April 25, 2017

"The human brain... is a time machine that allows us to mentally travel backward and forward, to plan for the future and agonizingly regret that past like no other animal."

"And... our brains are time machines like clocks are time machines: constantly tracking the passage of time, whether it’s circadian rhythms that tell us when to go to sleep, or microsecond calculations that allow us to the hear the difference between 'They gave her cat-food' and 'They gave her cat food.'"

32 comments:

eric said...

C.S. Lewis discussed this. How we are different than all the other animals because we can actually feel pain before having experienced it. Like being told to go to your room and wait for your father to come and spank you. Usually, those moments of waiting are worse than the actual spanking.

M Jordan said...

Roberts saw it two hundred years ago in addressing Mr. Mouse:

Still, thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!

traditionalguy said...

Only The Spirit in a man knows the man.

JML said...

It also allows us to be what we are not when we watch an event - we become a part of the sporting event or action.

Now I'm waiting for Laslo to riff on this thought...I anticipate his words before he writes them, knowing whatever thoughts I have will fall way short of what he would ultimately write if he so chooses to address the topic.

AReasonableMan said...

Brains and bodies are miraculous things except for the fact that they wear out. That is not so good.

n.n said...

Time travel, actual or simulated, is an illusion propagated by a belief in invertible processes. In the scientific domain, memory and prophecy are characterized by accuracy inversely proportional to space (or product of time and space) offsets from a frame of reference.

Thus we have "never again" demoted to "choice". Institutional prejudice (e.g. racism) promoted to [class] diversity. Speculation to the edge of the universe and beyond. Human life reduced to colorful clumps of cells that may be deemed unworthy and denied basic human rights (e.g. right to life) by the mother and State.

Fernandinande said...

Time is nature's way of making sure everything doesn't happen at once, and your brain is nature's way of making sure you don't understand very much of it.

AReasonableMan said...
Brains and bodies are miraculous things except for the fact that they wear out.


The amazing thing is that DNA molecules exist and fairly accurately copy themselves for hundreds of millions of years as they make new bodies.

The Godfather said...

Look at it from God’s perspective. He’s created the Universe, but it’s boring! It’s boring because He can tell exactly what’s going to happen in every instant of time in every place in the Universe. In the Newtonian Universe, God knows where every particle is, and what it’s direction and velocity is, so it’s simply a matter of computation to know where every particle in the Universe will be in the next second, the next millennium, or a hundred billion years from now. Boring! Even if you add in the complications of quantum mechanics, that doesn’t change much. We human beings can deal with Heisenberg uncertainty, so surely God can. Still boring!

But if God creates sentient beings, it gets more interesting. The laws of physics don’t dictate where that particular antelope will wander next, or whether that lioness or another one will pick that particular antelope for dinner. And if God creates a being that is not only sentient and fairly intelligent, but capable of planning for the future, capable of acting “intelligently”, then there’s a play that could be interesting. Even to God.

Fernandinande said...

The Godfather said...
The laws of physics don’t dictate where that particular antelope will wander next, or whether that lioness or another one will pick that particular antelope for dinner.


Why not?

Lewis Wetzel said...

MacMillan is almost there.
It's a small step to go from what should be obvious -- the past is a creation of our imagination -- to time is a creation of our imagination, to the world and everything we will ever know is a creation of our imagination.
What isn't a creation of our imagination? The self, the thing that imagines the world.
This is nearly the opposite of the scientific world view, which says that time and matter have a real existence, but the self is an illusion.

The Godfather said...

@Fernandinande: What law of physics would determine the actions of the antelope and the lionesse? I submit that there is none.

tim in vermont said...

C.S. Lewis discussed this. How we are different than all the other animals because we can actually feel pain before having experienced it. Like being told to go to your room and wait for your father to come and spank you. Usually, those moments of waiting are worse than the actual spanking.

Written like somebody who doesn't own a Labrador. And I don't even spank him, but boy does he feel guilty when he does stuff like eat a loaf of bread somebody left out.

Lewis Wetzel said...

Godfather, every action by lioness and the gazelle require work to be performed. In theory, you can track down the causal chain: muscles contract mechanically when electric potential transmitted from the brain down a nerve causes the molecules that make up muscle tissue to change their shape. The neurons in the brain transmit the change in potential. The neuron that causes the muscle to contract is caused to fire by another electrical impulse. Nothing happens as a result of conscious decision, it's just neurons firing because they are caused to fire by signals from other neurons.

tim in vermont said...

Nothing happens as a result of conscious decision, it's just neurons firing because they are caused to fire by signals from other neurons.

You're just playing with definitions.

tim in vermont said...

Not that I am a big believer in free will, but you know what I really really don't believe in? The people who push the idea that there is no free will, and so freedom is an illusion and therefore worthless and can and should be taken away for the greater good. That is an evil way of thinking and should be opposed at every turn.

tim in vermont said...

This Idea Must Die: Scientific Theories That Are Blocking Progress

"Free Will" is one of the ideas that "must die" to make progress.

Lewis Wetzel said...

Everything is playing with definitions, tim in vermont.
If there is free will, my picking up a stone, when I might have chosen not to, is as much of a miracle as the resurrection. It would be mechanical work in the real world without a real world mechanical cause.

AReasonableMan said...

Fernandinande said...
The amazing thing is that DNA molecules exist and fairly accurately copy themselves for hundreds of millions of years as they make new bodies.


That is great for the almost immortal genes but not so great for their hosts.

The Godfather said...

@ Lewis Wetzel: Why should anyone pay attention to what you wrote? Your muscles contracted mechanically when electric potential transmitted from the brain down a nerve caused the molecules that make up muscle tissue to change their shape. The neurons in your brain transmitted the change in potential. The neuron that caused the muscle to contract was caused to fire by another electrical impulse. Nothing that you wrote happened as a result of conscious decision, it was just neurons firing because they were caused to fire by signals from other neurons.

Boring.

tim in vermont said...

It would be mechanical work in the real world without a real world mechanical cause

So what's your point? Are you going to change the way you live because of this 'insight'? I won't. I would rather live as though free will were a real thing. As far as I am concerned, it is.

tim in vermont said...

Or perhaps there is a path that God laid out for me at the instant of the Big Bang (Creation) that I am curious to see play out. If God created the Universe in such a way that his will would play out over time inextricably, as the unwinding of a clock, how is that any different than God influencing events in ways that seem beyond our natural laws throughout time?

Roy Lofquist said...

"When the province of physical theory was extended to encompass microscopic phenomena through the creation of quantum mechanics, the concept of consciousness came to the fore again. It was not possible to formulate the laws of quantum mechanics in a fully consistent way without reference to the consciousness." ~ Eugene Wigner

"The doctrine that the world is made up of objects whose existence is independent of human consciousness turns out to be in conflict with quantum mechanics and with facts established by experiment." ~ Bernard d'Espagnat

"In the beginning there were only probabilities. The universe could only come into existence if someone observed it. It does not matter that the observers turned up several billion years later. The universe exists because we are aware of it." ~ Martin Rees

http://quantumenigma.com/nutshell/

tim in vermont said...

I think, therefore I am.

Fernandinande said...

The Godfather said...
@Fernandinande: What law of physics would determine the actions of the antelope and the lionesse?


The laws of Animal Sprits, of course, similar to the way your car's internal combustion is controlled by the Fire God, modulated by the Gasoline Sprit.

Everyone is familiar with the Fire God, of course, but not so much the Gasoline Spirit, which is greater than the actual gasoline because it embodies the essence of the gasoline itself, and is also regarded as a guide which might appear in dreams in the form of a talking gas can, and sometimes walks through life with a person, teaching and guiding them, and in some instances protecting them.

If something is difficult to understand, spirits and their ilk have been the "go to" answer for thousands of years.

Lewis Wetzel said...

tim in vermont-
Of course free will is a real thing. I was merely explaining how the scientific realists view the world. All of them act as though free will is real thing, but they say it doesn't exist. Once you believe that physical effects occur without a physical cause, you are down the rabbit hole.
Some people believe that the world is running along like a clock, but that God (or whatever) comes in occasionally and makes the laws of nature change temporarily. I don't think that position is tenable. It's either all supernatural, all of the time, or none of it is.
It's all miracles.

David said...

An reliable off switch for that agonizing regret would be very useful. Sometimes mine works and sometimes it doesn't.

Bay Area Guy said...

Father Time is undefeated...

tim in vermont said...

Some people believe that the world is running along like a clock, but that God (or whatever) comes in occasionally and makes the laws of nature change temporarily. I don't think that position is tenable.

Oh, so you were answering what other people think. Ok, I just don't get why you addressed your comment to me.

Robert Cook said...

"C.S. Lewis discussed this. How we are different than all the other animals because we can actually feel pain before having experienced it. Like being told to go to your room and wait for your father to come and spank you. Usually, those moments of waiting are worse than the actual spanking."

C.S. Lewis was being presumptuous, not to say dismissive of the emotional complexity of non-human animals. I must assume he never had any pets or closely observed the behavior of animals in other contexts for him to have made such an incorrect statement.

tim in vermont said...

But never forget that gender is entirely a social construction of the patriarchy.

Fernandinande said...

Roy Lofquist said...
"When the province of physical theory was extended to encompass microscopic phenomena through the creation of quantum mechanics, the concept of consciousness came to the fore again.


Even though it pretty obvious, Feynman explains why all that stuff's just a load of hooey.

Guildofcannonballs said...

It's a bald face lie for R. Cook to say he must assume what he says he must assume.

Now I must have assumed you may very well assume correctly fear of punishment isn't identical to "doing the right thing for the right reasons" which is, for all we figure, what C.S. was declaiming in reference to.