Monday 6 November 2017

#304 Why are our eyes in the back of our heads?

My ex-girlfriend and I tend to message now and then. Even though the relationships section of most libraries is probably filled with books warning against going back to old fireworks. What do they know though, right?

We were discussing how it had almost been a year since we met and how that seemed like a really long time. Or no time at all. I can't remember which. This post probably sounds like it's going to be about her now. That was actually just an intro. I'm headed places much less interesting. 

If you want to stick around 'til the time I have the strength and standing to really write about all of my life in public that's another five or ten years in coming at least. Sorry to disappoint. It'll be worth it I promise. 

But... this ability to look back at the past... to feel it and consider it and frame it. It's essential to our survival. I'd been responding to a thread in the Google+ Philosophy community on a subject entitled "Why do you live?" for the past two weeks. Those links might not work. I think you have to join the community.

Anyway someone had posted a message explaining that one of the reasons people live is that they're really bad at imagining the future. Take for instance, the millions of people who buy lottery tickets. For that feeling that they have a chance to become rich even though the odds of winning are only 0.0001%. Hope has an improbable component to it. Hence the title of Obama's book The Audacity of Hope. 

I started thinking what's the reason for this? Why are we able to remember the past and look back at it and analyse it but when it comes to the future, we're almost blind? The most obvious answer seems to be that the future hasn't happened yet but is there more to it than that? 

The lottery players participate in the draw because they need to hope that the future could be better in some way than it in all likelihood will be. Does evolution favour blue-sky thinking? Are we predisposed to be blind to the future because if we could see it, we wouldn't want it as much?


Fizzfan said...

You have no idea at how much I laughed at your explanation of people living because they can’t imagine the future.
It’s like “If only you knew, you really wouldn’t bother!”
Life for most is way less than expected but much more than probably anticipated.
Sounds good but really it’s just our ability to adapt and hope reigning eternal that keeps a lot of us going. And of course good old fear that stops us from opting out.

I don’t do the lottery because I know I’m bound to spend an ever increasing pot of money on it and am practically guaranteed of never winning. Extraordinarily bad odds that are not worth waiting in a queue to buy a ticket every week. Clearly many people disagree.

I puzzle about the question of life and it’s merits quite a lot but can only say that we mostly have an instinct not to die. A mixture of fear and curiosity about the future?

As Mark Twain said “I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it”.
It’s so true, but fear of dying far outweighs the fear of carrying on living by a mile. It’s a good thing mind you otherwise we’d probably be extinct.

Profound Familiarity said...

My granddad does his best to convince us. He tells us regularly to never get old but you're right, we pretty much have to because of all the instincts and fear and stuff.

I wonder if insurance workers on the whole tend to avoid lotteries. I worked in discontinued insurance for ten years and never played it.

I guess I don't mind the idea of being dead (one day) either although I'm not looking forward to the whole cancer/heart disease part beforehand... I just looked up WHO leading causes of death and cancer isn't even on the graph. It must be because they count the different types as different causes and would need to combine them for it to rank top 10.

Fizzfan said...

What’s discontinued insurance?

Yeah dying would be fine if it was quick n painless. Are you in or out on the whole euthanasia issue?

It’s clear either more people need to die or less be born, but we keep on inventing ways to extend life.
I hear poor old Wills is in trouble for bringing up curbing the population explosion.......bit hilarious when you’ve got your third sprog on the way. Mind you, it’s probably the poor he was referring to that should be kept in check rather than the wealthy......D’you know what, that started out as a bit of a pop at the rich, but then I actually thought about it and it really would make more sense for the poor to have less children and the wealthy more. That’s the worst thing I’ve ever put in print but whichever way I look at it, it’s still true.

Profound Familiarity said...

By 'discontinued' I meant run-off... books where new policies might not have been written for ten years but there can still be claims.

I see what you're saying. Those who can't afford to nourish a child would be somewhat irresponsible to make one, particularly since there's no shortage of people in the world (I say that like I know it when in actual fact I have no idea what the world's optimum population is).

Above the poverty line, I'd find it much harder to make a judgement. There might be some fantastic parents in relatively low-income households.