You’re laying on the floor. You smell of burnt ash, grease, and sweat. The noise of the nearby stream reaches you, faint through the foliage and bounces on the entrance of the cove. You can see morning light beams dancing outside, filtered by the foliage. Next to you lies your family, which doesn’t mean the same as it means today. You rise up. You’re not fit, but you’re certainly streamlined. Your body has no excess, all the energy you managed to get in the past has been used to keep going. Your muscles still sore from yesterday’s foraging. Your body looks way older than it would in the 21st century, based on the years you’ve been alive. Compared to your future descendants, your lifetime is compressed.

You know what’s the next thing you’re going to do. You don’t have to think, your body is shouting anyways. You have to get food.

Most of your waking hours are dedicated to get food. You could argue the same is conceptually true today. However, this is not merely conceptual, it’s actually seeking, finding, killing or stealing food. You do little else before getting too tired. Probably mating from time to time, otherwise we wouldn’t be here in the future, writing and reading this. Very little time is left of your waking hours to anything else that isn’t securing enough fuel so you can do the same the next day. And the next. You’re truly living day-to-day.

Time to achieve anything new, to try an idea out, to fail, was the scarcest thing around. You’d have to be really good spotting edible fruits and berries, or really good at catching and killing animals with little or no tools available to have extra time.

Today is a very important day. Inside a bush you feel like you checked a thousand times, there was an inner branch full of beautifully red berries. A hidden, precious pocket of edible fuel in the form of sugar. You grab them, quickly, and eat four of them. How lucky of you. You still have another four left. You’re very smart, so a faint thought forms in the back of your mind: if you don’t eat them now, tomorrow can be as good as a day as today. Tomorrow. That mythical day that doesn’t exist but then, when you wake up again, it does. This is huge. No, really, this is really huge.

You invented long time preference. This is the cornerstone of civilization. The ability to think for your future. Some time in the past, our brains got used to the idea of waking up each day, and seeing that the leftovers of last night’s dinner were still there. And that we could eat them, and therefore today you were less hungry because of the food you left yesterday.

So you go into the cave, look for a normal-looking stone, and hide the berries below it, inside a folded leave. Today’s the day that for the first time, you saved.

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