World Science Festival TV: Another afternoon shot

I really do have work to do. So I’m profoundly resentful (in the best way possible) that the World Science Festival has launched a video site called WSFtv. Here’s seven minutes of neuroscientist Giulio Tononi (subject of my recent New York Times profile) talking about his theory of consciousness. There is a lot more where that came from.

4 thoughts on “World Science Festival TV: Another afternoon shot

  1. Warning: I’m a neuroscientist and I’ve spent long largely unproductive hours thinking about these questions.

    I have mixed feelings about the videos (Tononi, Charlie Kaufman and Alan Alda). The main gripe is that almost nothing about consciousness is “explained” and no theory is presented — not even Tononi’s. Tononi does a nice job of presenting interesting cases and experiments that make us ask what consciousness is, but these don’t lead to towards answers.

    Other comments. Tononi and others (Searle, Koch) say that we are not conscious when asleep. Isn’t it better to say that a sleeping individual is an another state of consciousness? Certainly dreams have aspects of consciousness. And who knows if we aren’t conscious continuously, but lacking memory storage?

    Tononi also asks Alan Alda a strange and interesting question: who is more similar, your conscious state now and your state when you were 5 or your conscious state now and my conscious state? Although its not clear what he’s getting at, he’s apparently trying to suggest that your consciousness cannot be the same as the consciousness when you were 5 because your brain’s set of information is so different. But I think the answer goes a different direction. There cannot be consciousness without memory, and the sense of continuity, partially fabricated, of an autobiographical self.

    Briefly, its hard to ‘explain’ consciousness without a definition. And there are no definitions. This type of conversation typically promises more than it can deliver.

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