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Time and Deja Vu: A Highly Speculative Essay

Updated on April 28, 2016
wingedcentaur profile image

The first step is to know what you do not know. The second step is to ask the right questions. I reserve the right to lean on my ignorance.


Quantum Theory

There is a famous, perhaps apocryphal story about an exchange between Albert Einstein and Neils Bohr. It seems that Einstein was having trouble accepting the then newfangled quantum mechanics. He said to Niels Bohr, "God does not play dice." Niels Bohr retorted, "Don't tell God what to do!"


Today I'm going to exercise my extrapolation muscle. To extrapolate means to use known facts to try to estimate the nature of an unknown reality. Another way of looking at it, is to say that I'm going to try to solve for 'x,' as it were.

I am going to consider a wondrous, amazing, seemingly impossible natural phenomena. Then I'm going to, in a sense, work backward---or reverse engineer the conception---in order to reproduce a set of circumstances that might give rise to said phenomena. Does that make sense?

You might even say that there is something rather CSI---which is to say forensic---about the procedure of extrapolation. In a homicide investigation detectives start with a dead body. You gather all of the known facts that you can at the crime scene; and then you must embark upon a whole series of moves to try to reproduce the events that led to the demise of the victim. And from there you try to work out (or extrapolate) the motive; and all of this, if the television is to be believed, should lead us to the perpetrator.

You are starting with the unknown of whodunit, and use must gather and then use all available solid facts to "extrapolate" into the unknown; and of course you either have to "prove" it or at least present the state prosecutor with a solid, winnable case.

Anyway, that's what we're going to try to do today.

The Problem

The problem we're examining today comes from one of the many observations of scientists within the domain of quantum theory, we might call it. Apparently, things can shape up in such a way that a radio wave can be received before it has been sent.

Yes, you heard that right. It seems that under certain circumstances, a radio wave can, indeed, be received before it has even been sent (1).


I should tell you that I am no scientist or mathematician. I am writing about this topic with no accredited expertise whatsoever. I am writing about this topic because I feel like it and for no other reason. If you can accept that, do hang with me, then, as I speculate with maximum irresponsibility.

And hey, Let's have fun. :)


Whenever I am confronted by "riddles" like this---How can a radio wave be received before it has been sent?---my approach is to slash right through the Gordian Knot. What I mean to say is that I try very hard not to outsmart myself.

What I am trying to say is this: First of all, I do not accept the premise that the radio wave has not been sent. I say that of course it has been sent and that it could not have been received otherwise.


Let us say that Phil is sitting at a control panel with flashing lights, switches, buttons, and levers in New Jersey. Phil is going to push the button to send the radio wave signal.

Let us say that Bob is sitting at a control panel with flashing lights, switches, buttons, and levers in California. Bob will receive the radio wave signal.

Phil seats himself at his control panel, as does Bob, as both mean prepare for the transmission.

Bob calls or contacts Phil, in some way, and acknowledges receipt of the radio wave.

Phil says that this is impossible because he has not hit the button to send it yet.



The argument that I am making is that the radio wave has been sent; and it has been sent by Phil, though not necessarily our Phil, but sort of another "Phil." But this "another Phil" is not necessarily NOT "our Phil."

What'chu talkin' 'bout, Willis?


Taking stock of where we are now

1. We're looking at the problem in quantum theory: How can a radio wave be received before it has been sent?

2. So far we have simply given a concrete representation of the situation with the Phil and Bob set up.

3. Phil is the sender and Bob is the receiver.

4. Bob acknowledges receipt of the radio wave but Phil says that he did not even send it yet.

5. To this I have proposed the Phil DID send the radio wave; but its just that "another Phil" actually sent the wave not "our Phil;" and that the two Phils are not necessarily different people.

Clarification and Definitions

In order to make point #5, above, comprehensible, I should give a couple of definitions---definitions I have composed, definitions I have constructed for my own conceptual and explanatory purposes. Still with me? Good!

Continuum: A person and another person; or a person and an object; or a group of people who exist and interact together within the same unfolding moment.

Present Continuum: What we quite justifiably think of as the real world, the here and now, the archetypal, prototypical, originating reality both of people and things.

Copied Continuum: A copy of the present continuum, which emerges on a contingent (or as-needed) basis and is dissolved when a present continuum's purpose is realized.

Again, Phil is the sender and Bob is the receiver. They prepare for this transmission in the everyday real world. They are in the present continuum.

Bob calls Phil and tells him that he has received the radio wave.

Phil says that this is impossible because he has not even hit the button to send it yet.

I am saying that "Phil" has, in fact, sent the signal. Its just that the "Phil" who sent the signal is the one of the copied continuum.

I believe that, for some reason, events have transpired more quickly in the "copied continuum;" and then that the result---Bob's receipt of the signal in that same copied continuum---has, again for some reason, been deposited back into the "present continuum."

So, "Phil" in the "copied continuum" sent the radio wave signal to "Bob" within that same "copied continuum;" and that "Bob," effectively, handed the received radio wave off to the Bob of the present continuum.


Analogy and Further Clarification

I know that my talk of "continuums" does not make much sense yet. But don't worry, it will. Please observe above that I have clipped in a picture of a copying machine.

You know, in our everyday lives, in our business and personal affairs, we frequently find it prudent, if not strictly necessary, to make copies of important documents---just as one might also find it prudent to back up one's personal computer files.

Why do we make copies? What is the purpose of this?

The answer is that we want to preserve information. We want to make sure it is not lost in case something happens to the original documents. If that information is lost for a significant amount of time, it can slow certain things down or cause one or another inconvenience. The loss of this information might slow down your paycheck, getting your driver's license, you might lose your Great American manuscript that's going to make you rich and famous, if you have not backed up your computer files, and so on.


Suppose I walked from this salt shaker to that pepper shaker. It is my intention to walk over to that pepper shaker. Now, the salt and pepper shakers and I, as well as everyone and everything in my view are part of the same unfolding moment, the "present continuum."

If I make it to the pepper shaker, then the purpose of that particular continuum will be fulfilled.

But wait, nothing is preordained. If, on the way to that pepper shaker, I am hit by a truck and killed, then that will be the "purpose" of the continuum, despite my intentions.

As far as I am concerned, however the moment unfolds is what the purpose of the continuum is. The question is: Will my intention of walking over to the pepper shaker be fulfilled or thwarted?

Deja vu

Deja vu is not just the familiar feeling: I've been to this cathedral before.

I've tasted this wine before, even though I know this is my first time trying it.

I've been on this trip before, somehow, even though this is my first time ever leaving the country, so I know I have never been to the Black Sea.

And so on and so forth.

Let me quote you something from the website on Deja Vu.

"As much as 70 percent of the population reports having experienced some form of deja vu. A higher number of incidents occurs in people 15 to 25 years old than in any other age group" (2).

"Deja vu has been firmly associated with TEMPORAL-LOBE EPILEPSY. Reportedly, deja vu can occur just prior to a temporal-lobe seizure. People suffering a seizure of this kind can experience deja vu during the actual seizure activity or in the moments between convulsions" (3).

"Since deja vu occurs in individuals with and without a medical condition, there is much speculation as to how and why this phenomenon happens. Several psychoanalysts attribute deja vu to simple fantasy or wish fulfillment, WHILE SOME PSYCHIATRISTS ASCRIBE IT TO A MISMATCHING IN THE BRAIN THAT CAUSES THE BRAIN TO MISTAKE THE PRESENT FOR THE PAST. MANY PARAPSYCHOLOGISTS BELIEVE IT IS RELATED TO A PAST-LIFE EXPERIENCE. Obviously, there is more investigation to be done" (4).

Let's put it all together

Let's put together everything we've learned so far, including the bit about deja vu.

Suppose, once again, I walk from this salt shaker to that pepper shaker.

When I arrive at the pepper shaker, the deja vu feeling that I have done this before comes over me.

Suppose that I start my journey in this "present continuum." Let's also take into account the bit we said about "copying" documents. Suppose, at the moment I form the intention of walking to the pepper shaker, one or more "copied continuums" are produced. Let us say that this is an ordinary state of affairs.

Let us suppose that under normal, everyday circumstances, that as I make the walk from the salt shaker to the pepper shaker, one or more "copied continuums" are produced; and let us suppose that as I make my goal in the "present continuum," the one or more "copied continuums" dissolve because they are no longer needed.

But now suppose, for a change, that one day as I walk from the salt shaker to the pepper shaker; but instead of every "copied continuum" being dissolved as usual, let's say, one of them remains intact.

Let us suppose that in this one "copied continuum," events are playing out in, more or less, the same speed as they are with me in the "present continuum.

Suppose that as I, in the "present continuum" reach the pepper shaker, the "other me" in the "copied continuum," has also reached it, and that result has been deposited back into the "present continuum."

Do you see what that would mean? You have a situation whereby I actually run into myself. What if something like that is behind the phenomenon of deja vu?

Let me simply close with this...

One relevancy of this topic I have briefly pursued, here, concerns a hard science fiction novel by Greg Bear called City at the End of Time. It seems to me that Mr. Bear pursued ideas very similar to what I have gone into with this essay. His novel was a very ambitious effort, but thinking about it now, I wonder if he wouldn't have been better served by writing an academic paper instead, or even a book-length essay.

I mean no disrespect to Greg Bear. I am not giving insult to his writing ability. I am only acknowledging that it was one monster of a topic to tackle and put into novel form. I don't believe any other writer could have done any better.

I wrote a review of the novel, if you'd like to take a look (5).

Addendum: added 04/28/2016


Let us explore some implications of all of this. Just for the sake of argument, let's say that my theory has merit. What would that mean?

Well, let's go back to our friends Phil and Bob. If Phil actually sent the radio wave in our "present continuum," and Bob received a wave that was twice the strength that it should be, then I think that would mean that we would have witnessed what I will call a Deja Vu of objects.

That is to say that what would have happened, I think, is that the radio wave---sent out by Phil in our "present continuum"---would have actually run into itself---just as I have theorized that you run into yourself when you experience deja Vu.

That is to say that, as I have theorized about how human beings experience deja vu, there would have been a parallel development going on with the radio waves.

1. While Phil sent the wave out in our "present continuum"...

2. A "copied continuum" would have been immediately generated...

3. You will recall from our earlier discussion, that I speculated that things happen somewhat faster in the "copied continuum" than they do in the parallel-running "present continuum"...

4. This must be so, I would think, so that the event can come to fruition in the "copied continuum," the result of which is deposited back into out "present continuum," just in time to clash into you in the "present continuum," as you achieve whatever object you are trying to achieve.

5. So, if "both" radio waves were to reach Bob, we would have the deja vu of objects.

I would think that if this were true, then it would augur some promising possibilities for energy conservation. After all, you would literally be getting twice the "bang for your buck," yes?

Of course, that would all depend on the assumption that a way could be found to manifest this "deja vu of objects" phenomena at will and control it.

Addendum (continued): added 04/28/2016

Implications (continued)

"Psychic Powers"

I should say that I do not believe in the mystical or supernatural. I do not believe in psychic powers. That is to say I do not believe in the existence of abilities that are detached from the natural functioning of the human organism.

And all of that is to say that I will not accept: E=MC2 (and then a miracle happened).

It is my belief that the human organism, like all biological organisms, got to be the way we are by the process of evolution: biological change over time in response to environmental change. I do not accept notions of "survival of the fittest," or anything like that.

I do not believe that human beings are continuing to evolve. We cannot stand up any straighter than we do and our big-brained, big-headed selves already give our mothers all they can handle in giving birth to us. And it is an "old wives" tale or "urban legend" that we only use a certain percentage of our brain's "capacity," and all that. Any neuroscientist will tell you that we use one hundred percent of our brains, one hundred percent of the time.

Furthermore, it seems to me, from a perspective of "historical review," the way we got to be the way we are was due to an environmental change that compelled the species that would become "us" to perceive the world in a radically different way. When the forests started clearing in the African Savanna, those beings gradually began to shift from perceiving the world in a smell-focused way to a sight-focused way.

Everything else followed from that. As our ancestors found themselves compelled to "see" what was "at the end" of the open space they were, you might say, newly "seeing," other physiological and anatomical changes occurred to facilitate the relentless curiosity of their newly opened up "sight."

In other words, the body was altered to meet the travel demands that the relentless curiosity of their newly opened up "sight" would engender.

Does that make sense?

Addendum (continued): added 04/28/2016

Implications (continued)

"Psychic Powers" (continued)

Having said that, let us try to follow a fully naturalistic course, and see if we can derive some additional possibilities.

First of all, given what I have said about our present condition owing itself to sight becoming the primary means by which our ancestors found themselves compelled to interact with the world,---then let me say: It is my belief that if human evolution were to ever "start up again," as it were, it would have to be because we have come to perceive the world in a radically different way.

If we were ever to come to perceive "time" or "time-space" in the way I have been describing, then, I think, that would qualify as "perceiving the world in a radically different way." And that would mean that additional human evolution should be stimulated.

And that would mean our bodies would have to change in order to meet the expanded "travel demands" that the "relentless curiosity" that our altered perception would "engender."

If you have ever read any of the Dune novels, either by Frank Herbert or any of the prequels by his son and a collaborator, you know of the "Navigators." I'm thinking something like that.

Speed-Of-Thought Travel

Essentially, what has happened with the radio wave that Phil sent Bob, is that the wave was turned into its own "duplicate."

This "duplicate," then did its thing in the parallel-running yet provisionally manifested "copied continuum."

This "duplicate" reached its objective or achieved its goal in the "copied continuum."

And then, as the result of this activity was being deposited back into the "present continuum," the "duplicate" radio wave has re-transformed itself back into to the "original" radio wave."

Now imagine if we, as individuals, could someday, turn ourselves into our own "duplicates," and so forth, that would give us speed-of-thought travel.

It would not be "teleportation," although it would look like it. Using this technique, you could not "teleport" your way out of a locked room, because it is locked. Your path could not be obstructed.

What would this mean for space travel, if we could bring this phenomena to bear on apparatus? That is why I mentioned the "Navigators" from the Dune novels.

Addendum (continued): added 04/28/2016

Implications (continued)

"Psychic Powers" (continued)

Psychokinesis or Telekinesis: the ability to move objects with the mind.

I do not believe in the power to mentally move objects because it is conceptually divorced from the natural functioning of the human organism. But if the species were to develop the ability through the evolutionary process, then I think it would function along the lines of the theory that I have been outlining.

One would not be firing an invisible beam of energy from the eyes, which latches on to the object and manipulates it.

No! The procedure would be a lot more elaborate than that.

1. First of all, you would not be able to move more with your mind than you can with your physical body. Why?

2. Because you would actually be commanding your "duplicate" from the "copied continuum" to move the object. I do not imagine that your "duplicate" is any stronger than you.

3. The actual "psychokinesis" procedure would be more elaborate than anything we have discussed so far. Here's what would have to happen.

a. Let's say I'm sitting at a table, staring at a salt shaker at the other end. I want to make "come to me" through "psychokinesis."

b. I would have to, somehow, summon the manifestation of a "copied continuum," with my "duplicate" at the ready.

c. Then I would have to compel my "duplicate," by some means to reach out and move the salt shaker to me.

d. Not only that, but my "duplicate" would have to be able to somehow, reach out from his "copied continuum" and into the "present continuum."

e. Then both "continuums" would have to remain intact, so that the process of my "duplicate" moving the salt shaker to me in the "present continuum," can remain invisible-seeming.

Addendum (continued): added 04/28/2016

Implications (continued)

"Psychic Powers" (continued)

What about clairvoyance or "Second Sight"?

I understand this to be the mystical faculty of being able to "see" things beyond the range of biological sight.

For example, I sit in a room and you sit in another room and hold up playing cards. I have to be able to tell you which card you raised.

Again, the only way to carry that out---according to the framework of the theory I have outlined here---is through the use of "copied continuum" "duplicates." In fact, I would have to be able to generate multiple "copied continuums" and "duplicates" (perhaps, at least a dozen or more).

You hold up a card.

In order to be able to "see" and tell you what your card is: I would have had to have had multiple "copied continuums" and "duplicates" generated, and waiting on "stand by," prior to the beginning of the exercise.

Then I would have to be able to, somehow, compel one of my "duplicates" to return to "me" with the information, both to the spot where I am sitting and the "present continuum" that is my dimensional home.

That's still not all. Because of what we know about how the deja vu process works, my "duplicate" would not be able to verbally tell me. He would have to "slam into me," as it were, bringing about the "temporal lobe epilepsy," we talked about before, which is associated with deja vu.

Certainly as the human body is constructed at present, then, we're talking about the risk of concussion, as with any other combat or high-velocity contact sport.

And finally...

What about "precognition" or the ability to "see" the future?

There is one bit of technology that I know of, which allows people to see the future, within the framework of the theory I have been elaborating.

I understand there is a device for television called a TiVo box. I believe this is the device that allows one to "pause live television."

Obviously, an image from a moment in time is frozen. Your screen is still. But even in that paused mode, ongoing moments are somehow being recorded. Therefore, when you un-pause action on your television, you have not lost a single moment of the game of the quiz show or the prime time soap opera, whatever the case may be.

That is how the "future" becomes accessible to us.

Following that logic, we would have to view ourselves, in the present, as essentially "paused," while subsequent events are proceeding ahead of us and are, in some way, recorded. Then we would have to be able to, somehow, "un-pause" ourselves long enough to go and look at the subsequently proceeding and "recorded" events representing "the future."

But just what is it, by the way, that has been "recording" subsequently proceeding events, while we, in the present, exist in the "paused" state?

Then we would have to go "back" to the spot, in the present, where we originally "un-paused" ourselves. And then, by definition, "re-pause" ourselves.

But why would anyone want to look at a frozen image for eternity?

"Bye-Bye!" as they say on the McLaughlin Group.


1. Armstrong, Karen. The Case for God. Alfred A. Knopf, 2009. 263

2. Retrieved 12/30/2014

3. ibid

4. ibid

5. Retrieved 12/30/2014


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    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 2 years ago from Minnesota

      This is a captivating topic and one that has always interested me. I have had a couple experiences in my life when I've had Deja vu. One of them was when my twin sister and I were out shopping with our mother. We walked into this antique store where sis and I felt the need to walk to the back of the store. We both felt as though we'd been here before, but knew it use to be a movie theatre. It was a strange experience that really intrigued my mother as she watched our past memory unfold.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

      I too find this topic interesting for I love the concept.. thank you my friend for sharing and happy new year :)

    • wingedcentaur profile image

      William Thomas 2 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      @Minnetonka Twin: Happy New Year to you, and thank you for commenting. I hope that I have done the subject some justice in my small way.

    • wingedcentaur profile image

      William Thomas 2 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      @Frank Atanacio: Happy New Year, buddy!

      Thanks for commenting.

      Take it easy. :)

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