Not sure about you, but it seems like I spend most of my time in the future. We’re told to live in the present, of course—and I try. But at any opportunity my mind just races ahead, like an eager puppy. I’m planning my next meal, dwelling on that looming deadline, imagining the possibilities that lie ahead. In one sense, all this time spent puttering around tomorrow-land is kind of regrettable. But in another sense it’s really quite extraordinary. When we think ahead, when we cast our thoughts into the future, we’re exercising an ability that some consider uniquely human.
My guest today is Dr. Adam Bulley. Adam is a psychologist and Postdoctoral Fellow affiliated with the University of Sydney and Harvard. Along with his co-authors Thomas Suddendorf & Jonathan Redshaw, Adam recently published a book titled, The Invention of Tomorrow: A Natural History of Foresight.
In this conversation, Adam and I talk about two constructs central to the book—”mental time travel” and foresight. We discuss how these constructs relate to memory and to imagination. We dig into the question of whether our abilities to think ahead are really uniquely human. We review the archeological evidence for the emergence of foresight in our species’ evolution. And we also touch on—among other topics and tidbits— hoarding behavior in squirrels, tool use in chimpanzees, the Bischof-Köhler hypothesis, the control of fire, Incan quipus, hand axes, and longtermism.
Foresight is one of those especially tentacly topics. It connects to so many different other abilities and to so many questions about minds, culture, evolution. Both in the book and here in this conversation, Adam proves to be quite a skilled guide to all these connections.
There’s also something else notable about Adam: he’s an alum of the Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute (DISI). In fact, he was a participant in the first iteration of the program, back in 2018. So if you too aspire to do cool research, write cool books, and be interviewed on the coolest podcasts around, you might consider applying. Just note that review of applications begins soon: Feb 13. More info at: disi.org
Alright, friends, on to my chat with Adam Bulley. Enjoy!