Is Reality a Controlled Hallucination? – with Anil Seth

It’s been a while since the last “Philosophy Friday” post. Lately, I have been wondering about the nature of reality after doing more exploration of virtual worlds from Second Life to sandbox games like GTA.

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.


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One thought on “Is Reality a Controlled Hallucination? – with Anil Seth”

  1. It’s becoming clearer that with all the brain and consciousness theories out there, the proof will be in the pudding. By this I mean, can any particular theory be used to create a human adult level conscious machine. My bet is on the late Gerald Edelman’s Extended Theory of Neuronal Group Selection. The lead group in robotics based on this theory is the Neurorobotics Lab at UC at Irvine. Dr. Edelman distinguished between primary consciousness, which came first in evolution, and that humans share with other conscious animals, and higher order consciousness, which came to only humans with the acquisition of language. A machine with primary consciousness will probably have to come first.

    What I find special about the TNGS is the Darwin series of automata created at the Neurosciences Institute by Dr. Edelman and his colleagues in the 1990’s and 2000’s. These machines perform in the real world, not in a restricted simulated world, and display convincing physical behavior indicative of higher psychological functions necessary for consciousness, such as perceptual categorization, memory, and learning. They are based on realistic models of the parts of the biological brain that the theory claims subserve these functions. The extended TNGS allows for the emergence of consciousness based only on further evolutionary development of the brain areas responsible for these functions, in a parsimonious way. No other research I’ve encountered is anywhere near as convincing.

    I post because on almost every video and article about the brain and consciousness that I encounter, the attitude seems to be that we still know next to nothing about how the brain and consciousness work; that there’s lots of data but no unifying theory. I believe the extended TNGS is that theory. My motivation is to keep that theory in front of the public. And obviously, I consider it the route to a truly conscious machine, primary and higher-order.

    My advice to people who want to create a conscious machine is to seriously ground themselves in the extended TNGS and the Darwin automata first, and proceed from there, by applying to Jeff Krichmar’s lab at UC Irvine, possibly. Dr. Edelman’s roadmap to a conscious machine is at

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