Correct, ‘we’ do. You know what doesn’t perceive time? our brains. A brain, absent a body cannot perceive anything, nor is it capable of ‘understanding’ or ‘learning’ or ‘seeing’ or any of the myriad wondrous things it has been said to be capable of. (I am ignoring the very short period of time after it is removed from the body when it may still have some residual electrochemical/biological activity as it is immaterial to the argument). Suffice to say your brain is not capable of ‘manipulating time’ as the title of this article suggests. Leaving aside the fact that perception of time is a very complicated and not well understood phenomenon, only you are capable of having this perception, your brain is not. Only of a (mostly) whole human person (and some non human animals) with a (mostly) intact nervous system including a brain can we say they are capable of having perceptions, including perceptions of time. To suggest otherwise is to commit the mereological fallacy. The assignation of behaviors/characteristics/attributes to a part of a thing that can only (logically) be applied to the whole thing. Sadly it seems neuroscientists, at least in the popular press, have still not learned the lessons taught by Bennett and Hacker over 15 years ago now when they first described this logical problem in their seminal work, Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience. It really would not be that big of a deal, and I wouldn’t get so worked up about it (this is after all the popular press and these are articles intended for the non-neuroscientist so using imprecise wording is generally considered more acceptable if it helps illustrate the point the author is trying to make) if it weren’t for the fact that this illogical way of thinking and writing/talking has now been embraced with enthusiasm by the computer sciences but in a mutated form I refer to as the compulogical fallacy. Computers and machines are said to be capable of no end of wondrous activity and have skills and abilities previously only humans possessed. Even though factually nothing has changed, and it remains true that only humans can do these things and have these abilities (e.g. learn and have intelligence) because of the rampant commission of the compulogical fallacy the bulk of humanity believes that computers/machines can and do as well. What was once a problem for neuroscientists and philosophers and effected only a very small subset of the population with very few if any real world consequences, has become a problem that impacts a large portion of the global population with unknown and unforeseeable consequences. Who ever said neuroscience never did anything for the world?

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Research scientist (Ph.D. micro/mol biology), Thought middle manager, Everyday junglist, Selecta (Ret.), Boulderer, Cat lover, Fish hater

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