“We’re all hallucinating all the time, including right now. It’s just that when we agree about our hallucinations, we call that reality.”
According to neuroscientist Anil Seth, we’re all hallucinating all the time. When we agree about our hallucinations, we call it “reality”. Check his delightfully disorienting talk that may leave you questioning the very nature of your existence.
“Now I’m going to tell you that your experience of being a self, the specific experience of being you, is also a controlled hallucination generated by the brain. This seems a very strange idea, right? Yes, visual illusions might deceive my eyes, but how could I be deceived about what it means to be me? For most of us, the experience of being a person is so familiar, so unified and so continuous that it’s difficult not to take it for granted. But we shouldn’t take it for granted. There are in fact many different ways we experience being a self. There’s the experience of having a body and of being a body.”
“So our experiences of the world around us and ourselves within it – well, they’re kinds of controlled hallucinations that have been shaped over millions of years of evolution to keep us alive in worlds full of danger and opportunity. We predict ourselves into existence.”
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.
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.
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