Get curated editors’ picks, peeks behind the scenes, film recommendations and more.
It’s easy to mistake our conscious experience for an ongoing, accurate account of reality. After all, the information we recover from our senses is, of course, the only window we’ll ever have into the outside world. And for most people most of the time, our perception certainly feels real. But the notion that our senses capture an objective external reality can be dispelled by considering something as fundamental as colour, which can be culturally influenced and, even within a single culture, leave the population split between seeing the same picture of a dress as black-and-blue or white-and-gold.
In this instalment from Aeon’s In Sight series, Anil Seth, professor of cognitive and computational neuroscience at the University of Sussex in the UK, puts our imperfect relationship with reality in perspective. In conversation with Nigel Warburton, consultant senior editor at Aeon+Psyche, Seth argues that it’s not just that our perceptions provide flawed accounts of the outside world, but that our brains aren’t in the business of recovering the outside world to begin with. So it’s more accurate to think of our conscious experience as a series of predictions that we’re incessantly and subconsciously fine-tuning – a world we build from the inside out, rather than the outside in.
For more from Anil Seth, read his Aeon essay on the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness.
Interviewer: Nigel Warburton
Producer: Kellen Quinn
Editor: Adam D’Arpino
Associate Producer: Tamur Qutab
Future of technology
Artificial ‘creativity’ is unstoppable. Grappling with its ethics is up to us
Through a poetic account of childhood trauma, one woman reclaims her past
Politics and government
‘Without a poster, you don’t exist!’ – on the curious political banners of Mumbai
Earth science and climate
A biologist on the sorrows of documenting the Great Salt Lake’s collapse
Thinkers and theories
Jeremy Bentham was consumed by creating a perfect prison. Here’s the result
Film and visual culture
The old-time cinema experience endures in a quiet corner of Japan
Gender and identity
‘I didn’t fall in love with a couple of body pieces’ – on marriage and transition
Logic and probability
Chew over the prisoner’s dilemma and see if you can find the rational path out
The radically impractical 18th-century architect whose ideas on beauty endure