Note — Sep 12, 2021

Imagining the Future Is Just Another Form of Memory

Seen in → No.187

Source → theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/10/ima...

From back in 2017, Julie Beck for The Atlantic gives a good primer on how our brains imagine future possibilities through a remixing of our memories. Good read to consider alongside the idea that all creative endeavours build on what came before, so perhaps an analogous process.

Also intriguing to realize that lots of good forecasting and futuring is done by people with a background and/or a sharp awareness of history, and that AI is also using past data to extrapolate conclusions and ‘think.’ Finally, notice the concept of the “cultural life script” which puts words on something that I’ve thought of often and have even given as advice: think of what you want instead of following what’s expected. Now I have an established concept to refer to.

The first clue that memory and imagining the future might go hand in hand came from amnesia patients. When they lost their pasts, it seemed, they lost their futures as well. […]

“We can’t really imagine or think that far into the future, and we can’t remember that far back, if we don’t have this cultural life script as a kind of skeleton for our life story,” […]

[E]ven though they can dream up detailed, novel scenes of things yet to come, their imagined futures are really just projections of their pasts. The future holds more surprises—and, potentially, more disappointments—than we might predict.