Reality Blind - Vol. 1

dimension – is not about the self, but about one ’ s species and world. I care as much about a member of my race who will be born in a million years as I care about one who was born yesterday. This is inconceivable to a time - blind species like yours, but I assure you it ’ s not only true, but it ’ s necessary in order for there to BE a member of my race born in a million years. I like a good marshmallow as much as the next alien – what ’ s not to like about dissolved horse hooves and sugar? – but I would not consciously doom future persons or species for marshmallows during my lifetime. From my observations of your species, many humans would.

The Bottom Line: We are programmed to value the present and heavily discount the future.

Shifting Baselines

“ ..we live in a zoologically impoverished world, from which all the hugest, and fiercest, and strangest forms have recently disappeared; and it is, no doubt, a much better world for us now that they have gone. Yet it is a marvelous fact, and one that has not been sufficiently dwelt upon, this sudden dying out of so many large Mammalia, not in one place but in half the land surface of the globe . ”

Alfred Russell Wallace, 1876

Summary: Time bias also works in reverse. The recent past overly dominates our mental perceptions. In psychology this is called “ the recency effect ” . If you have to memorize a list of, say, 25 words, the 23 rd , 24 th and 25 th word on the list will be more often remembered than the 5 th or 12 th word, because they are fresh in your mind. A related concept in the environmental sphere is “ shifting baselines ” which refers to the fact that everyone defines "normal" as the way things were when they grew up.


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