole the expansion is an illusion, but one that acquires reality in our dimension (thus it is not a denial of Hubble’s law). We must keep in mind that the whole includes all of time, though not as past, present, and future. It also exceeds the amount of matter and energy currently in the universe, though not in a way that violates the first law of thermodynamics. A star that imploded billions of years ago and I may be made of the same stuff, but we are totally distinct phenomena and must be counted separately as part of the whole, even if, from the standpoint of physics, that is a sort of double-counting. A point of view that only counts the constancy of matter and energy as part of the whole has a tough time with the countless phenomena that arise and vanish.

The “expansion” is not merely an inflation but a moving through itself in all directions. I call this the crossing. Being ahead of itself, the universe gets in its own way. And since the origin of the visible universe is not just behind but ahead, it slips into itself perfectly. The universe fits inside itself.  The expansion would lead to the “crunch” without having to reverse course. We would not be able to perceive this dual motion from our perspective in space-time.

Stated more accurately, the universe contracts-expands at once by not moving at all, by being static, by existing in the same place as a whole. But, in our dimension, this stasis manifests itself as movement, both in space and in time. In other words, the universe is simultaneously in the past and the future in a sort of cosmic present. The past seems to remain behind and the future seems to be ahead only because of our limited positional perspective in space-time. But neither the past nor the future, the behind or the ahead, are true in an absolute sense. They only seem to be past and future from our point in space-time.

What is superposed are possibilities. The difference between past and future reflects the difference between, on the one hand, spin that has been measured and, on the other, spin that has not been measured. Out of these superposed possibilities the future materializes as the present, as what actually occurs: all these things could happen, but this is what actually does: the measurement has been taken and the spin is either up or down. That is, quantum superposition manifests itself as daily life. Much more is being superposed than the spin of subatomic particles. The very emergence of the present out of the future — that is, the unceasing disclosure of the future in an ever-evolving, open-ended present, a present open to possibility — depends on superposition. That is, free will depends on quantum superposition.

Probability looks like nothing other than the future. Humankind’s apprehension of the future is obscure, a not being able to see anything clearly except what rests on our own projection, a projection whose probability rests on what has already occurred. The present is not just something that is left over from the past, but comes to meet us from beyond (i.e., from the future), out of the fog of superposed states, out of the one thing that makes things absolutely certain: possibility. The future is shot through with a certain lack of predictability, a certain break-down in the pattern, a pattern that had been building up in the past and is always on the verge of being crystallized in the present. But the crystal keeps growing. One does not know its ultimate shape. There are surprises nobody predicted. Where is it heading, what paths will it take, what will it build on, where does it lead? This is the crucial thing: wherever it is going, it is already there, only we cannot see it. The obscurity we see when we look ahead is, however, not just an effect of probability and randomness, but a consequence of our position in space-time, in our own spatial and temporal dimensions. But from the godlike pinnacle the universe is a whole, which means it is already wherever it is going. There is no future, no past, only an all-inclusive presence.

Whatever the view may be from the highest perspective we can conceive of and which I call the pinnacle, what can we say for certain? Perhaps only this: that such a perspective would be radically different than ours. Time and space would look radically different. Time, all of history, would be superposed. The same would go for space. From this higher perspective, all of space would be in the same place, all of time would be present. The future is left open as possibility only in our limited dimension, because of the superposition of possibilities. From our dimension, it results in unpredictability, the indeterminable future. But there is no past-present-future at the godlike pinnacle, or unpredictability, or anything that has not been determined.

I do not deny randomness, but only affirm it within the dimension in which it operates. Whether randomness is really random in another dimension is a question that must remain open, but which I very much doubt. It might be that what looks completely random to us could be directed or led in some way from a beyond that we cannot as yet conceive, although this essay was an attempt to begin to conceive it.


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