May 19, 2017

THE SMARTEST HUMAN TRICK: Why the Future Is Always on Your Mind. The founder of positive psychology, Penn’s Martin Seligman, has joined with colleagues to start another field, prospective psychology. He and I argue in the NYT that Homo sapiens is a misnomer, because calling ourselves the “wise man” is more of a boast than a description. What makes us wise? What sets us apart? Other animals live in the moment, but we can’t stop thinking about tomorrow.

A more apt name for our species would be Homo prospectus, because we thrive by considering our prospects. The power of prospection is what makes us wise. Looking into the future, consciously and unconsciously, is a central function of our large brain, as psychologists and neuroscientists have discovered — rather belatedly, because for the past century most researchers have assumed that we’re prisoners of the past and the present.

Read the whole thing. Or check out the book-length version, Homo Prospectus.