Science of Consciousness


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Anil Seth
professor of cognitive and computational neuroscience, University of Sussex
co-director, Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science
editor-in-chief, Neuroscience of Consciousness

SPEAKER BIO

A professor of cognitive and computational neuroscience, Seth’s search for the biological basis of consciousness has implications for what it means to be human.

SUMMARY

Consciousness is considered one of the greatest remaining mysteries in science. Despite decades of research, scholars still seem to struggle to agree
to a common definition. In the past 20 years the focus has been to find out what happens to a conscious mind and how it happens. However, one statement that most experts in the field agree upon is that life is magical, but there is nothing magic about life.

Prof Anil Seth defines the properties of consciousness as follows: Experiences of the world and consciousness of the self. Experiences of the world can be best described as the perceptions of the brain’s best guess of what is happening out in the world. Whereas the consciousness of the self can be categorized in body experience, perspective, volitional, narrative, and social self.

Hallucination is regarded as uncontrolled perception, while consciousness is controlled perception. Prof Seth highlights three implications of consciousness:
  1. Conscious experience are bound up to stay alive
  2. Intelligence and awareness are not the same
  3. Conscious experiences lead to greater understanding, greater sense of wonder and greater realization.

Life in the first person is both magical and terrifying. But it is circumscribed.

And echoing Julian Barnes, when the end comes there is nothing – really nothing – to be afraid of.

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