The World Behind the World: Consciousness, Free Will, and the Limits of Science
A fascinating exploration into how the brain creates our conscious experiences—potentially revolutionizing neuroscience and the future of technology—from a Forbes 30 Under 30 scientist.
Throughout history, two perspectives on the world have dueled in our minds: the extrinsic—that of mechanism and physics—and the intrinsic—that of feelings, thoughts, and ideas. The intrinsic perspective allows us to tell stories about our lives, to chart our anger and our lust, to understand our psychologies. The extrinsic allows us to chart the physical world, to build upon it, and to travel across it. These perspectives have never been reconciled; they almost seem to exist on different planes of thought. Only recently, due to the pioneering work of DNA-discoverer Francis Crick, have these two perspectives been conjoined.
This attempt to reconcile these perspectives is the science of consciousness, and posits that the intrinsic aspect of the world, how and what we perceive, can coexist in the extrinsic part of the world, in the realm of physics. The World Behind the World is a grand tour of the state of this science, an exploration of the point where tectonic metaphysical forces meet, often in paradoxical conclusions.
Forbes 30 Under 30 scientist Dr. Erik Hoel lays out the evidence that nothing in the brain makes sense except in the light of a theory of consciousness. Some topics he examines include what the similarities are between our brains and black holes; where consciousness fits into physics and morality; and why it may be impossible for AI to ever become conscious, despite popular belief. The World Behind the World argues that establishing a proven theory of consciousness would trigger a paradigm shift in the field of neuroscience and the future of technology—transforming the very fabric of our society.
What does the science of consciousness tell us about what happens beyond brain death? Does our understanding of consciousness strengthen or weaken the case for free will? Is science itself incomplete in the way Gödel showed mathematics is? By taking us through the heated debates of the field and drawing on Hoel’s own original research to shed light on the latest theories about how the brain creates consciousness, The World Behind the World shows us that at long last, science is coming to understand the fundamental mystery of human existence.
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