Whether he is an angel that has lost his wings or an ape that has lost his hair, he has been able to leave the anonymity of creatures only by the eclipses of his health. His poorly constituted blood has allowed the infiltration of uncertainties, approximations, problems; his wavering vitality, the intrusion of question marks and exclamation points. How define the virus which, eroding his somnolence, has stunned him with insomnia among the universal siesta? What worm has burrowed into his repose, what primal agent of knowledge has forced him to the backwardness of actions, the arrested development of desires? Who has introduced the first languor into his ferocity? Emerging from the throng of the other living creatures, he has created a subtler confusion for himself; he has scrupulously exploited the ills of a life wrested from itself Out of all he has undertaken to be healed of himself, a stranger disease has been constituted:, his “civilization” is merely the effort to find remedies for an incurable—and coveted—state. The mind wilts at the approach of health: man is an invalid—or he is nothing. When, having thought of everything, he thinks of himself—for he manages this only by the detour of the universe, as if he were the last problem he proposes to himself—he remains astonished, confused, embarrassed. But he continues to prefer, to the nature which eternally capsizes into health, his own defeat.CIORAN, “The Indirect Animal”, A Short History of Decay (1949)
How does our biology give rise to the experience of consciousness?
Anil Seth argues, using innovative combinations of theory and experiment, that our brains are prediction machines inventing our world and correcting our mistakes by the microsecond. Anil’s new perspective on consciousness has shed light on the nature of the self, free will, the intimate relationship between being alive and being aware – and the possibility of conscious machines.
Anil Seth is Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience at the University of Sussex, where he is also Co-Director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science. He is also a Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellow, Co-Director of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) Program on Brain, Mind, and Consciousness, and Co-Director of the Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarship Programme: From Sensation and Perception to Awareness.