One man, in particular, has spent his entire career looking for answers to these challenging questions: Anil Seth, a leading British researcher in the field of consciousness. Operating out of the University of Sussex in the UK as a professor in cognitive and computational neuroscience, Seth has published well over 100 academic papers on the area. You might know him as the man that has likened our reality to a type of hallucinating prediction machine. His TED talk to date has been viewed over 12 million times.
He has now written his first comprehensive book on the domain – hailed as a seminal text by The Guardian- called Being You; it hopes to clarify some of the biggest complexities that plague the area and give you a refreshing and very human account of where the field sits.
Studying what makes us, well, us is a difficult challenge in it itself, when the observer becomes the observed. I had the pleasure of examining how science dissects this incredibly difficult problem in this discussion. Anil believes solving the issue of consciousness will come down to an incremental like elimination process where bit-by-bit we chip away at what philosophers call ‘the hard problem’. However, sceptics out there think we will never solve this mystery – that’s what makes this field so enchanting.
Anil and I take a walk through some weighty material that includes the myriad of theories aiming to define what makes us conscious, from panpsychism to functionalism. As well as the striking parallels between this field of science and the philosophy of Buddhism. And finally, we end up in the future, discussing the moral and existential dangers that hold the Metaverse and artificial intelligence together.
This is about so much more than donning a lab coat and measuring the activity in our brain; this is about shaking the very core beliefs we cherish, ones that have existed since time immemorial and breaking out of them.