Mental Time Travel: Understanding the link between our past, present, and future


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"Everything was pitch black, and all you feel icy water running over your fragile body. A distant voice calls out your name, and it seems your body relieve by hearing it. You open your eyes, and the light slowly illuminates the dark alley. The echoes of voices become louder, and you finally face its faces. It turns out that you were cryopreserved to live into the distant future. But sadly, you don't know any of the faces. You find out that your family and friends are long gone. You are living a new life, which puts you into a wander and an alienated world."

That story is one of the common themes of time travel, like what Steve Rogers does. It is the subject of science fiction time travels as much as using time machines. It doesn't just occur in movies and writing, but some people's wildest imaginations too. Have you ever wondered what it feels like to travel through time and space? That would be awesome. Right? We can would you go back to the past and witness historic feats at the frontline. Maybe, we travel to the future and wonder about a world we dream of to be what we vision the modern and future is. Well, we can't do time travel like we are much familiar with within science fiction. But time travel is, maybe, possible through our mind and memory.

Some people see the past as a blast, while others prefer the future as humanity's aperture. The old-fashioned would argue that the past is better than the future. They will indulge us with historical feats, and our forefathers formed what we have today. They will set examples like Oppenheimer's a bomb or Bell and Marconi's early concept of communication. World war as ruthless tyranny and humanity's first walk on our moon is clear descriptions from our past, but we can't completely describe the future and what it holds. The futurist will always count on that possibility of a better future.

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The past was a blast.

How do we define the past or our past? Our answers vary to how we define it by ourselves, but one thing is sure, the past is a treasure trove that is out there to be unburied. We have many mysteries unsolved, and thinking about how many items are on the world's mystery list blows our mind, like the City of Atlantis being real or how our ancestors built the Pyramids and Stonehenge despite not having the construction technology. During the world war, many people had a traumatic experience while their homes were devastated by war. But on a lighter note, a lot of beautiful and fragile stories are born.

There are several books about the misfortunes of people in war and the birth of technology to end the war, like Helen Keller's diary and Allan Turing's cracking the enigma. After the war, nature engulfs the remains of war, but we can still trace the aftermath of war in our society. Aside from ancient civilizations, war shaped us. It shows that our battle shaped who we are. Despite the unpleasant experience of war, people can still celebrate good stories out of it.

With all the historical events in our distant past, past events shaped who we are and the world. The past, present, and future are all built on the foundation of history. The technologies we have today are a byproduct of what they continually develop in the past, like artificial intelligence, automation, blockchain, quantum, supercomputers, and brain-implants, to name a few. These technologies connect us all more than ever and close the gap between cultures.

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Experience taught us well.

At some point in our lives, we commit mistakes that others unconsciously believe that a time machine would have been a better solution if it was a real thing. People always resonate with experience as the best teacher. But is it true? We always find ourselves in an unpleasant scenario or witness one. We experience it, not just once but over and over again. We are too human that we brush it aside and ignore the vicious circle. Continuing to ignore will embed our development unless we come to our senses and self-reflect.

Science has an interesting explanation of distress upon committing mistakes in our lives, called cognitive dissonance. Leon Festinger explained the psychological theory in 1953. He proposed that we have a hidden propensity in our actions ad behavior in harmony to avoid dissonance. Our actions and behavior can sometimes be inconsistent, creating dissonance like spilling our morning coffee out of the blue. We naturally respond to restore harmony in our actions and behavior to settle conflicts in our lives, like being upset drives us into achieving stability in our daily lives again.

When discomfort cognitive dissonance happens, we become aware of what was wrong and what causes our miseries. As we become more self-aware of what makes our mistakes over time, we can identify our own biases and slingshot ourselves to a higher plane of self-awareness. That is when we are aware of how our conflicting beliefs impact our lives. It is like going over our history and finding out what we lost ad rewriting it to what is correct. The more we experience it, the faster and more accurate is our actions. Experience taught us well that moving on and keep charging forward is one of our best actions.

History influences the present, and we create the future from our present. That is why it brings greatness. Our actions can become boundless for our holistic development regardless of how big or small when applied with utmost self-awareness, whether it is on a familiar or random person who will bring humanity to the future. And speaking of our future as humanity's aperture, that is on another box.

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Our future is far more exciting.

When one thinks of the future, initial thoughts would be flying cars, space travel, and towering skyscrapers. Our idea of the future is prosperity and innovations, and it makes our future existing. It will ultimately serve as the aperture, the concentrating lens of a camera, into something we strive for and dream of ourselves.

When reflecting on the past and future, our cognitive behaviors seem more vivid responses from the former than the latter. Mental time travel came out in prints around 2007 that showed our brains are more active and have vivid imagery when recollecting the past. When we reflect on our future, scientists associate an increased self-awareness and more abstract knowledge relating to our identity and life stories. Maybe, the abstraction is due to our innate curiosity and imagination.

In the early 1900s, our ancestors envisioned the future of having flying vintage cars and vintage telephones attached with a microphone and projected imagery from the phone itself. We didn't have the flying cars today, but instead, we have much slimmer smartphones and super cards that are far sexier and luxurious. Their vision of the future may not be what we experience today. Maybe, we can say their future is false. At least, we have something to look forward to in our future.

What would happen in the future? Some believe AI is humanity's final invention, but I don't resonate with them since there are more technologies in the future. Elon Musk proudly states in one of his interviews with Joe Rogan that, in the future, we can have the means to download our brain's content using a powerful brain implant. It will allow us to live without flesh in the future, coining the term Internet Ghost, which can be our AI extension. The future is uncertain, like historical mysteries. Everything is shrouded in uncertainty, whatever time it takes place. If we have achieved such technology, we are still unsure that it passes the test of time like we are uncertain of inventing it.

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Progress is inevitable.

We wonder how things work as they are, whether through discovery or merely by coincidence. It seems our lives are in a world within a sandbox game at an insane level of difficulty. That one physicist theorized our universe is a simulation when finding out Shannon's error-correcting codes embedded into our universe. Jame Gates found error-correcting codes in the theoretical equations that govern how our universe work. He believed that this code is unlikely to occur in an uncomputed world. The universe is a simulation is a bold statement and sounds crazy, but if found to be truthful, it can ooze us with different possibilities like reincarnation. Scientists see the error correction process in replicating DNA too.

Looking at how our world layout abundant resources, we are just like one step behind in welding together elements to become a new material that soon the foundation of our humanity's comforts. I quite intrigue by our abilities to discover things. Fire is a vital discovery of our primal ancestors, but did they find it like how vividly describe in our bedtime stories. Andrew Scott argues that ire wasn't a discovery, but a progressive innovation, due to the abundance of oxygen in the earliest periods of Earth. Our primal ancestors tried to preserve that violent and start-up fires. They would add combustible dung to keep the fires. Later on, they developed the cognitive ability for cooking and other uses of fire to progress their humanity.

Our understanding of fire can be the same as how we are trying to understand black holes. Black holes theories existed far back in the 1750s. Albert Einstein's theory of relativity to Stephen Hawking's black hole theorem and other scientific works strengthens the idea of black holes over the years. In 2019, our humanity experienced the feat of taking the first photo of a black hole using the Event Horizon Telescope. The photograph confirms its existence, and it paves a better way to study it. We can draw the boundaries here and say that everything is theoretically feasible, but we don't have the means to do it.

The idea of knowing something has to exist, yet no means of proving or providing applications is what drove us into progression. Our curiosity and imagination fuel our thirst to prove something exists beyond mathematical formalism and understanding why it exists. We tend to incline into the concept of futurism. But what drives us into a progression? We should be satisfied with our little bubble reality. It is free of collective thinking about how things and how life flows on Earth. The concept of an isolated bubble points out that we can't grasp what is outside our bubble. An isolated bubble ignites us to come out of it and explore. Sometimes it is the reason why we innovate.

What would be the general feeling of the entire world when the main headings on the newspaper were Hitler was dead? One thing for sure is the utmost surge of elatedness. The inevitable thinking process that a whole better and future opened for them. Progress is natural, no matter how ugly it is, no matter how prosperous it is. It keeps us moving forward, and that is the very concept of the future. Despite what the sunshine of our future holds, we depth nights of our past. Our history foretold a very unfortunate chain of events. War is unpleasant and devastating. But thanks to these unpleasantries, we thrive on progress.

Progress is inevitable. Sometimes we progress from a beautiful mess. Our envisioned Utopia may never happen. Our society would exist in the same way but maybe with better technologies. A consumer exists to buy goods and a producer to sell. Sadly, the disparity between our lives in society will still exist. Someone has to do the dirty work and blue-collar jobs, while others enjoy their fortunes, but one thing is sure, we have chances for our progress. At the eleventh hour, we are to progress into something, whether beautiful or not. It is something that we can look forward to shortly.


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Conclusion

Where shall we draw the lines when comparing the past and the future? We cling to the very reality of the past and the optimistic ideality of our future itself. Our emotions and mental cognition help us understand the lessons from our past and the possibilities of our future.

Going back to mental time travel provides us a means of traveling through time by mentally projecting ourselves in the past or the future. We can reflect on an event from our past or imagine scenarios in our future. Mental time travel explains that our mind is a time machine. Our mental time travel shares pieces of evidence that promote better self-awareness, and more positive emotions, and idealism.

Again, where do we draw the line at all of these? It is the recollection tendency of us humans when it comes to the past. Or our concept of curiosity about what the future holds. It depends on our mindset. When we miss something, we reflect. When we feel optimistic, imagine and envision the future.

All things we do are relative to our past and could be the deciding factor for our future. It is all up to us where do we set our mental time machines. We can admire the past of its stories or envision the possibilities of the future. Scientifically, it does good for us. We learned our lessons from our history, and reflecting on it brings us to better days in our future. One thing is sure that our progress links our past and future.

"Fast ahead, you made new friends, went on an adventure, faced numerous setbacks, and eventually triumphed over them. You sit in a corner and wonder whether you belong in the past or the future. I sound a bit cliche, but I must say that it is not about our destination but the trip we went through. Thus, it is beautiful progress."


Readings

  1. Michael C. Corballis, Language, Memory, and Mental Time Travel: An Evolutionary Perspective, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

  2. Bridget Murray, What makes mental time travel possible?, American Psychological Association

  3. Sarah Lewin, Is the Universe a Simulation? Scientists Debate, Space.com's Science and Astronomy

  4. Clara Moskowitz, Are We Living in a Computer Simulation?, Scientific American

  5. J.A. J. Gowlett, The discovery of fire by humans: a long and convoluted process, Philosophical Transactions of Royal Society, Biological Sciences

  6. Andrew C. Scott, When Did Humans Discover Fire? The Answer Depends on What You Mean By 'Discover'

  7. Jennifer Chu, Physicists observationally confirm Hawking’s black hole theorem for the first time, MIT News

  8. Ian O'Neill, Black Holes Were Such an Extreme Concept, Even Einstein Had His Doubts, History

  9. Katherine L. Bouman, The Inside Story of the First Photo of a Black Hole, IEEE Spectrum

  10. JR Torpe, All Your Isolation Bubble Q’s, Answered,

  11. Joe Rogan's Interview of Elon Musk. Video links: Joe Rogan Experience #1169 - Elon Musk, and Joe Rogan Experience #1470 - Elon Musk

  12. Marian L. Tupy, Human Progress: Not Inevitable, Uneven, and Indisputable, CATO Institute

Photo Credit:

All photos are photographed by Phan Minh Cuong An. It is accessible through Minanfotos' Gallery in Pixabay. All photos under Creative Commons without attribution and free for commercial use.

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