Episode 1

What is the future?

Hello and welcome back to Mind Over Chatter! 

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This second series is all about the future - and in this first episode we’re going to be considering what the future even is… Have you ever wondered how time works? It turns out, the answer is a lot more complicated than we thought.

Join our wondering and wonderful conversation with philosopher of science Matt Farr, professor of psychology Nicky Clayton, and professor of linguistics and philosophy, Kasia Jaszczolt. We’ll be talking about everything from physics to linguistics… and from broken eggs to Einstein’s theory of relativity. 

This episode was produced by Nick Saffell, James Dolan and Naomi Clements-Brod. Annie Thwaite and Charlotte Zemmel provide crucial research and production support for Series 2. 

[00:00] - Introductions

[02:10] - A bit about the guests’ research

[04:28] - Does time actually go from past to present to future? And does time really ‘flow’?

[06:04] - The A-theory of time and John McTaggart Ellis McTaggart

[07:53] - The B-theory and C-theory of time (and a little bit more about the A-theory too)

[09:53] - How do B-theorists deal with entropy? Can you un-break an egg?

[10:44] - The difference between the A-theory, B-theory and C-theory of time - does time have a direction? And does energy/entropy have a direction?

[14:12] - Recap of the first portion of the episode, reviewing A-theory, B-theory and C-theory of time

[18:58] - How the mind understands the subjective concept of time

[24:24] - How languages talk about time differently and why these differences matter

[27:11] - The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis and how the way you talk about language affects the way you perceive and think about things

[30:21] - Recap of the second portion of the episode 

[34:02] - How do the mental and linguistic concepts around time fit with philosophical  concepts and physics of time?

[40:45] - How mental time travel works and how thinking about the past is different to thinking about the future

[41:40] - All biological organisms are subject to the laws of thermodynamics so we can’t remember the future or act towards the past

[42:55] - Cultural and linguistic differences in mental time travel and whether the past is behind us or in front of us

[45:46] - Is there a conflict between the psychological and linguistic models of time and the way physics handles time?

[48:20] - Recap of the last portion of the episode

[52:44] - Closing and thank you’s

If you want some more information about the different theories of time we discussed in this episode, this article by Matt helped us understand some of what was said: https://aeon.co/essays/the-c-theory-of-time-asks-if-time-really-has-a-direction 


Prof Kasia Jaszczolt @KJaszczolt

Prof Kasia Jaszczolt is a linguist and philosopher of language, interested in meaning in language, in the mind, and in conversation – how it is composed and conveyed.

She has written five books (most of them for Oxford University Press) and over 90 articles on these topics. Some of her favourite research topics include time in language and thought and their relation to ‘real’ time, semantic ambiguities, theories of meaning and communication, and representing beliefs. She gives lectures and seminars on these topics and always enjoys talking to students of all levels (undergraduate, MPhil and PhD) who share her enthusiasm for the study of meaning.

Dr Matt Farr @philosofarr

Matt is a philosopher of science at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. He works on various philosophical problems concerning time, causation and explanation, particularly what it means for time to have a direction.

Prof Nicky Clayton @nickyclayton22

Nicky is Professor of Comparative Cognition in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cambridge, a Fellow of Clare College and a Fellow of the Royal Society. Her expertise lies in the contemporary study of comparative cognition, integrating a knowledge of both biology and psychology to introduce new ways of thinking about the evolution and development of intelligence in non-verbal animals and pre-verbal children. She is currently President of the British Science Association Psychology Section.

Nicky is also the first Scientist in Residence at Rambert (formerly Rambert Dance Company), a position she has held for 11 years.

About the Podcast

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Mind Over Chatter
Welcome to Mind Over Chatter, the Cambridge University Podcast! One series at a time, we break down complex issues into simple questions.

About your hosts

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Naomi Clements-Brod

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James Dolan