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Golden Nuggets:A Favourite Quote
"Most of us accept the myth that we are rational creatures and masters of our own destiny. Till, out of the blue, something awful happens to us."

January 31, 2019

Golden Nuggets #4

Life in the Here and Now

According to current knowledge, humans like us have been on this planet for at least a million years. In this framework, a human lifespan of 100 is miniscule. From this perspective, consider how we live. We foolishly behave as if we are going to be around forever, forgetting that our entire life is just a blink in the eye in eternity.

From another perspective, life is lived in individual moments. String them all together - and you have defined your entire life. Therefore, for you and me, each day and each moment is precious. We all live in the *here and now*. NOW dominates our thoughts. How does one determine this NOW moment in time? A famous person wrote:
"... in politics the dominant time frame is a term of office, in fashion and culture it’s a season, for corporations it's a quarter, on the internet it's minutes, and on the financial markets mere milliseconds."
Forty years ago, the sociologist Elise Boulding said: “If one is mentally out of breath all the time from dealing with the present, there is no energy left for imagining the future”. This was long before the relentless media bombardment began - tweets, texts and images that hit us round the clock. Are we able to handle this information clamouring for attention - and yet find time to dwell on the long term? None of us reading this will be alive in the year 2100. Who has the mindset to think of the future of our descendants inhabiting the earth then?

Human beings have the innate ability to do mental time travel. That is, based on known facts, to imagine what life was like a 1000 years ago, or to analyse the consequences of our actions at a future date. But we do not always have the will or the motivation to escape the strong pull of the here and now. This pervasive human weakness - called present bias - favours short-term payoffs over long-term rewards. Scientists, technologists, artists and philosophers express this same idea in different ways. In simple terms, it is the old adage "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" that influences our decision-making and the choices we make. Is it surprising that short-termism may be the greatest threat our species is facing today?

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