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How can we choose future over present?

  1. Nov 29, 2014 #1
    I've been having deep thoughts that are driving me mad and making life seem unnatural.
    We have perceptions about the present, i mean, what i feel is what i feel at the present. Given that, how/why does the human being reason about the future and why does it seem so natural to prefer, for instance, a bigger reward later than a small reward now?

    I always used to think that, for instance, if i had several exams in a week i should study for all of them, and only after that should i go practice surf. I could simply surf during the time that i should be studying, i could have a pleasant moment sooner! If i study thought, i will be free to do all of that after the exams, but it will be LATER, not now.

    How can this work? If we perceive the present, how can we make choices that choose the future over the present? Is our brain magical? Can physics explain this? Is there some mathematical proof which shows that it is better to study now and have fun later than having fun now and having to study A LOT more later?
    Is it all subjective?
     
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  3. Nov 29, 2014 #2

    phinds

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    You are seriously over-thinking the simple concept of short term pain for long term gain. Very young children don't get it but as we mature the concept becomes rather obvious.
     
  4. Nov 29, 2014 #3
    Don't mind phinds, he's mature and brainwashed by society, tainted by common sense.

    I totally get what you're saying; there's no logical reason to prefer large rewards in the future over small rewards NOW. After all, in the future you'll be another person in the sense that the conscious entity that is *YOU* right *NOW* will eventually disappear. Your brain will change with time and hence who you are now will disappear to never reappear. You will effectively die away several times a day as you change. It seems there is no point in anything, life is empty.

    Isn't it sad?
     
  5. Nov 29, 2014 #4

    Danger

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    It's simply a sign of intelligence. Lower animals are not capable of it. Part of the drive is Darwinian, in that planning for a nice future is likely to provide safety for your family if you survive to have one. Critters do somewhat the same thing instinctively when they build a nest, for instance, or hoard nuts for the winter, but they don't know why they do it.
     
  6. Nov 29, 2014 #5

    russ_watters

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    I agree with phinds and would go further to say that your explanation contadicts your complaint about phinds'! Yes, this is a matter of common sense, which is to say it is a matter of simple logic.
     
  7. Nov 29, 2014 #6
    I was mostly trolling, but what's the flaw in the reasoning other than it going against common sense?

    OK, so you choose to think that what you are is not living in *this exact moment*, but throughout your entire life simply because you remember what your previous consciousnesses did before, because you have a common personality with these old consciousnesses and so on.
    Fine, but then what if somebody made a perfect copy of you and killed the old you in the timespan of a second? Then this copy would be you by the above definition of what you are, and hence logic dictates you should have no problem being copied and killed. I on the other hand am terrified because I believe I am living in this very moment, and hence the copying I talked about would kill me and just replace me with a copy who just looks like me.
     
  8. Nov 29, 2014 #7

    Danger

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    This was the basis of many people's objection to the concept of a "Star Trek" type transporter.
    If you subscribe to the Multiverse theory, as I do, it's happening to all of us all the time.
     
  9. Nov 30, 2014 #8
    It's memory, isn't it? When you want to surf NOW but have exams to study for, you REMEMBER what happened the last time you neglected some necessary task.

    We remember that the future will become the present. The future that includes a failing grade (due to surfing today) will make that coming present very unpleasant. Memory is what induces us to delay gratification.

    We never leave the present: our present memory of the past induces us to act in the present on an anticipated future present.
     
  10. Nov 30, 2014 #9

    Danger

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    Unless time is quantized, there is no such thing as "the present". Everything transitions from future to past too quickly to count the present as actually existing.
     
  11. Nov 30, 2014 #10
    A person might place some arbitrary limit on how long a situation has to exist to be "real," but Reality, itself, doesn't seem to have a minimum duration that constitutes "actually existing."
     
  12. Nov 30, 2014 #11

    russ_watters

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    That's a pretty big flaw -- I don't see it needing more than one big flaw.
    Huh? This is about the future, not the past and it has nothing to do with "a common personality". That's....very odd, to say the least. The fact that I remember the past only tells me that the future will eventually become the present and then the past. That's all I need to know to recognize that my actions in the present will affect my future.
    Honestly, are you high? This has nothing to do with anything here. But in any case, yes, if they promise to put my current brain on a much younger body of mine, I'm in!
     
  13. Nov 30, 2014 #12
    It will affect the actions of a future consciousness who will occupy your brain, not who you are *right now*. In effect, I was trying to say that the guy who will be inside your brain in 1 year will be somebody else.

    Who knows? Anyway read the next part of my past post. It's all about how you view your existence; if one thinks one's living in the moment (like I was writing/trolling about), it will be the same as getting killed while some new guy is born.
     
  14. Nov 30, 2014 #13

    Evo

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    This thread went downhill quickly. Closed.
     
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