"Reality simulators are future generators."
The subject straps himself into the machine, which is programmed to present the environment of a baseball park. The subject finds himself at bat. The machine presents visual and auditory sensations to the subject which suggest that the pitcher is winding up. The pitch comes. The subject, interacting with the synthetic environment, eyes the pitch, and swings the bat. (The subject is of course strapped into a chair.) The computer analyses the swing in terms of the neural data provided by the subject, and determines that the subject has connected with the ball. The computer displays the ball as hit, subject to rules of impact, and motion, with which it was provided. The subject sees the ball fly up and out of the ballpark, concludes that he has hit a home run, and begins his ceremonial run around the bases.
The sequence of events described above—effects following upon causes in the context of known physical laws—was the creation of the machine. Given a slate of initial coordinates, and input from a participant, the machine created new coordinates, and re-displayed them to the subject as a real world in motion, proceeding forward in time. In machine-driven cyberspace, the machine is charged with the task of creating the future.
This is time travel into the future, at the default rate.
Non-default settings for the temporal constants with which a reality simulator is programmed will produce, in machine-driven cyberspace, a march into the future at rates inferior to, or greater than, that which characterizes normal veridical experience. The former will serve the self-indulgent, and scientists wishing to take a "closer look" at phenomena which ordinarily pass in a twinkling of an eye. The latter will produce an accelerated unveiling of future events, which is the "time travel into the future" of the science fiction writers.
The prediction of future events is the essence of interactive, machine-driven reality simulation.
Science already has considerable expertise when it comes to relating the state of a system to an earlier or later state of that same system. The latter is the activity of forecasting, in which we attempt to predict the future on the basis of the present. The weatherman, the earthquake man, the man who predicts what a "nuclear winter" might be like, or how high the oceans will rise if fluorocarbons are not eliminated, and the ice caps melt, are all forecasting future states of a system (in this case, ecosystems) on the basis of current knowledge of that system.
The former is not prediction, but retrodiction, by which we seek to infer what things must have been like in the past, in order that the present state-of-affairs be explained in the context of known physical laws. The "Big Bang" theory of creation of the universe is an example of a retrodiction. So is the assumption that a spouse must have left the car windows open, despite threatening skies, in explanation of an automobile found full of rainwater the next morning.
Computer simulations of future (and past) states of a system, based upon current system data, are already commonplace. The machine shows us how the cancer will grow, and how the petals of the flower will open. It anticipates next year's GNP on the basis of current economic indices, and shows how clapboard siding might be expected to decay. It shows us where the hockey puck will be one second later, on the assumption that someone knows where it is now.
These same techniques, applied to the data used by reality simulators in their presentation of synthetic perceptual environments, will allow the anticipation, and "premature" display, of future states of those environments. This is Being-there, later, in cyberspace.
© 1993, Gilbert Scott Markle.
All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.