Annaka Harris


  • An organism is conscious if there is something that it is like to be that organism.1
  • An intuition is simply the powerful sense that something is true without our having an awareness or an understanding of the reasons behind this feeling—it may or may not represent something true about the world.
  • But one thing is certain: it’s possible for a vivid experience of consciousness to exist undetected from the outside.
  • The problem is that both conscious and nonconscious states seem to be compatible with any behavior, even those associated with emotion, so a behavior itself doesn’t necessarily signal the presence of consciousness.
  • As the neuroscientist David Eagleman puts it: Your perception of reality is the end result of fancy editing tricks: the brain hides the difference in arrival times. How? What it serves up as reality is actually a delayed version. Your brain collects up all the information from the senses before it decides upon a story of what happens. . . . The strange consequence of all this is that you live in the past. By the time you think the moment occurs, it’s already long gone. To synchronize the incoming information from the senses, the cost is that our conscious awareness lags behind the physical world.
  • We now have reason to believe that with access to certain activity inside your brain, another person can know what you’re going to do before you do.
  • The concept of a conscious will that is free seems to be incoherent—it suggests that one’s will is separate and isolated from the rest of its environment, yet paradoxically able to influence its environment by making choices within it.
  • It is no contradiction to say that consciousness is essential to ethical concerns, yet irrelevant when it comes to will.
  • By a neurological mechanism that scientists still don’t completely understand, Toxoplasma affects the behavior of the infected rats, causing them to forsake their fear of cats and in many cases to walk (or even run) directly toward their enemy.
  • A horsehair worm will cause an infected cricket, which would normally maintain a safe distance from large bodies of water, to race toward the nearest lake or stream. By releasing neurochemicals that mimic those of a cricket, the worm urges the cricket to plunge in just in time for the worm to participate in mating season, which must take place in the water.
  • And parasitic wasps cause orb spiders to build webs that differ drastically from their usual design. After the wasp larva injects a chemical into the spider, the spider begins spinning a web much more suited to the larva’s needs than its own, keeping the larva safe from nearby predators and providing the perfect netting for building its cocoon.
  • an area of the brain known as the default mode network, which scientists believe contributes to our sense of self, has been found to be suppressed during meditation.1
  • For example, when the right hemisphere is given the instruction “Take a walk” in an experiment, the subject will stand up and begin walking. But when asked why he’s leaving the room, he will give an explanation such as, “Oh, I need to get a drink.” His left hemisphere, the one responsible for speech, is unaware of the command the right side received, and we have every reason to think that he does in fact believe his thirst was the reason he got up and began walking.

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