cover image Being You: A New Science of Consciousness

Being You: A New Science of Consciousness

Anil Seth. Dutton, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-1-524-74287-4

Seth (Eye Benders), professor of neuroscience at the University of Sussex, takes on the prodigious task of defining consciousness and explaining its origins in this intense survey. His goal is “to understand how the inner universe of subjective experience relates to, and can be explained in terms of, biological and physical processes unfolding in brains and bodies.” To that end, he breaks down the neuroscience, psychology, and a hefty dose of philosophy, as well as his own research, to conclude that rather than perceiving reality, “we’re all hallucinating all the time. It’s just that when we agree about our hallucinations, that’s what we call reality.” Consciousness is all about human bodies, in an attempt to survive, using their senses to predict how the world is constructed and likely to change; he argues he thus views perception as a creative act. Seth explores consciousness in nonhuman animals (they have it, he writes: “consciousness has more to do with being alive than with being intelligent”) and the probability that it might arise via artificial intelligence, a prospect that he deems unlikely. A slew of terms and theories are introduced that may be difficult to get through for readers without a neuroscience background. But those who stay the course will find much to consider. Agent: PJ Mark, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Oct.)