build a nest because it ’ s thinking about caring for its offspring; it does it simply because it has an overwhelming impulse to build a nest, courtesy of its inborn genetic agenda. A bear doesn ’ t consciously pack on weight to survive winter hibernation: it gets really hungry and then gets a powerful urge to sleep in a cave. We, too, inhabit that subjective, reactive “ now ” as the default state of our existence. So even though we do have various conceptions that a future of some kind sort of exists, we have a very dysfunctional relationship with it. Here ’ s the problem. Our recognition that the future exists – and that we ’ ll be in any of it – springs from a very new brain structure, the neocortex, which has no direct connection to the deep-brain motivational centers which impart urgency. The future is alternately a narrative suffused with myth, a cartoon pastiche of hopes and fears, and something we prefer not to think about at all. Thus, our perception of the future is, at best, abstract and at worst, either delusional in its optimism or dismissive. This worked well enough when we were savannah hunter-gatherer tribes with limited ecological effects, thinking maybe a week ahead. It ’ s wholly incommensurate with the challenges facing nuclear-armed nations engaged in geo- engineering the planet. Like all biological organisms with finite lifespans, we care more about the present than we care about the future. We prefer an immediate payday to a larger payday sometime in the future. This dynamic inconsistency between the abstract “ what I should do ” and concrete “ what I actually do ” exists in myriad aspects of our lives – losing weight, cleaning our house, eating healthy, saving the environment. All are tentative plans we agree to begin tomorrow, until tomorrow becomes today. If you think about it, you can see why. Deferring rewards – leaving food for another day, making plans for our children NEXT week, etc. - were selected against in our ancestral world where events were in constant flux. If you did not react immediately in our species ’ past, food might wind up in another belly instead of your own, or you might wind up in a belly. The resources necessary for life do not go long unclaimed in a healthy ecosystem. If we wanted food, we had to eat it, carry it, or defend it before someone or something else did.
In addition to biological reasons (e.g. a healthy 30-year-old male in the U.S. has a 7.96% chance of not experiencing his 50th birthday 63 ), the reality of
Powered by FlippingBook