cover image Conscious: A Brief Guide to the Fundamental Mystery of the Mind

Conscious: A Brief Guide to the Fundamental Mystery of the Mind

Annaka Harris. Harper, $22.99 (144p) ISBN 978-0-06-290671-7

Harris (I Wonder), a consultant and editor for books about neuroscience and physics, probes the limits of the current scientific and philosophical understanding of consciousness, exploring the possibility of a more expansive and all-encompassing definition. She investigates biological anomalies, such as the ability of parasites or bacteria to affect the behavior of their hosts, or of psychedelic drugs to “suspend the illusion of self,” in order to question preconceived notions about consciousness and free will. Harris goes on to introduce panpsychism, the idea “that all matter is imbued with consciousness in some sense,” a concept long present in spiritual and metaphysical schools of thought, and more recently embraced by some physicists. Injecting a note of urgency into her discussion, she argues the time has come for consciousness to be investigated more thoroughly, in part because of the implications of artificial intelligence with increasingly advanced levels of cognition. Though some readers may have difficulty following the neuroscience, Harris provides a thoughtful examination of a complex subject at the very core of existence, human and otherwise, that is well worth the mental effort required. Agent: John Brockman, Brockman, Inc. (June)