In the Judaeo-Christian Mythology, humanity was exiled from the garden and prevented from reentering by an angel wielding a flaming two edged sword.We were exiled for partaking of the fruit of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
The garden is the natural state of being. In that natural state, the organism functions through reflex, instinct and in higher animals, rudimentary cognition.It is a state of innocence in that there is no concept of right and wrong. Action is dictated by reaction, needs and instinct.
At one point, the ancestors of modern man reached a point of development where the concept of right and wrong evolved out of the biological pleasure\pain mechanism.
We are kept from the "natural" state of being by the faculties of the mind. The two edge sword represents the discriminatory function of the mind and the flame represents the inspirational receptivity and output of higher abstract thought.
Once our ancestors developed the faculties represented by the two edged sword, we were no longer able to solely operate in the instinctive way. We now saw the opposites, right and wrong , good and bad, we discovered free choice. We now became unpredictable. A great advantage in the survival stakes.
This was an over simplified explanation of the evolution of consciousness for a time when the knowledge of the workings of the world was limited and the education of the people was minimal.
Let's try again with the benefit of our increase in knowledge.
I suggest that the nervous system and the brain in particular is an organ for the capture and processing of time.In its most rudimentary form,the nervous system is purely capture of information, a function of time, and a preprogrammed reflexive response. Example: a fly lands on a sundew. The plant senses the landing and reflex closes the trap. As far as we know that is about the extent of the sundews mental capabilities.There is minimal processing involved.
So we have Information - capture -processing -action.
As the organism becomes more complex, the sense organs become more developed and the range of inputs increase.The length of time capture also increases, we call this memory. Because of the wider range, and greater length of time/information sensed, greater processing power is needed, to both decode, manipulate, and then activate a more and more complex structure.
I suggest the evolutionary advantage was the ability to overcome reflex, and thus lose predictability and gain flexibility. The higher turn was to do the same with instinct.
Modern Human, with his broad range of sense perception, long and detailed memory and recall, Abstract thinking ability and the ability to not only control a flexible and complex body, but also operate fast and complex machinery as if it was an extension of the body, captures a vast amount of time/information.
The brain uses the flow of time in a similar way to electricity. The longer an impulse can be held in the equipment the more processing is possible.The more complex the brain the longer the segment of time can be held for processing.
The human brain is able to remember a large proportion of what has been experienced.This is captured time. We are able to decouple our awareness from the current flow of time,and recall a segment of time for greater processing. In the coupled awareness of the flow of time, we do not have the speed of thought needed to do much more than experience and act reflexively.
Ones normal time perception is similar to the 25 frames /second of movie film.We sample the actual flow, and process. We switch our awareness back and forth, the rate of switching being dependent on the intensity of the information or the needed depth of processing.
Example; riding a motorcycle, requires rapid sampling and reflex, with little need for higher processing, so the impression is of being in the now.With perhaps the opposite, meditation, being almost all attention focused in the processing, sampling frequency is slow,and the time sense becomes heavily distorted.
With this recalled segment, we are able to replay at various speeds and definition, alter perspective, run alternate projections, compare to similar segments etc etc. The greater our ability to concentrate (focus) on the remembered segment,the more we are able to do with the stored time/information.
The evolutionary impulse that powers this trend line is the ability to predict the future.It is a great advantage that is used by many organisms.The learning of a prey's behaviour, so that one may easily capture it, is a prime and simple example.
For humans it becomes more complex. Look around in society and see where predictive behaviour is. Many high paid positions are reliant on this ability. Finance and the stock market, driving and flying, sport, politics etc.,
There is no future as such, it is purely a potential. However the flow of energy in time is able to be manipulated, and predicted. Both of these are dependant on the organisms ability to capture and process time.
So we see that what we call intelligence has as it's prime function, the ability to both attempt to predict the future, and modify it to a required state.As we do with other aspects of our environment.