# A generative theory of time and space

#### water

##### the sea
Registered Senior Member
A generative theory of time and space

I was pondering our ability to focus and concentrate, and inspired by Generative Grammar (a brief summary here), I came to this theory -- this is its preliminary form:

They way we perceive time and space is based on generative rules (GR).
GRs are an abstract ability of our brain to generate a perception and an understanding of a phenomenon.
This ability is either inherent, but it could also be, that an infant immanently establishes those rules in the beginning of his life when trying to orientate himself in the environment.

GRs are a means of orientation in the environment and thereby a means of survival.
In modern human society, the output of these rules can be very complex.

I will exemplify these GRs on GRs of time and space.

There are GRs of time and GRs of space.
In order for these rules to become effective and produce output, we need coordinates (COO): coordinates of time and coordinates of space.
Once we have these coordinates, the GRs generate the thing that we perceive as a situation in time or a situation in space: we make a frame.

*****
Let's look at some examples of our perception of time (T) and space (S):

T:
Ex. 1: COO1: A headjump into water. Output: We think in the time-frame of less than a second.
Ex. 2: COO2: Writing a test at school. Otput: We think in the time-frame of 45 minutes.
Ex. 3: COO3: Remembering your childhood. Output: We think in the time-frame of some 10 years.
Ex. 4: COO4: Contemplating the time since A.D. Output: We think in the time-frame of 2004 years.
Ex. 5: COO5: Extinction of dinosaurs. Output: We think in the time-frame of 65 million years.
-----------------------
Unless specifically desired otherwise, when thinking in COO1, the ability that we can also think in COO5 does not interfere, nor play a part.

S:
Ex. 1: COO1: Cell, microscopic view. Output: We think in the space-frame of the inner structure of cells -- in micrometers and less.
Ex. 2: COO2: A page of A5 paper, pen, writing. Output: We think in the space-frame of milimeters.
Ex. 3: COO3: Dancing room, dancing. Output: We think in the space-frame of inches, and meters.
Ex. 4: COO4: Driving by car, to the nearest town. Output: We think in the space-frame of miles.
Ex. 5: COO5: Stars in the Solar system. Output: We think in the space-frame of millions of miles.
------------------
Unless specifically desired otherwise, when thinking in COO1, the ability that we can also think in COO5 does not interfere, nor play a part.
*****

The GRs are such that they allow our perception of T and S be extremely adjustable and flexible -- we can afford 1:1, compressed and expanded perceptions of T and S -- we can perceive T and S in different ratios.
By 1:1 I mean the relative ratio that we consider as normal -- perceivable by the naked eye and our average attention span (up to some 30 minutes or so).

This theory suggests that T and S are neither linear nor continous -- they can be so, if certain COOs are chosen.

Once we get the COOs, the GRs produce a situation -- and then we cease to be aware of T and S, and we can *concentrate* on what we do right now: you came to the computer a while back, sat down, are reading this , and until I mentioned it, most likely weren't aware of the T and S COOs that you are in right now, because you focused on the reading.

This theory also suggests that T and S are not static, neither can they be represented by an ultimate model: for each set of COOs, a new model/frame is generated. We can generate a "general" model/frame of T and S -- like Kant's theory of time, space and causality; or we can generate individual models/frames, a daily work schedule for example.

We can compare these models/frames, but we cannot align them without adjusting their respective ratios to a certain chosen ratio.
Which also means that a time-frame A can become meaningless when compared to time-frame B. Or in other words -- this happens: our lives on Earth seem meaningless when compared to eternity; or one hour may not seem much compared to a whole week, but it is a lot if you are at the dentist.

The third suggestion is that neither the past nor the future exist: we generate them out of COOs that we get in the present.
For example: Present COOs: School, this morning, history lesson about the Romans. COOs for the past: 6th century BC -- 5th century AD.
It is the immediate present COOs that allow and force us to live in the present -- and also bring us back into it if we drift apart.

Okay, the reason I find this theory so appealing is this: Some theories construe time and space as linear, and eventually having a beginning and an end. The beginning and the end is then rendered indefinable and irrelevant; so when we imagine that linear timeline, we just have to stop it somewhere and say "no further".
The generative theory avoids the problem of the ultimate beginning and ultimate end thus:

The system of observation is defined by any set of coordinates for time or any set of coordinates for space. ANY set means that ANY set of coordinates can be chosen, real, imagined, virtual, any.

The set of coordinates can be "you, riding a pink elephant, reading this on a laptop, while dinosaurs are running around you" -- and fact is that you *can* imagine this situation in space and time.

If you can define a set of coordinates, this means that you will be able to generate a situation in time or a situation in space. If you cannot def
ine the coordinates, this means that you cannot generate a situation in time or a situation in space.

The coordinates of the ultimate beginning and the ultimate end cannot be defined, and this is why we cannot imagine or perceive The Beginning and The End.

I think this is a good solution of the problem of the First and Last time and space.

I think the biggest reason no one has commented on your theory so far was because they don't understand it. People here tend to stay away from topics they neither have an expertise or an understanding of.

So, according to your theory, we can only imagine situations that have had coordinated itself in time and space, dubbing imagining or perceiving ideas such as The Beginning and The end of space/time as impossible. Unfortunetly your theory holds a major flaw. What about things that do not exist and have never existed, such as the lockness monster, the buggie and other elementary ideas? If they never existed they do not have coordinates, and without coordinates we cannot imagine or perceive them, yet we do.

P.S - I am only responded to what I got out of your posts.

Last edited:
I've read it a couple of times and still have no idea what you're talking about.

Votorx and Q,

>>What about things that do not exist and have never existed, such as the lockness monster, the buggie and other elementary ideas?

That's the thing!! My theory describes how both perception of the real world as well as imagination work!

It says "The system of observation is defined by any set of coordinates for time or any set of coordinates for space. ANY set means that ANY set of coordinates can be chosen, real, imagined, virtual, any."

Meaning that you can come up with ANY idea that serves you as a coordinate. This is why you can think of the Loch Ness monster as well as of the chair your are sitting on right now. You need a set of coordinates, which then serve you as a framework in which you perceive a certain time and a certain space.

More complex ideas [that serve as coordinates], like the Loch Ness monster or Yoda are gradually derived from simpler ones.

But Nessie is swimming in that lake, because in your imagination, by the generative rules of time and space, you can imagine or perceive ANY situation, as long as you have the coordinates.

I'm starting from the idea that in order to orientate oneself in an environment, one needs a set of coordinates.

These coordinates are then fed into the system of generative rules, and what comes out is a situation in time and space. And once we have that situation, we can move in it, otherwise no.

A situation per se does not exist: The sensory system feeds the organism data from the environment, and some of these data are determined as coordinates (that principle of determinating something as a coordinate is based on experience, and/or genetics). By having the coordinates, the generative rules make a frame of them, and this is then the frame in which we think in time or in space or both -- and this is then a situation.

The way we think of virtual world coordinates is principally the same as we think of real world coordinates -- this means that the same set of basic generative rules for time and for space is at work, but first of all, it means that there is set of such basic GRs.

When Arthur Dent, Zaphod Beeblebrox and Trillian travel with the spaceship "Heart of Gold" -- how come that we understand it all, the travels, the black holes, the disappearings and reappearings? How come that we can imagine it all?

If there would be only one time and one space, the one starting at the Big Bang for example, how then are we supposed to understand and imagine fictitous situations?
We could say that there are parallel universes, or that it is all jus a matter of our imagination.

The generative theory of T and S is more basic, as it understands a certain time or a certain space as a product of our mind, and not as something given per se. And the products of our mind can be shaped in many many ways.

This theory is actually extremely simple, maybe this is what is wrong with it.

with the loch ness monster example, are you saying we can percieve it, because we know where its rumoured to be (ie some lake somewhere in scotland)?

"The coordinates of the ultimate beginning and the ultimate end cannot be defined, and this is why we cannot imagine or perceive The Beginning and The End."

why not?? if we define the dinasuars becoming extinct as happening 65 million years ago, couldnt we define the big bang as (insert age of universe here) years ago, and then we could have an imaged co-ordiante of a few years further back which would allow us to imaging what the universe was like before it existed.

Alain,

>>with the loch ness monster example, are you saying we can percieve it, because we know where its rumoured to be (ie some lake somewhere in scotland)?

Yes, but we perceive it *in our mind*, we can imagine it to be, just as if it were real.

Me: "The coordinates of the ultimate beginning and the ultimate end cannot be defined, and this is why we cannot imagine or perceive The Beginning and The End."

>>why not?? if we define the dinasuars becoming extinct as happening 65 million years ago, couldnt we define the big bang as (insert age of universe here) years ago, and then we could have an imaged co-ordiante of a few years further back which would allow us to imaging what the universe was like before it existed.

Yes, but *can* you imagine that? You can imagine some sort of Big Bang, but before that -- can you imagine something? I imagine there could be something, I just don't know what it would be like. Therefore, I cannot specify the coordinates -- and cannot come up with a situation in time and space.

People here tend to stay away from topics they neither have an expertise or an understanding of.
No, we usually steer away from bulky attempts with flowerly acronyms
(GR, Coooh, Cahhhhh, ooooooh, ahhhhhh) at philosophy becuase one picks up this scent of its author being either purposely obscure or purposely French.

Think Derrida.

This is awesome Rosa.
Very practical concepts.
And interesting to say the least.
I've known for some time that the past was a memeory and the future an idea. Thanks for sharing.
This however is a much more explict example.
Thanks again

You - "Yes, but *can* you imagine that? You can imagine some sort of Big Bang, but before that -- can you imagine something? I imagine there could be something, I just don't know what it would be like. Therefore, I cannot specify the coordinates -- and cannot come up with a situation in time and space."

ME - i cant imagine what the universe would be like b4 the big bang, if i try i either end up 'looking' at a black screen, or at a white one, or sometimes a white screen with an infinately small black dot in it, but what im trying to say is that we know the co-ordinates of before the big bang (ie time and space[everywhere]), so by your theory we SHOULD be able to imagine it

did that make ANY sense to anyone??? if it didnt, tell me and ill re write it.

The difference lies between looking at these "co-ordinates" objectively and actually trying to experience them. We have some kind of experience in which to relate all of our co-ordinates.
Because there was no "begining",a something from a "nothing", we have no refference for this infinity, or, non-time, non-space thingy majingy.
We cannot experience "non-existence".
There was no "non-existence".
Isn't this the most obvious thing?

You may be able to imagine certain characteristics of this infinty,
A long time ,etc.
Or what ever you perceive to be "before" the big bang.
There can be a sign on the door saying" pleyastics inc." You may have some references to it, the fact that there is a sign on the door, that people talk about it, etc, but to understand it and integrate it into part of your philosophical make up is not going to happen.
Why?, because it doesn't exist.
But "there it is", you say, "there is a sign on the door, so what ever it means, it must exist!"
Of course it doesn't.
I just made that up obviously.
Just because we can talk about something doesn't mean it exists.
Other than the existence we give it with our thoughts.

Gendanken,

>>No, we usually steer away from bulky attempts with flowerly acronyms
(GR, Coooh, Cahhhhh, ooooooh, ahhhhhh) at philosophy becuase one picks up this scent of its author being either purposely obscure or purposely French.

Believe it or not, I put my theory up here, for people to comment it, so that I could make it more concise: I brought it to a point where I couldn't see further myself, so I asked for other opinions.

I think it has some merit to think in terms of generative rules, now I would just like to make it more clear.

Things take time.

Give people some credit!

And gosh, don't start me with Derrida. BBH made a wonderful statement about Derrida's super-obscure, super-empty, super-nothing verbosity as one of the most prominent examples of a grandest failure to communicate.
Dang Derrida, he's not even worth a proper curse. And to hell with Lacan too.

This statement sums up your theory nicely:

it is all jus a matter of our imagination.

Alain,

ME - i cant imagine what the universe would be like b4 the big bang, if i try i either end up 'looking' at a black screen, or at a white one, or sometimes a white screen with an infinately small black dot in it, but what im trying to say is that we know the co-ordinates of before the big bang (ie time and space[everywhere]), so by your theory we SHOULD be able to imagine it

No: What we DO know is that coordinates CAN be there. Just like books in the library.

But as long as we aren't able to give *actual* coordinates, we cannot make up a space/time situation. That is: we may know that there are books in the library, but as long as we don't actually take a certain book to our hands, we don't know what that certain book is.

Theories of time and space that present them as linear and continous eventually put up speculae Herculis at some point, saying: so far, but no further. And that was bothering me: they set up a transitory logic, and then say that it simply ends somewhere. A generative approach avoids that.

did that make ANY sense to anyone??? if it didnt, tell me and ill re write it.
I understood it, it was a good pont to clarify.

M7,

The difference lies between looking at these "co-ordinates" objectively and actually trying to experience them. We have some kind of experience in which to relate all of our co-ordinates.

Yes! It is about concepts and how we understand them. Like the books in the library: we know that there are books in the library, but as long as we don't go to the shelve and actually take one to our hands, we don't know what a book exactly is.

Because there was no "begining",a something from a "nothing", we have no refference for this infinity, or, non-time, non-space thingy majingy.

Yes, we can only come up with all sorts of guesses. And even "Because there was no "begining",a something from a "nothing"" is another guess.
It is the generative rules in our mind that allow and enable us to do so.

The generative rules cannot discern between real world coordinates and imaginary world coordinates: GRs are more basic.

It is us, due to our experience, that call some coordinates as those of a real world, and some other as those of an imaginary world.

This also explains how progress and development are possible: the GRs help us to think "how it would be if ...", and then we can try this out in the real world -- and also make it a real world.

We cannot experience "non-existence".
There was no "non-existence".
Isn't this the most obvious thing?

Hehe, not always.

You may be able to imagine certain characteristics of this infinty,
A long time ,etc.
Or what ever you perceive to be "before" the big bang.
There can be a sign on the door saying" pleyastics inc." You may have some references to it, the fact that there is a sign on the door, that people talk about it, etc, but to understand it and integrate it into part of your philosophical make up is not going to happen.
Why?, because it doesn't exist.

Well, we don't know if it doesn't exist. Just because we don't see it, doesn't mean that it isn't there. We are limited beings. So far, we just don't know about certain things, but we can make assumptions about them.

Just because we can talk about something doesn't mean it exists.

But it may become existent.

I *can* talk about my new dress and how I will sow it -- it is the "existence we give it with our thoughts". The dress is not there yet in reality. But when I'll get down to work, and finish it, it will be there.

moementum7 said:
This is awesome Rosa.
Very practical concepts.
And interesting to say the least.
I've known for some time that the past was a memeory and the future an idea. Thanks for sharing.
This however is a much more explict example.
Thanks again

Thanks. The pleasure is mine.

Not to bad Rosa. Very logical, hard to think of something to contradict it...I suppose it also reasonable to say we can combine coordinates correct? For instance we can combine how it would feel to jump off a building and getting shot so we can understand how it would feel to jump off a building and get shot at the same time. I have several questions for you though.
1. We have a child around 5 or 6 yeaers old. This child understand what sex is. Given a picture of a vase he sees a bunch of dolphins splashing and jumping out of the water. Give the vase to an adult and they see a man and a woman making love (I have the picture if anyone wishes to see it). Why does this child, who knows what sex is, see the dolphins other than the love making? He understand what it means so why can't he imagine or percieve it?
2. Why are we able to understand and feel the anguish of an immortal?
3. How can we understand how a clone would think and feel if we made a perfect clone of a human (reference to the "possibility" thread)? Especially if it hasn't been done and has no coordinates?

Thats it for now...

It is good to be here.

Votorx,

Not to bad Rosa. Very logical, hard to think of something to contradict it...
Yup, it's a cool theory, this thing ...

I suppose it also reasonable to say we can combine coordinates correct? For instance we can combine how it would feel to jump off a building and getting shot so we can understand how it would feel to jump off a building and get shot at the same time.
Yes, exactly! How we combine coordinates is a matter of our experience, and the standards of what is regarded as "normal" in a certain society. These standards can be very different (think religions, time periods), and they change with time.

But fact is that our mind technically allows them to combine them in ANY way. This shows that the generative rules must be something very basic and independet of content.

I have several questions for you though.
Thanx. Shoot!

1. We have a child around 5 or 6 yeaers old. This child understand what sex is. Given a picture of a vase he sees a bunch of dolphins splashing and jumping out of the water. Give the vase to an adult and they see a man and a woman making love (I have the picture if anyone wishes to see it). Why does this child, who knows what sex is, see the dolphins other than the love making? He understand what it means so why can't he imagine or percieve it?
The child's experience is different than that of the adults. The child has different knowledge of sex than the adults, he cannot possibly have the same one, not even a comparable one.

When we see something, we compare this to the already existing knowledge that we have, and then we sort of push it and adapt it into those already existing systems of knowledge. And we see that new phenomena in the context of our already existing knowledge. Hence the splashing dolphins.

Sidebar: With the child, it is not just the different experience as such; the child has a vastly different *emotional* evaluation of things than the adults, too. But this should also be understood within the already existing knowledge.

Also, if you would show that picture to adults in a Bushmen tribe, for example, they most likely wouldn't recognize the sex in it either -- they know sex, but they cannot make the connection with the dolphins, as they have never seen any.

2. Why are we able to understand and feel the anguish of an immortal?
I'm not sure I understand the question in the way you mean it, but I'll give it a try: We made some sort of an idea what it would be like to be immortal, and this idea of immortality is probably based on our perception of our life here. (Let's say that nobody really knows what immortality is, we made that term for reasons of grandeur, if you ask me.)
One aspect of immortality is that "things are always the same". In real life, if things are always the same, we are bored to death, we have Groundhog Day. That's horrid to us.
Immortality as infiniteness, as for ever, combined with our sense of boredom if things are the same, result in "anguish of an immortal".

3. How can we understand how a clone would think and feel if we made a perfect clone of a human (reference to the "possibility" thread)? Especially if it hasn't been done and has no coordinates?
We don't know how a clone would think and feel, since it hasn't been done yet (or let's hope so).
But generative rules allow us to generate any situation, as long as feed the rules some coordinates.
These coordinates are the real crux: we can also imagine coordinates that are not real. I guess we can also introduce generative rules for coordinates, the same as we have generative rules for time and space.

The thinking goes thus:
I make a clone of myself. >GRs>This clone will be like me.
I need to eat. >GRs>The clone will need to eat too.
I have a personality. >GRs> The clone will have a personality too. Etc. etc.

However, this doesn't mean that we are also right -- since instant human clones aren't done yet, so we cannot know whether what we think that the clone will be like will also be true once we do get the clone done (I do hope this will never happen).

Ever wondered why aliens in films are so much like humans or something from Earth? It is for these exact reasons: we ascribe them human qualities and characteristics, or of things that we know on Earth. All depending on whether we wish to present the aliens as nice and friendly, or as mean creatures trying to destroy us.
In this sense, aliens represent what *we* fear or wish most for ourselves.

Thats it for now...
Keep it coming!

Sorry I didn't realize you replied:

The child has different knowledge of sex than the adults, he cannot possibly have the same one, not even a comparable one.

I thought there was something wrong with this theory, there was just something that didn't sound right and I believe I found this flaw. Related to the above quote you suggest that a child cannot understand how sex would be like since his experiances with any sexual intentions are limited. Isn't it possible that the reason we cannot understand how the begginning of time and the end of time would feel because our knowledge on that particular idea isn't developed enough? Same thing goes for death and birth. While we may not understand now a few years we can very well imagine these things.

Votorx said:
I thought there was something wrong with this theory, there was just something that didn't sound right and I believe I found this flaw. Related to the above quote you suggest that a child cannot understand how sex would be like since his experiances with any sexual intentions are limited. Isn't it possible that the reason we cannot understand how the begginning of time and the end of time would feel because our knowledge on that particular idea isn't developed enough? Same thing goes for death and birth. While we may not understand now a few years we can very well imagine these things.

Yes, certainly! We cannot understand the beginning of time and the end of time because our knowledge of that particular idea isn't developed enough. Same goes for some other things.

But this is not the flaw of this theory. It is exactly why this theory has certain better points than the "usual" understanding of time and space: This theory says that in order to come up with a set of coordinates, there first needs to be some experience. No experience means no coordinates means no understanding of time/space.

I'm afraid one point needs to be clarified: "theoretical coordinates" vs. "actual coordinates". The generative theory suggests that time/space can be generated only with actual coordinates -- based on some experience or imagination. These are actual coordinates. Actual coordinates are such as is the book you have in your hands.

Theoretical coordinates are there just in theory, not in practice: the same as we *assume* that there are books in the library. And we make assumptions about these books, but we don't know what they are like. So they are just theoretically there.

Please note that I do not strictly differentiate between real world experience and imagination: BOTH can supply *actual* coordinates. Both of them can be more or less consistent with already existent knowledge.

The religious explanations, for example, of the Beginning and the End are most likely imaginary -- but they are there as actual coordinates.

Theoretical coordinates are such for which we assume that there might be, but we have neither real world nor imaginary experience for them.

Oh I see. I thought you theory proposed that everything contains coordinates which allow us to imagine those particular events/objects. Since some things don't contain these coordinates they cannot be understood. But now it seems that knowledge is also associated with this theory, if that's the case its just as simple to say that we cannot imagine things since we don't understand it.