Harris (I Wonder), a consultant and editor for books about neuroscience and physics, probes the limits of the current scientific and philosophical understanding of consciousness, exploring the possibility of a more expansive and all-encompassing definition. She investigates biological anomalies, such as the ability of parasites or bacteria to affect the behavior of their hosts, or of psychedelic drugs to “suspend the illusion of self,” in order to question preconceived notions about consciousness and free will. Harris goes on to introduce panpsychism, the idea “that all matter is imbued with consciousness in some sense,” a concept long present in spiritual and metaphysical schools of thought, and more recently embraced by some physicists. Injecting a note of urgency into her discussion, she argues the time has come for consciousness to be investigated more thoroughly, in part because of the implications of artificial intelligence with increasingly advanced levels of cognition. Though some readers may have difficulty following the neuroscience, Harris provides a thoughtful examination of a complex subject at the very core of existence, human and otherwise, that is well worth the mental effort required. Agent: John Brockman, Brockman, Inc. (June)
Annaka Harris expertly and eloquently explores one of the deepest questions thehuman mind has ever grappled with: itself. Harris turns the light inward, encouraging us to reflect on how we reflect as she clearly presents the prevailing theories of consciousness.
The AI quest for artificial minds has transformed the mystery of consciousness into philosophy with a deadline. In this gem of a book, Annaka Harris tackles consciousness controversies with incisive rigor and clarity, in a style that’s accessible and captivating, yet never dumbed down.
One of those books that fundamentally shifts the way you think about reality. Consciousness is among the hardest concepts for humans to wrap their heads around, but Annaka Harris is a masterful explainer—she started by breaking my existing beliefs about the nature of consciousness and then she rebuilt them into a more nuanced, more complete, and more mind-bending understanding of what’s really going on behind my eyes.
Harris holds a mirror up to ourselves and the reflection she casts is wondrously unfamiliar. In salient prose that intertwines science and philosophy, Harris turns her joyful curiosity on the nature of awareness. Every sentence of this book works upon the next, delving the reader deeper into an exploration of consciousness. While most books that contemplate the mysteries of the universe make one feel small in comparison, Conscious gives the reader an undeniable sense of presence.”
Annaka Harris has a rare gift to breathe wonder into the familiar. In Conscious, her target is our very selves. She offers each reader the bracing pleasure of becoming an enigma, lucidly explains the experiments that underwrite her offer, and persuasively argues that one of the greatest mysteries of science may be sitting in your chair.
I have read many, many great books on consciousness in my life as a neuroscientist. Conscious tops them all, hands down. It deals with unsolved questions and dizzying concepts with a graciousness and clarity that leaves the reader deeply satisfied.
Conscious offers the clearest, most compelling explanation that I’ve seen of consciousness. If you’ve ever wondered how you have the capacity to wonder, some fascinating insights await you in these pages.
A beautiful, clear, and thoughtful examination of the imponderable topic of consciousness.
Wild ideas are on the tableyou’ll come away with an appreciation of the major conflicts and the high stakes that come with any attempt to understand how consciousness really works.
A remarkably focused, concise and provocative overview of the ‘problem of Mind.’ Written with great clarity, she gives readers unfamiliar with the debate a chance to see the fault lines defining modern discussions about the nature of consciousness.
A delectable introduction to a fundamental mystery that science has been struggling with since antiquity.
A fascinating book that literally illuminates the enduring mystery of consciousness. Harris makes the journey direct, clear, entertaining, and above all accessibleeven to someone like me, who’d never before gotten my head around this complex topic.
There is a profound intellectual adventure awaiting the reader of this exquisite book.
A user’s guide to the scientific thinking on consciousness—delivering an assumption-shattering take on how we think about our mind, our self, and this very moment.
The thoughtful and accessible text considers points of view offered by various philosophers, biologists, and neurologists, acting as devil’s advocate, challenging assumptions, and arguing why posited definitions are inadequate. Harris concedes that answers to the questions she poses are not currently within our grasp, but allows that as our understanding of reality, time, and quantum physics increases, so might our understanding of consciousness.
This brief book challenges conventional ways of thinking about thinking and presents provocative alternatives.
How are humans conscious of consciousness, something that we have and that a rock does not? By the end of science writer Harris' (I Wonder, 2013) book, readers may be less certain that consciousness distinguishes us from the rest of matter—or that there is any such thing as a conscious self, because "the idea of the self, as a concrete entity, is an illusion." As the author notes early on, "this book is devoted to shaking up our everyday assumptions about the world we live in…[to] pass along the exhilaration that comes from discovering just how surprising consciousness is." Some readers might even make the leap into "panpsychism," which is "a perspective in which consciousness is a fundamental feature of the universe, as opposed to being confined to some level of information processing." While Harris, whose husband is renowned neuroscientist Sam Harris, admits that "a panpsychic view…still carries the stink of the New Age," she is on more solid scientific ground with her discussions on meditation and psychedelic drugs, both of which lead to a letting go of the idea of a self. The author delivers fascinating insight into binding, how the senses correlate their various impressions into a single experience, one in which we are always conscious of the experience just slightly after our senses have independently registered it. "Without binding processes," writes Harris, "you might not even feel yourself to be a real self at all. Your consciousness would be like a flow of experiences in a particular location in space"—much like a meditation session or an acid trip, each of which tends to loosen those binds.
You might not be fully convinced about all of the author's points, but you may be less certain that there's a "you" to convince.