Two Prospective Principles

Here we see a remarkable asymmetry. All of an organism's experience stretches from the present moment back into the past, while all of the organism's prospects for meeting its needs or improving its situation start from the present and stretch forward in time. Consider the following principle:

Because action always stretches forward in time, so must a mind that

reliably succeeds in action.

There is, moreover, a second, grimmer asymmetry. Why would it be that understanding what it takes to succeed reliably would give us a clue to how actual minds operate? Because we know that

In the game of life, life must win every moment of every day, while

death has to win only once.

Having what it takes to succeed, therefore, isn't simply a plus, it is a necessity. Animals run on batteries, the ethologists remind us, and death wins whenever the batteries run out. This means that effectiveness and efficiency in using energy is at a premium and can be enhanced by reliability in anticipation. From these two asymmetries can come a deep reshaping of how we understand all of the key processes of mind—attention, perception, learning, cognition, memory, motivation, and action control—and even the nature of human culture. The implications are system-wide and often surprising.

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