Object Permanence

Anyone who spent time with a baby knows that they are incapable of giving solid financial advice. Do not expect a baby to enlighten you with insights about ongoing worldly affairs. It is a good thing that laws do not allow babies to drive, and I am glad that they are barred from running for president.

Taking part in our complex societal adult life is no easy task. I know that it is harsh to expect a newborn to excel at it. Yet, the further we lower the bar, the dumber we will find babies to be. Sure, they cannot be trusted with operating motorized vehicles. But why are they incapable of even riding a bicycle? You may want them to show competency in basic math. They will disappoint.

Nothing apart from the peekaboo game exemplifies how dumb babies are. An infant will recognize an adult and respond to their presence when they see them. Yet, the same infant will immediately lose interest in the game the moment that the adult face is obscured from their line of sight. For babies, I exist for the brief duration that they see me. How dumb. But at the same time, how rude!

Thankfully, babies learn fast. They develop object permanence, the cognitive skill of inferring that things continue to exist in a timeline. This happens before the age of one. This is the skill which an infant employs to recognize that there is a face behind the hands.

Object permanence is not a skill we adults find hard to pull off. It is the skill we use to find our way into the kitchen and to the remaining half bar of chocolate left in the drawer. Because we know that it was us who decided not to finish the whole thing in one day, earlier in the same day.

Both a baby who has acquired the skill of object permanence and an adult know that the objects in question, the human with the face and the chocolate bar respectively, are indeed permanent. They are not popping into and out of existence at random times.

The basic understanding that the objects continue to exist on a timeline allows us to live a more fulfilling life than a baby could ever imagine. We know that the effort to get to know another person and become closer to them is worth it. We build friendships with other humans and share experiences with them to multiply our joy and divide our grief. Babies cannot even do addition.

Adults can study, exercise, work, contemplate and plan for many years to achieve great accomplishments. They know that things are permanent in time and can accumulate to great amounts. Babies are incapable of concentrating on anything for more than a few minutes at a time. The youngest Nobel laureate was Malala Yousafzai when she was seventeen. Not an age when she can be considered a toddler.

The possibilities lent by the basic knowledge that objects are permanent are endless. Adults can anticipate where objects will be in the future based on their motion trajectory. Thus, any group of adults can effortlessly beat any group of babies in team sports. Adults can anticipate receiving a reward upon performing a task. They can extrapolate that the more tasks they complete, the more rewards they can collect. I am yet to see a baby who has built an accomplished career using this principle.

I can allocate twelve hours a day, six times a week, doing menial tasks with the anticipation of wealth and status to come years later. The physical possessions I collect throughout my life are objects. Hence, they are permanent. I can put my career ahead of my physical and mental well-being because I know that my body, which is an object, is by definition permanent.

Since I am not a baby, I know that my time is more optimally spent on acquiring new things than cherishing what I have. I can always postpone my plans to have joyful moments with people who I love. Even if I hurt other people with my anger, I can always mend my relationships later. I have played enough peekaboo to know that other people will not cease to exist suddenly and unexpectedly.

Babies live in the current moment. They can be irrationally joyful and laugh hysterically at things adults find mundane. This is because they have not realized that they have all the time in the world to experience something better in the future. Therefore, they cannot subdue their emotions. Babies are not smart. Thankfully, I am superior to them.

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