Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

Mending, slowly

I’m getting better, but am not quite back to usual overworking, sleep-deprived self. I’m no longer hacking up respiratory organs, but still have a cough, tire easily, and get the occasional fever if I carelessly let the amount of ibuprofen in my bloodstream dip below some minimum.

Fortunately, while my body’s still trying to recover, I’m not as completely wiped out as I was last week. So it means I’ll be working, but for the next day or two will be doing so from bed or a couch.

Which is good, because I’m now engrossed in Daniel Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness, a book about the psychological foundations of how we think about the future, cleverly disguised as a book about how to be happier. I’ve recently developed an interest in the psychological, and even neurological, foundations of our ability to think about the future: there’s a lot of work that suggests that the parts of the brain we use to remember events in the past, and imagine events in the future, are the same ones, and it strikes me that futurists could learn some interesting things about how to practice their craft– in particular, how to craft their work to make it most useful.

But you can’t really think about those kinds of things if you have a hard time thinking past, “I need to refill the water pitcher after this coughing fit.” When your view of the future extends to when you can next take more albuterol, it’s a challenge to ponder the deep mystery of whether the evolutionary pressures that made us good at thinking about dinner might make us bad at thinking about the next century.

[To the tune of Blue Öyster Cult, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” from the album “Blue Öyster Cult: Super Hits”.]

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1 Comment

  1. A book I liked that is slightly related is Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman (MIT physicist).'s_Dreams

    Einstein’s dreams allow him to perceive time differently, and come up with weird things like the theory of relativity. Great story, and made me wonder about how different people have different capacities to think about past and future time.

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