Time: Back or forward?

Many people were confused about whether the clock would be switched forward or back today. This is a nice opportunity to visualize how unintuitive our abstract concepts can be, even if they seem so natural all year long. Why do we hesitate to accept that we have to forward “the time” ? Because it seems that in reality, it is being switched back: sunset is delayed.

A landscape with the sun being pushed back, and an overlaying clock-face showing the spring time switching.

It is a similar effect as the confusion about how a document on the screen should be moved when we want to proceed to the later sections: Scroll down, or pan or swipe upwards? We’ve got accustomed to ignore the reality of the paper, and use the scroll bar as a tool of abstraction. But now ever more user interfaces want it the other way around.

In McGilchrist’s terms, the abstraction tools such as the scroll bar or the clock, belong to the “emissary” mode of thinking, while the ‘real world’ such as the sun or the paper, belong to the “master”. (Actually, he talks about two hemispheres seeing the world differently. But for me, thinking of my brain as two separate “seeing” entities, is rather unintuitive, too. I prefer to think of their difference in much more mundane and elementary ways, as the flexors and extensors of the mind.)

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