As a human., I am fascinated by what it means to be human.
That would go without saying, right? And yet, the above sentence is not usually voiced. Most of us do not spend our days discussing this. We just get on with whatever it means to be human and hope for the best.
And yet, information is coming out about how consciousness works. And this information vastly simplifies what it means to be human. It clarifies what humans can and cannot do. It is important for our mental well-being.
If you don’t believe me, check out Davey Alba’s Wired Magazine article about a TED talk given by Anil Seth. A core idea
(Seth’s) research shows that consciousness has less to do with pure intelligence and more to do with our nature as living and breathing organisms
In other words, our ability to understand is based on our ability to live. If our confidence in our ability to live is shaken, so too is our ability to understand. Conversely, if our confidence in out ability to live grows, so too does our ability to understand.
To see what I mean, check out this experiment
There are two sides to consciousness, Seth says: the outside experience and the inner experience. Starting with the outside—the sights, sounds and smells surrounding us—Seth says our experience depends on our brain’s ability to function as a prediction engine. He played a garbled audio clip for the audience, something indiscernible—then a clearer version of the clip. “I think Brexit is a really terrible idea,” the recording said. He then played the same earlier, garbled audio. This time, it was completely intelligible.
Right. Nothing changed in terms of the input. But in the second go round, the meaning of the input could be predicted based on past experience. Understanding was made easier.
So hold on to your hat, here comes a passage that will blow your mind
“If hallucination is a kind of uncontrolled perception, then perception is a kind of hallucination,” Seth said. But, he said, it’s a controlled hallucination, one in which sensory information from the world is reining in the brain’s predictions. “In fact, we’re hallucinating all the time, including right now. It’s just that when we agree about our hallucinations… We call that reality.”
Errr … I may want to think that over a bit.