tv Dean Buonomano Discusses Your Brain is a Time Machine CSPAN August 10, 2017 8:01pm-9:30pm EDT
intelligence in his book the knowledge illusion. neuroscientist dean want amano has investigated how people perceive the passage of time. he sat down with ted chang, author of story of your life which was adapted into the story called arrival. it begins with the museum's director of programs and engagement. this is one hour early minutes. >> welcome everyone. i'm director of programs here at the museum where we do our best to channel some of the great traditions of the high himalayas and offer them to you here in the 21st century. what are we discussing tonight. this is a series called brainwave where we pair scientists from other walks of life to try to figure out what
this thing we think of as reality actually is and maybe it never is, but we will find that out tonight. no question. so, this whole series is based on the idea of perception. those of you who have gone to the shrine room will know that the shrine room is devised as a sensory experience. you see things, you smell the fragrance in the air, are you allowed to touch the beings, just don't touch the really precious objects if you don't mind, and you really just take the whole thing in. you can hear the sounds and you also realize how limited you are in terms of your perception because you're not taking everything in.
they're not five sentences, there are six senses and the sixth sense is consciousness. the one that processes the input from the so-called outside world. now, what has time got to do with that? that's what we are going to try to explore today. the notion of whether time is something that is relative or that it is fixed or there is a future or there isn't and some would think given our present situation that there isn't a future, but hey, let's take courage and explore the nature of time, past present and everything in between. maybe these are just words they don't actually mean very much. well, oddly enough, dean who is here from ucla and he's a professor of neurobiology and psychology just came out with a new book called your brain
is a time machine, the neuroscience of physics and time, but this is the way he starts his book, intriguingly. right to the very beginning. he launches in a chapter called flavors of time. time, person, year. way, day. five words. what do the words have in common, he asks. anybody want to venture? any takers? >> read them again. >> time, person, year, way, day. i will cut to the chase. this is what he wrote. they didn't recognize them as the five most commonly used nouns in the english language. the word time sits atop the
list along with two others and it's a consequence of the overwhelming importance time place in our lives. we are not asking for the time, we are speaking of saving time, serving time, keeping time, not having time, tracking time, bedtime, timeout, buying time, good times, over time, and my personal favorite lunch time. this is about the perception of time through the use of the vehicle that we use most commonly to communicate which is language, but our language, you can see it's sort of wrangled from left to right. it's linear. it does that. how many people saw the film
arrival? a handful. all right. how many people have read the stories of your life. fewer. that's interesting. so the rest of you, congratulations. thanks for coming out. not wearin knowing what you are in for. let me just describe, in his book which is the basis for this film, these creatures of being from another world arrive on earth and they tried to communicate with someone who is an expert in languages, and they use graphs, and in the film they are depicted as
multidimensional expressions. you can read them in three and possibly four dimensions. these pods communicate in this way. that's the language so the question we are going to ask first is does the language change the perception of time because they have to use the language to instill in the translator and understanding of multiple futures that are lived currently. that exquisite notion is what i leave you with because you will discover more and were so delighted to have him here. for those of you who don't know he is a science fiction writer, but over the course of the past 25 years with his stories, he has won so many awards.
he has one for nebulas. for hugo's, for locus is and the award for best new writing. he is much beloved, please welcome our guests. [applause] >> so taking the queue, maybe we could start off talking about language and time and i think this is something that you certainly delves in story of your life and i touch upon. maybe it would be helpful to set up the stage for discussion to talk about a few terms that will be helpful when we talk about time in terms of how philosophers
often view what time may or may not be. we talk about the present and the past is real in the future is real and some version of this future is real. the past present and future alare all equally real and it's an arbitrary moment in time so now is the time as here is to place. your story certainly embraces the notion of a journalism where the past present and future are all equally real, but language is inherently present so we have the things that are normally related so there's some sentences that i have to read twice because it's hard to talk about this with language so you have sentences like i remember when
you will be 1-year-old or i remember what you say when you 12. it's hard to process sentences because languages and set up to talk about that view. can you maybe elaborate on your view of how language constrains you or talk a bit about time in language. >> so i don't think there's any language that would really help us understand paternalism , the at the paternalism that the future and the past are just as real as the present, that is, i think people who
hold to that can only do it in abstract fashion. i don't know that we are capable of really feeling it, living it, and i don't think human consciousness is capable of really embracing paternalism. i think all language will just reflect the fact that we are, we live in the present. i think that, it's interesting , animals who lack language, i think we would say they only live, they only have knowledge of the present.
humans, perhaps a result, we have a bunch, the past is something different in the future as being something different. that is something that animals do not have. but, the different ways that our language can reflect our awareness of the past and the future, i think different languages do offer different perspectives on that and that's one way i try to explore and destroy. >> i'm reminded, it's naturally enabling the concept of time travel. your story doesn't necessarily
engage time travel directly, but i'm reminded in reading your book one of my favorite lines from douglas adams in which the distance future, the trying to figure out how too do time travel but they had to prohibit him, not because of the paradoxes or causes that it created in potentially bringing back, but because verb, conjugation was too complicated. i think this is something that you come up against in terms of verb can't conjugation and becomes wildly complicated in terms of expecting an idea that may happen in the future but you can avoid. what's your view, obviously
you wrote some fiction, but on a more serious note, what's your view. do you think only the president is for you, do you think it's the past present and future are equally real? nobody knows the answer. what's your view. >> i guess i am persuaded by the arguments from physics. it makes a case that i find pretty persuasive that the future is as real as the past or the present, and, it's not one that i can really inhabit, but at an intellectual level, i understand the argument and i buy into it so i do agree
that we live. >> it's sort of a standard view in physics which is this notion that in part, because time is relative you end up with the situation in which there is no absolute siebel to nati. events near and far, it doesn't make sense to ask if their simultaneous because it's relative to your perspective to your speed or so forth. this ends up going into this universe in which everything has already been laid out. this creates a severe clash with their intuition. it sort of mocks our intuition
of time passing her time flowing in which the past is in assessable. it's gone. we certainly feel that way, and the future is wide open. there is this clash between the physics of time and i would say the neuroscience of time. do you feel that this is an illusion that time is flowing. the idea is that if everybody'everything is laid out, time doesn't really flow as much as it would just exist so this flow of time is an experience for us and physicists have struggled with this. do you see this clash or does that bother you? >> i suppose it depends on what we mean exactly by allusions.
i think physics is not say that we ought to be able to remember the future and actually, there is some work now on why it really makes sense that we can only remember in one direction and not the other so in a sense, there's no expectation that we ought to be able to remember the future. it's not so much an allusion that we don't experience a paternalism. it is a function of the way our brains work or perhaps the way any information system can work, not specifically our brains but, why is it that we
can remember the past but not the future what even is the difference between the past and the future from a physics standpoint. >> there is an arrow of time that is a result of dynamics, that if we say the universe started with the big bang, that was stated low and if the universe ends, that's extremely high entropy from one end to the other of the block universe so why is it that we feel that we are
moving in one direction as opposed to moving in the other direction. there is a theory that memory, based on some work, regarding any information and reading recording information, that would inevitably involve an increase in entropy. any event that that is recorded would have to be closer to the low entropy and of the block universe than the time of recording. that means any memory will have to be of the lower direction and that's what we call the past.
if this is correct, it would be impossible to remember the future because that would mean it would require accurate gratings of a higher entropy date and that might be physically impossible. so if that is true, then any information system, including our brains could only contain accurate information about one direction which is the lower direction so we call that the past. as we record more information we sort of for see that as our conscious moving through time. >> this notion of asymmetry of time in which if we live in a universe it should be bidirectional, why don't we
remember the future as saying i remember when this will happen, or something along those lines. i think physics and neuroscience have to collaborate a bit more here ultimately because the fundamental laws of physics don't seem to have any special meaning for the present. it doesn't seem to be as arbitrary so if that's the case, and time doesn't really flow, we have to decide if we want to interpret it as an objective observation about the universe. it certainly seems like the time is evolving into the future and that the actions i choose to make now affect the future, but, should we take
that as and empirical observation about the universe , one that physics may have to explain or, is it just a trick of the mind of one sort or the other, somewhat an allusion that neuroscience has to explain? i think that we should clarify and say that even though the standard view in physics points toward paternalism, there's certainly no evidence of that were no proof. i think depending on who you as ask, i think physicists will give you different answers but i think it's been expressed simplest interpretation. other aspects of physics don't
necessarily mesh with that including quantum. mechanics have a different treatment of time so it gets a bit complicated. in terms of consciousness and whether consciousness is compatible, i think it raises this issue of what consciousness is. consciousness is probably not this linear narrative that we use in language about the passage of time. , but it seems to maybe emerge in fits and bursts and an example that i would used to express this and this is a bit of a hard concept to understand, but we can sort of follow in bringing how you bring those senses. the first one is the mouse pad was beside the computer. second sentence, the mouse was hungry. the meaning of the word mouse is very different in most
cases. you can only interpret the meaning of that word by the word that came after. the mouse pad or the mouse was hungry. so if there's a linear flow of events taking place, i think that would be very hard to explain. and most people probably don't feel that they understood the word and then went back and edited it, but it's probably your brain waiting to the appropriate moment for your unconscious brain to feeding conscious narrative, i think to resolve these issues and resolve these questions of whether conscience as we know it is compatible with physics or that interpretation, i think it would be interesting and one of the few fe fields where they have to collaborate
more. i feel like the questions are bring up our making sense in the sentences. that's certainly a concept for neuroscience and linguistics. i'm not so sure it's a question for physics. i agree that it does indicate that our perception as we make sense of language is something that is deconstructed and it is not immediate, we are probably lagging behind our
sensory input sewers hearing the words but we're not really making sense of them, we are not constructing a narrative out of that so that gives us time. i guess i feel like i'm not sure there's a physics, i don't know if that something physicists need too. >> i think the intersection was in the decision from whether we should interpret our conscious perception or this theory of the flow of time as empirical evidence. so take another aspect like perception of color.
color is an allusion in the sense that it's created by the mind. color doesn't exist in physics. what exists is wavelengths of electric radiation. color is the brain interpretation of the wavelength and its subject to evolution. color is an allusion but correlates tightly with the physical property. it's incredibly adaptive if we live in a world in which time does not really flow but it's
more static and the question would be what would be its evolutionary value if we have a sensation that has no correlation in physics. i think the need is to come together. should we accept it as interpretation or fact or should we take our subjective passage of time, what constitutes that as the work? time will tell.
[inaudible] everybody does this. animals don't seem to have a grasp of the past and the future is much as humans. >> how did they come to acquire that ability. some people believe it's metaphor and understanding space and our ability to understand time relies on our ability to understand space. this understands why we in most languages use spatial metaphors to talk about time.
in hindsight that was a bad idea or your thinking. [inaudible] this notion that we use spatial metaphors is a patient elevation of time. whether it's true or not is a natural phenomenon. a couple investigators study this with very common examples and alas the audience, next wednesday's meeting has been move moved forward two days. who thanks the meeting is now on monday? who thanks the meeting is now on friday? we have a majority of people who are egocentric with time so what that means if you think the meeting was on friday, that sort of implies you have a sense that you're moving through time and since you're moving monday tuesday wednesday, moving it forward it on friday.
if on the other hand it's static and time is moving toward you, that would imply a more time centric were time is coming toward you and interestingly enough this time perspective is not the case. it varies according to what you are doing. that's difficult. another one that comes up is this issue of the future being forward. >> yes so were talking a little bit about this before, in english and all european cultures, we all think of the future as being ahead of us in the past is behind us and that is baked into most languages,
but it's not the universal idea. the aymara of central america, they think of the future as being behind them in the past as being in front of them. the first time you hear it it seems very counterintuitive, but there is a sense that it could make a lot of sense in that we know the past and so we can see the past and so the future is hidden to us so the future being hidden from us should be behind us in the past that is known to us should be in front of us. does that mean you're not walking backwards.
maybe, if you have the idea of this egocentric view that you're walking through time could be that you are standing in time is flowing around you and so more and more time is coming into view for you and that definitely requires a shift for most peopl people. as another example, the scientist did work with the people in new guinea and he found that they seem to
believe, based on how they talk and gesture that the future is uphill in the past the downhill. they live in and extremely hilly area so there's basically no flat land anywhere. everything is sloped but to some extent they think of the future as upslope in the past is downslope so the odd thing about that is that is not dependent on where you're facing. in our version of time they are dependent on every direction i'm thinking. it's geocentric. it's terrain centric so in
some way it's independent of the way you yourself are positioned and i don't think there's enough data on how fully this affects their conversations and how it infiltrates every aspect of their life, but it's an interesting thing to think about. i think that it's hard to think about time. there's a paradox that i struggled with that we sensationalize time and i think this changes how we think about time and making a lead some people to more readily embrace eternal wisdom. i raise the possibility that
due to the inherent specialization of time in equations and thinking about it and the tea access on grass as your brain becoming more and more familiar with it and i worry that creates a bit of a bias in interpretation in which we accept the standard interpretation a bit too strongly without enough empirical evidence which as i said is still lacking. if this is the natural interpretation think about time, what's puzzling to me is that you go through the literature and history and how long it took riders to come up with the notion of time travel. now it's everywhere. you can't turn mtv on without seeing a show about time travel, but shakespeare who
had predicted every hollywood plot ever skipped time travel. you look throughout historical writing and maybe there's a few exceptions, but until the very late 1800s which was coincidentally enough right around the delving into special. [inaudible] why is it do you think that something that's so common and universal now and stories about time travel was absent largely from the literature for so long. >> i do have a theory about thi this. okay so you know, it definitely struck me that a lot of things we associate with fantastic stories like
traveling to distant places, their present in ancient myths in some version, people being transported great distances, but yes, time travel does not exist in any ancient mythology. however, there is a sort of analog concept that does exist and that stories about prophecy because if you think about stories of prophecy as information traveling back in time, then this is the ancient version of the time travel stories anything for me the big difference between these premodern and modern stories and the role that time plays and time travel in modern
stories, i think that actually has to dowith an increasing importance in the idea of free will because the consistent thing in any mythological story is that the prophecy always comes true. you get some information about what will happen, the characters do their best to avoid it and all they accomplish is flinging it about. they reinforce the idea of fate that your destiny is fixed, you cannot change her face. , the idea of free will, your
future was not fixed, your destiny was not decided. just the term free will may only appear in the 1800s. for me the first crucial story of time travel is not the time machine but actually charles dickens christmas carol because there is the scene where scrooge is visited by the ghost of christmas yet come and he has a vision of his funeral and he dies unborn
and scrooge asks the spirit of christmas yet come, spirit is this what will be or is this what may be. right there he is asking, do i have free will. do i have agency. is my fate decided or is it open to me and, that is the first story because then whether it's a dream or not, he immediately sets back to change his fate to make sure that what he saw is not from the past. i think it's the first story and history where he got essentially a prophecy and he was able to avoid it, and i think that idea, that notion of agency that the future is not determined in your fate is
not already decided, i think that is what makes time travel stories possible because without that notion, time travel stories in which we can't change anything, those are not stories. that's not what we think of for a time travel story. it's the unspoken assumption that you can change, but there's an irony in that because eternal is him doesn't necessarily mean you can change anything and in the literature people sort of have this view of stories that are consistent or compatible or incompatible and in ted's story in the book is the perfect story that there's no
paradoxes that created in which there are cargo leaks that are broken in which you go back, time is there but it's not so much, the movie is a bit different. i don't know if there's an issue there are not, but it raises this issue of free will and can we change it. my view is the whole debate about free will is somewhat misguided everybody thanks it's my ability to choose something okay but what does that mean. your computer program can choose something. does that mean they have free will? it's a feeling we get when our unconscious brain makes a
decision. you would think about to step on ted's toe and he felt pain, that's the feeling that the conscious mind generates whether you believe in this view in which everything is laid out or not, i view free will as a slightly different question but in the context of time travel of course, the paradox arise. >> okay, a couple notes. one of the things with time travel, time travel stories subscribe to a blend that the
future and the pastor laces you can actually go to if the future can be changed then it's not real in the same sense that the epic that i am in his real. so any time travel story words possible to change things has to subscribe to a kind of mixture and internal is him. >> i agree in part because language is inherently present. these issues, i think are fine, but in terms of the science it's so, so difficult.
one of the things that is interesting is how the brain tells time and i think a lot of people, when you talk about your sense of time you're probably talking about knowing the time of day or knowing how long it is until lunchtime, but what you're doing right now is understanding speech. where using cues to communicate in the brain is incredibly sophisticated timing device and i'll give you two examples of that. language for example with two sentences like they gave her cat food or they gave her cat food. there's two different meanings there. another example is music and music doesn't make sense.
i think music would be less enjoyable in another universe because it's already out there. i give an example and i think if we can play the audio clip, this audio clip will be of a song and the challenge to you is to see if you can recognize the song, if it reminds you of anything, i will explain what it is. later i'll give you a clue and whenever i give this to my and grab a look at me with a blank face but the name of the group is the beatles so let's see if this song reminds you of anything. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪
>> does that remind you of any songs? does anything pop into your hea head? yosemite said yesterday. people who sort of picked up on that were paying attention to the notes, but the timing was totally up yesterday. it was a hybrid song in which we sort of cropped the songs as spatial and temporal and this shows how important time is to everything we do in the idea that time is really telling, but at same time, how sophisticated the brains ability is to tell time on the scale of hundreds of seconds and if you slow music down or speeded up or slow speech down
or speeded up too much it seems to be speech or music. so it's a very critical range for the goldilocks zone. do you think we should open up to questions at this point or is there anything else you would like to add? >> we can probably go on for hours, but is probably appropriate to take some questions. >> let's do that then. i think we should do that and i think we will be the referee. >> it is about time and we want to move time as quickly as possible, but that last music you was helpful because it allowed me to foretell the future of what might take place in this theater on may the 25th which is sean
corbin, rick moody, francis pro and the company will talk and play their favorite beatles tunes. why? >> well i'm a very simply, we are exploring this world of sound in the latter half and were only doing so because we've got this extraordinary little recording booth on the sixth floor. i haven't really had a chance to transmit your arm into the future along with thousands and thousands of other visitors but we are connecting all of your mantras and we will create a soundtrack for this new exhibition in june and based on your contributions so we are one people. who would like to ask one question. right in the baxter.
>> it might be problematic because if an animal has to wait longer before it receives the next unit of food and they would look for another food source or in some cases, you can teach an animal or modern theories that say animals drive confidence so maybe the sentiment. [inaudible] >> the notion wasn't that animals can't tell time, clearly it's well established that for many reasons that animals, not only animals but plants and bacteria tell time. an example you gave, the notion that we were referring to is not that animals cannot tell time, but they cannot
engage in mental time trouble and engage in long-term thinking. animals, of course, squirrels will store nets and birds will build nests in the dog will. a bone, but most of the data suggested doing that not necessarily thinking about the future but that more instinctual behavior. a signature of homo sapiens is our ability to think about the long-term future. the ability to carpet to her i is -- tool -- carved at tool is because were going to use this in the future. the notion of agriculture is unique to humans because we can conceive and connect the
dots between temporal cause-and-effect spread out over time. i was wonder if human beings can connect the dots between sex and pregnancy. is that something uniquely huma human? i don't know. if anybody knows the answer, let me know. >> with regard to the ability to plan for the future, i think there's very scant evidence. i read that they did observe some monkeys are apes that seem to have some ability to gather some rocks in anticipation of an event where they would need rocks to throw , but in general animals do not do that.
they will rely on rocks being around them when they're in the mood to throw them. they will not lay rocks -- that's what i was talking about with the ability -- humans being unique in our ability to know the future and think about the future, think about supplies. [inaudible] let's face it, there are some teenagers who can't do that. [laughter] would anyone like to exercise free will with the question. >> yes will come to you. >> you mentioned time is flowing and i think about water and streams and water is
recycled through evaporation, rain going back into the ground. do you think time can be recycled? >> there's a collection been for your memories at the back if you would leave them there. i guess i'm not sure what it would mean to say time would be recycled. some people believe time is cyclic. >> is gonna say, there is this idea of eternal recurrence and that you live this life over and over again, but in terms of recycling time, i guess that particular metaphor, that's an aspect of the time flowing metaphor which doesn't really apply. >> i agree.
>> i think there are some conditions, there is the musical groundhog day on broadway until something pinches the consciousness until they can register. the other one is the understanding that time is totally cyclical and it's such a massive arc that we cannot contemplate the range of it and there's this beautiful illustration where they are
described as massive cubes that contain the most minute tips of squirrel hairs and it's beyond concept of what we can imagine. each is represented by one of those tiny little squirrel heads. imagine yourself removing one squirrel hair once every year. that is the concept of time in buddhist philosophy. it's just too much. >> i was really intrigued by the theory you mentioned about
being able to store things and i was wondering if you could tell me more about where i could find out more about that theory and also is trying to think about examples where you can record things about the future and i think the closest thing i could think of is being able to make probability or a guess of what the future entails. >> okay, i'm afraid i don't have a specific reference for you. was it bennett, oh i don't think i read bennett specifically, but it was in
the context of quantum information theory. that might be a selling point. >> with regards to probability as a way of knowing the future , we will stick with physical quantum physics. i think their ability to predict the future, it varies lightly depending on the situation. there are some situations where systems behave in very predictable fashions and there are systems where you have a varied high degree of
nothing gives an evolutionary marriage but being able to protect what is about to happen. many people believe one of the main starting point of evolution was advantages provided by the degree to which animals can obviously imperfectly predict what is about to happen. if you look at a clock, tomatoes a prediction. you'll get a circadian clock. we think it is as clock, it's only what time it is but it also predicts and says this is when the sun will rise, so i think prediction timing and clocks go hand in hand. when it comes to this. >> i am surprised as one with that we have not specifically human behavior in thinking and emotions which is with
imagination. it is with imagination to be able to have yourself a different time space that allows you to do the planning but also allows you to consider something that does not yet exist in your current situation. and is also imagination emotional imagination is something key and certainly buddhist and king. so by putting yourself in somebody else's shoes, you are best able to exercise that fundamental essence of humanity which is compassion. and that is key to changing your, give us a reference for future, your core indication. so if you can do about
understanding how things are connected you have much less needs and seek the future and that is the way you actually subvert on and its effect on you. and that is also counterintuitive that i use that yes do have another question? yes, sir? >> i like the thoughts of each of you on whether you think the perception of time that we have to be considered i think the term is transport like the color rent due under the my experience of red is like yours? do you think that is the same with time or are we not sure about that? >> i absolutely think that my perception of the flow of time is - we can be dilated or contracted. i think there's something a lot
of people ask how is it time can be distorted? if you are engaged in a casket go quickly if your board and can be slowly. and this is an issue but i do not think much, i think the misdirection, i think the rum mystery is how we perceive time to begin with. not - the quality of time whether we perceive this is accurate or prolonged or contracted these are just parts of the brain's flexibility in assigning color to a thing or different color to another thing. so i think the real mystery is how the brain learns a sense of time independent of duration. and what those durations are, i think they are arbitrary. and remember that the ability to expand or contract is a quality that we have. i can ask you to place on quickly in your head or slowly
or do an action or play the piano at a fast tempo or slow tempo so it has the ability. for one speed of the clock or to slow it down. >> i do not have a lot to add but i wanted to just follow-up what tim was saying about imagination. and our ability to imagine things which we cannot actually for are not actually experiencing at the moment. this ties into what we consider one of the defining language, what separates language from animal communication. and that is the ability to refer to counterfactual. things are not actually happening here and now. when prairie dogs, when they were monkeys and they warn each
other about a predator they are warning about a predator that they see. they do not have the ability to say talk about the idea of predators that they do not actually see. they cannot refer to something that like yes, let's talk about you know - those panthers or whatever. they cannot engage in a conversation about things which are not in there here and now. when these communicate about they give detailed information about there is flowers to get nectar in this direction. but they have no ability to talk about tomorrow there might be nectar there or let's discuss if we have nectar what should we do? they cannot engage in any kind of speculation or reference to
things which are not actually happening. and the fact that humans can do this you know, is obviously essential in our ability to plan about the future and it is something that human language is unique in doing. it is the capability to refer to these things. and again, this is something linguists say is one of the things that distinguishes human language from animal communication such animal seemed to be able to communicate like chimpanzees and dolphins, they can communicate quite a bit but i believe there is no evidence that they're able to refer to things that are counterfactual in the way that humans can. but we also imagine the past.
so maybe do you want to talk a little bit about how memory is sorted - in terms of understanding the brain. >> i think we talk about memory we happen to the same word memory for computer memory or human memory we should probably have different words for those things. there might be a safer word but i think it is very misleading and when a computer stores memory stores it very isomorphic or faithfully to the external world. if it is a tape that we are taping this now it is the mapping of exactly what is happening but it is not what happens when you memorize something.you are not going to go home and remember the color of my shirt in the lineup later maybe. but you are going to run a contest.
so human memory, the goal of human memory, why do we have memory? discuss the pointer prediction. the whole point of memory is not to allow us to reminisce about the good old times but to help us prepare and predict for the future. the whole point of memory is future oriented. in order to do that, the brain does not store factual information behind the process information about the messages that are presumably going to be relevant. so memory in each context, because memory is not the path that we forget sometimes it is really about the future. >> i know you have questions. it is an issue during one thing before we go to the final three questions which is again, this is an example of buddhism in history that they really illustrates both those in a very interesting way.
so the great indian mystic - introduced buddhism and eventually the most effective time in the ninth century and when he did was plant into the future the spiritual time capsules and teachings that would be discovered by these treasurer bearers which you can call prophets that any future time would be able to reveal the teachings to a society that would be sophisticated enough through the passage of time to be able to see these elaborate teachings that were the relations of the initial precept introduced.so you have an example that creatively politically and socially savvy of suggesting that a belief system is malleable. time and can adapt itself.
this is we have to adopt ourselves in society and that allowed the lineage that you reference back to the past and get authority and yet you are independent. as a means of discovery and revelations. i think it would make an uncannily interesting exhibition. what do you think? i cannot tell the joke course. i don't know whether it would ever happen but let's see. we have three more questions. quick i know we have a cluster of hands there. and then will take questions. >> i wonder about how time relates to pain perception because you stress tolerance you have pain and you say it is sensibly. some people have the capacity to endure that time but some people do not.
and i wonder if you could speak to that. >> i think i find this is anecdotal. another is actually true time is relative and sitting, having conversations relativity is that sitting and talking to a lovely woman for an hour feel like a mere five minutes but sitting on a hot stove for a short time can "c" an hour. so it expends or dilates our perception of time. but how that happens there are theories that you have a clock and the circuits that tell time. and there are certain neural modulators one of which is dopamine that seems like it might be able to accelerate or de-accelerate but other than that we really do not know that
much about the neural mechanisms of either paying for that matter of suggestive part of pain. we know about the purple carpet we do not know i had good understanding of how the brain - ultimately the important part of pain. [inaudible question] >> i think it is clear. i do not think we have a clear answer to that yet. sorry. >> thank you for this conversation. we talked about past and present and past and future. i have always had a problem with the present because i am either living in the future or the past. not the distance but when you're walking on the sidewalk
-- so i came across this which is that the present lies at the intersection. [inaudible] given all of this understanding, that puts stress on living in the precious present. and my question to you is how do you come to that understanding of living in the precious present when the present is such a fleeting moment? [laughter] >> that is a tough one. do you have that? >> william james talked about time he referred to the present as the specious present, the misleading present. and it was this notion that verse was present is really
present because the brain has all sorts of delays. so in a sense we are certainly living slightly in the past. but the notion of the present and what it is is very tricky to grasp because it is not this time window. i think this time window is something we're sort of relating to earlier and it has some flexibility of what was present and maybe you're waiting for a full sentences to complete before your brain generates conscious perception. but if i say something - i think it is against the law i don't know but if i yelled the word fire, right? [laughter] did i just break the word? >> no you did not. no one was particularly alarmed. >> that is something that would
be relatively quick so the presence there you have shrunk that and processed it quickly. so i think this notion of what the present is again in part in physics and neuroscience now is sort of a trade but in the conscious perception what we define as the present is some sort of creation of the brain and the last thing i'll say about this is that right now, when you're looking at me there is a delay between the sound coming from my voice and the sight of my lips moving. those things are really happening in sequence to me. your eyes are seeing my lips move. before your hearing the voice. but that delay can be significant. so our seven sitting in the fact that the delay could be 60 or 100 narrow seconds. so that is a significant delay.
your brain is going to create a nice present narrative. saying this is happening simultaneously but it is not good it is another way that the present is relative. >> i have something to add. at present. so - [laughter] i would love to be able to say that the transport was in the present of every second of every day but is not true. however, we do deliberately engage in experience on wednesday lunchtimes at 1 o'clock. in mindfulness meditation which allows you and it is a deliberate practice, a technique by which you register the process of just breathing
and again, breathing is the first thing you did in your life and it will be the last thing you do in your life i'm sorry that comes as a shock. but that is really basic, the basic tool we have to foster existence breathing is what we focus on. and that allows you to get to the essence with practice. i'm sorry, you will have to come every week. one last question. have you really got a good one? you have got a good one. >> we spoke earlier about how most language is biased and how in your story and in the movie, there is negative maybe you know he turned his, language and a view. we think that your point of view is something actually possible and is it worthwhile if it is?
>> if it is possible to know the future? [inaudible question] >> i mean - i guess, i think it will be possible to have a language that does not have quite the same biases that english or most languages do. whether that would actually change our perception of time, i was saying before, i do not actually believe it's possible for us to know the future. so the idea that it appears in the story that is learning the language allows the protagonist
in movie to know the future - [inaudible] i do not believe that language can do what happens in the story. but i do, i definitely think that - a language with a very different way of representing time could shift our, a lot of our attitudes about time. i cannot really be specific about what effects it would take but i do feel that again, some of the examples that we mentioned about how different languages treat time.
and just the fact that our sense that the future lies ahead of us and a past life behind us. i think most of us that feels really deeply embedded in us. but to realize that it is just the cultural thing i think it is valuable because that indicates just how profoundly culture can affect our perception of ourselves and the world around us. and so i imagine that it is sort of a reminder that we, humans are maybe more flexible than we initially think and perhaps things that we take for
granted as being inevitable. our perhaps not inevitable. and so and that would apply to our perceptions. >> yeah, i mean - to take a bit of a scientific way math is a language in science is a language. in a sense that's what math and the laws of physics do. they take a more eternal view. she asked the question i think that there is a way to treat that which do not necessarily imply eternalism . i think that the laws of physics do that. >> there is another form of communication that does not
necessarily or that allows you to have a sense of time or process and it is active looking at a work of art. your i will inevitably roll over it and find different things and different connections which then register in a different sense and understanding. yes, it is through the passage of time so that it can always be re-channeled and challenged in the process of that particular communication from artist to viewer. and so i would encourage everybody to go upstairs in the galleries and check it out and see what happens. it could be kind of a cool experience. we are open on fridays until 10:00 p.m. so you can engage in that but i'm sure that before you do you will stagger up six flights of stairs.
laden with the book and if you don't have them already. they're happy to sign them for you right after the program. so we have been talking about really the way time might be - and isn't curious that the last question was about language and time which was the very first question we started with. but thank you both so much for grappling with a very, very tricky thing. and we do not know what else to do here because we are fairly limited in our expression but however, we do have catalogs aplenty and given that we have been talking about how time transforms our perception on reality i think the most
fitting catalogs we can present to the two of you is with the first collection of the rubin arts which is called world of transformation because it is always will. congratulations on your book, is -- [applause] and thank you for your imagination. [applause] >> tomorrow night on booktv, interviews with members of congress from our original series "after words". senator sheldon whitehouse discusses his book captured about the political influence of corporations. then senator ben - the vanishing american adults about
how to raise children to be independent. senator mike lee writes about lesser-known founding fathers in his book, written out of history. and in her book the least among us, congresswoman rosa delauro writes about her work in defending antipoverty programs. booktv and prime time at 8:00 p.m. eastern here on c-span2. >> live coverage of the 2017 conference friday and saturday on c-span. at 1:00 p.m. eastern, a discussion on standing up for working families. and embracing progressive values.at 2:30 pm look at how to win back progressive power through organizing.then at 4:00 p.m., developing vision statements for the type of society progressives want to see. saturday at 10:30 a.m. eastern, senator elizabeth warren and naacp -- speak at the conference. at 4:30 p.m. former vice
president al gore and pamela - join us for live coverage of the 2017 conference on c-span. >> next on booktv, neuroscientist lisa feldman barret, author of the book "how emotions are made: the secret life of the brain".she recently spoke at a bookstore and newton massachusetts. this is just over one hour. >> lisa feldman barret is here tonight in celebration of her book "how emotions are made: the secret life of the brain". doctor barrett is a university distinguished professor of psychology at northeastern university with appointments at harvard medical school in massachusetts and at the general hospital in psychiatry and radiology. she received a national