Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Reminiscing About What Will Be or “The man who lost his past” has also lost his future.

Robert Burton writes in Salon about the film "Unknown White Male", a documentary about a New York stockbroker who loses his memory. Burton points out that although the condition of the subject is medically implausible, the film nonetheless offers an important lesson -
Imagining future actions requires past knowledge. Burton cites an April 2007 article in the journal Neuropsychologia. Harvard psychologist and memory expert Daniel Schacter and his research team suggest that the primary role of memory might not be for reminiscence but rather to facilitate thinking about the future. . . . They state that "there is no adaptive advantage conferred by simply remembering, if such recollection does not provide one with information to evaluate future outcomes." In order to perceive of a future one must be able to conjure up a past. The reverse is also true - if one can imagine a future, there must be a past in there somewhere.

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