Mental Time Travel: Your Brain Is Literally a Time Machine | Dean Buonamano

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Published on May 8, 2017

Humans have thrived like no other species on Earth. We have established habitats on all the continents, mastered agriculture, invented technology, and we are unique in having culture. All that can’t only be due to opposable thumbs, and indeed it isn’t. Our mental faculties distinguish us from other animals, and consciousness—a mental state as dynamic as it is mysterious—is most distinguishing of all. From an evolutionary perspective, consciousness gives humans a powerful advantage by allowing us to plan far into the future. Squirrels store nuts for the winter, but humans imagine further out, planning systems and institutions that protect our security beyond seasonal irregularities. Neuroscientist Dean Buonomano explores how our minds deliver us the goods, and how studying consciousness with consciousness presents some tricky problems. Buonomano’s book on the subject of consciousness and time is Your Brain Is a Time Machine: The Neuroscience and Physics of Time .

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Transcript: So consciousness is one of the deepest questions in science and I think consciousness may very well be the deepest question and one of the deepest mysteries science has ever coped with. And this is one reason, by the way, that neuroscience is a very unique field in all of sciences.

Video and more on the book below

A leading neuroscientist embarks on a groundbreaking exploration of how time works inside the brain.In Your Brain Is a Time Machine, brain researcher and best-selling author Dean Buonomano draws on evolutionary biology, physics, and philosophy to present his influential theory of how we tell, and perceive, time. The human brain, he argues, is a complex system that not only tells time but creates it; it constructs our sense of chronological flow and enables “mental time travel”?simulations of future and past events. These functions are essential not only to our daily lives but to the evolution of the human race: without the ability to anticipate the future, mankind would never have crafted tools or invented agriculture. The brain was designed to navigate our continuously changing world by predicting what will happen and when.

Buonomano combines neuroscience expertise with a far-ranging, multidisciplinary approach. With engaging style, he illuminates such concepts as consciousness, spacetime, and relativity while addressing profound questions that have long occupied scientists and philosophers alike: What is time? Is our sense of time’s passage an illusion? Does free will exist, or is the future predetermined? In pursuing the answers, Buonomano reveals as much about the fascinating architecture of the human brain as he does about the intricacies of time itself. This virtuosic work of popular science leads to an astonishing realization: your brain is, at its core, a time machine.

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