Right now, billions of neurons in your brain are working together to generate a conscious experience — and not just any conscious experience, your experience of the world around you and of yourself within it. How does this happen? According to neuroscientist Anil Seth, we’re all hallucinating all the time; when we agree about our hallucinations, we call it “reality.” Join Seth for a delightfully disorienting talk that may leave you questioning the very nature of your existence.

Why you should listen:

In his groundbreaking research, Anil Seth seeks to understand consciousness in health and in disease. As founding co-director of the University of Sussex’s Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, his research bridges neuroscience, mathematics, artificial intelligence, computer science, psychology, philosophy and psychiatry. He has also worked extensively with playwrights, dancers and other artists to shape a truly humanistic view of consciousness and self.

Who is he?

Seth is the editor and co-author of the best-selling 30-Second Brain, a collection of brief and engaging neuroscience vignettes. His forthcoming book The Presence Chamber develops his unique theories of conscious selfhood within the rich historical context of the mind and brain sciences.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does Seth describe being under anesthetic?
  2. “The combined activity of many billions of neurons, each one a tiny biological machine, is generating a conscious experience. And not just any conscious experience — your conscious experience right here and right now.” What question is Seth interested in based on this quote?
  3. “You don’t have to be smart to suffer, but you probably do have to be alive.” What is the implication that Seth sees for AI becoming self-aware?
  4. Seth says that there are two major aspects of consciousness. What are they? Explain them to someone.
  5. The brain doesn’t hear sound or see light. What we perceive is its best guess of what’s out there in the world. Explain to someone what that implies in terms of mental illnesses like schizophrenia.
  6. Seth closes with three big implications of the work at his center. Explain them to someone.

Making Connections:

Seth’s recommended readings:

Available on Amazon…

By Anil Seth (Ed) Ivy Press, 2014

A simple but accessible treatment of key questions in neuroscience, with a focus on consciousness.

By Thomas Metzinger Basic Books 2010

A highly readable precis of Thomas Metzinger’s ideas on consciousness, especially those about the existence (or nonexistence) of the “self.”

By Oliver Sacks Picador, 2012

One of the last and best books from this legendary neurologist and writer. Some wonderfully evocative descriptions of various kinds of disturbances of consciousness. Oliver Sacks died in 2015 and is deeply missed.

The Ravenous Brain: How the New Science of Consciousness Explains our Insatiable Search for Meaning

By Daniel Bor Basic Books, 2012

An excellent review of the new science of consciousness, covering much of the current literature.




Your brain hallucinates your conscious reality with Anil Seth


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