Consciousness is a hard problem because it is emergent, mixes software and hardware, and is dizzyingly self-referential. It’s harder still because, in a sense, it impossible to study directly.
Daredevil’s Powers Are More Realistic Than You Think
In an early episode of Daredevil, Netflix’s series about Marvel Comic’s blind superhero, there’s a telling scene in which the crime-fighting protagonist tends to an injured friend. Although he lost his eyesight in a traffic accident as a boy, Daredevil can nevertheless perceive her wounds. From across his apartment, he senses that a cut […]
What Trump’s Simplified Language Means
On the last weekend in April, I was surprised that a panel called “The Press and President Trump,” held at the Columbia Journalism School, didn’t broach the subject of mental illness. Just over a week earlier, at a psychiatry conference at Yale, a group of the attendees announced that Trump has a “dangerous mental illness.” […]
Stop Saying the Brain Learns By Rewiring Itself
Most neuroscientists accept that the brain computes by modifying its synapses, the links between neurons. On this view, the brain learns because experience molds it, rather than because experience implants facts. But experience does implant facts. We all know this, because we retrieve and make use of them throughout the day.Illustration by Gary Waters / […]
How the Tension Between Mercy and Blame Shaped Our Legal Codes
When we make moral judgments, says Fiery Cushman, the lead researcher at Harvard’s Moral Psychology Lab, the “more primitive, so to speak ‘you caused it, you should suffer’ response never goes away.”“The Barque of Dante,” by Eugène Delacroix (1822) One day in July 1884, four shipwrecked men aboard a lifeboat headed northwest off the Cape […]
God Created Consciousness in Fiction
Given his grandeur, pettiness, and complexity, and his capacity for introspection, he’s the major exception to the flatness of ancient characters—God.Illustration by Humphrey King / Flickr Many modern novels do something that the earliest literature sometimes seems incapable of doing—representing the inner life of the individual, in all its complexity. The history of literature has […]
This Is What Musical Notes Actually Look Like
A few months ago, I sat poolside with friends in Palm Springs. Amid the quiet desert sublime, we reminisced about all the live music we’ve experienced over the years, just about every big and small act since the mid-80s: Prince, David Bowie, Guns ‘n Roses, Bruce Springsteen, and the Yeah Yeahs Yeahs among the them. […]
Pre-Conscious Humans May Have Been Like the Borg
Does an alien race from Star Trek tell the story of human consciousness?
Roger Penrose On Why Consciousness Does Not Compute
The emperor of physics defends his controversial theory of mind.
Is Consciousness Fractal?
Our subconscious love for fractals may tell an evolutionary story.