Time on the Brain: How You Are Always Living In the Past, and Other Quirks of Perception
I always knew we humans have a rather tenuous grip on the concept of time, but I never realized quite how tenuous it was until a couple of weeks ago, when I attended a conference on the nature of time organized by the Foundational Questions Institute. This meeting, even more than FQXi’s previous efforts, was a mashup of different disciplines: fundamental physics, philosophy, neuroscience, complexity theory. Crossing academic disciplines may be overrated, as physicist-blogger Sabine Hossenfelder has pointed out, but it sure is fun. Like Sabine, I spend my days thinking about planets, dark matter, black holes—they have become mundane to me. But brains—now there’s something exotic. So I sat rapt during the neuroscientists’ talks as they described how our minds perceive the past, present, and future. McDermott outlined the case of Patient K.C., who has even worse amnesia than the better-known H.M. on whom the film Memento was based. Alas, they couldn’t.
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