Time Travel for Ghosts

Situation awareness and mental models are much weirder phenomena than people realize. In Tempo, I mostly talk about their non-weird, intuitively obvious aspects. The weirdness comes in when you start to become conscious of, and understand, the logic behind some of the seemingly odd things the brain does. A commonly cited illustration is Proust’s madeline. It makes no kind of logical sense that a specific kind of cookie should be the starting point for a process of gradually uncovering a lifetime of memories. But it makes a great deal of narrative sense. This is one reason fragmented memory landscapes are a popular plot device with film-makers. Movies like The Machinist and Vanilla Sky come to mind (I’d like to compile a list of such movies and rewatch them. Any other suggestions? I vaguely recall a movie with a fragmented-memory type plot that had the motif of scissors running through the story).

One of the best ways to understand how situation awareness and mental models work is to return to a place of significance in your life after a very long period of absence. You will experience the surreal logic of your mind. The best description I can come up with for the experience is “time-traveling ghost.”

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