We Are All Brains In Vats

The following post is from my new article for Knowing Neurons, an online publication about neuroscience and the mind.   The Matrix made all of us ask the same disturbing questions: How do I know that the world I see, hear, and touch is real? Can I prove that I’m not actually in a pod created by machines […]

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There Is No Ghost In The Brain

As long as the nature of consciousness will remain a mystery, we will be in the grip of anxiety. And that is because we are, all of us, haunted by that uniquely human question: what awaits us after death? Although the vast majority of Americans believe in some sort of afterlife, such beliefs are starkly at odds […]

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Love In A World Of Atoms

The threads that weave the cloth of our mentality are soulless. Our experience of the most beautiful sunset, our most fervent desires, our loftiest thoughts, and our most expansive feelings of love are storms of neural activity, nothing more. Science – and neuroscience in particular – has stripped our mental lives of a soul. But […]

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You’re Not As Rational As You Think

Cognitive scientists have known for decades that humans are inherently irrational when it comes to making economic decisions. This may seem obvious to a good poker player, who will likely utilize mathematical probability to make economic decisions during a poker game, but to most people the fact that they have systematic economic biases might come as […]

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Mind Uploading and Personal Identity

Post-humanists envision a future in which human minds can be “uploaded” – uploaded to virtual environments, uploaded to new biological bodies, or uploaded to totally robotic bodies. Every sign in the rapid advance of neuroscience suggests that we should begin taking this idea seriously. Reflecting on the prospect of mind uploading, Princeton neuroscience professor Michael Graziano […]

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Buddhism and the Not-Self Doctrine

In my last post, I wrote that the Greeks developed the most sophisticated science of mind in the ancient world. I would now like to suggest that the most sophisticated philosophy of mind of the ancient world was being developed not in Greece, but about three thousand miles to the East, around present-day India. There, […]

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Ancient Greek Philosophy and the Birth of Neuroscience

We recognize today that the Ancient Greeks made significant achievements in mathematics, engineering, and astronomy, and that their achievements in these fields went unrivaled (in Europe) until the Renaissance. We know, for example, that Aristarchus proposed a heliocentric model of the solar system and offered a reasonably accurate estimation of the size of the Earth, and […]

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Cognitive Astrobiology

So here’s a cool combination of fields: neuroscience and astrobiology. Let’s call it “cognitive astrobiology.” What is cognitive astrobiology? It can take several forms. The first is figuring out how to communicate with extraterrestrial life. The SETI Institute, devoted to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, has a resident psychologist on board, Douglas Vakoch, whose job […]

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