Consciousness in Humans and Other Things

March 14, 2024
Henley Hall Auditorium, Room 1010
Anil Seth, University of Sussex


Anil Seth is a neuroscientist, author, and public speaker who has pioneered research into the brain basis of consciousness for more than twenty years. He is Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience and Director of the Centre for Consciousness Science at the University of Sussex. He is also Co-Director of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research Program on Brain, Mind and Consciousness, a European Research Council Advanced Investigator, and Editor-in-Chief of the journal Neuroscience of Consciousness. He has published more than 200 research papers, is a Clarivate Highly Cited Researcher (2019-2022), and in 2023 he received the Royal Society Michael Faraday Prize. His 2017 TED talk has been viewed more than fourteen million times, and his 2021 book Being You: A New Science of Consciousness was an instant Sunday Times Bestseller and a Book of the Year for The Economist, The New Statesman, Bloomberg Business, The Guardian, The Financial Times and elsewhere.


Consciousness remains a central mystery in science and philosophy. In this talk, I will illustrate how the framework of predictive processing can help bridge from mechanism to phenomenology – addressing not the ‘hard problem’, but the ‘real problem of consciousness’. I’ll explore how conscious experiences of the world around us, and of being a self within that world, can be understood in terms of perceptual predictions - ‘controlled hallucinations’ that are deeply rooted in a fundamental biological imperative for physiological regulation. This view implies a deep connection between mind and life, suggesting that – contrary to the old doctrine of Descartes – we are conscious because we are living creatures. I’ll explore implications of this view for the prospects (and pitfalls) of artificial consciousness, suggesting that conscious machines may need to be more similar to biological systems than is often thought.

This lecture will take place at 4 pm in Henley Hall Auditorium, Room 1010 on the UCSB campus and is free and open to the public.