The mystery of consciousness

Cafés Scientifiques, Czech Republic, May 2004

What is consciousness? And why do I have subjective experiences at all? Are animals conscious too – or computers? And how can we know? These are real mysteries for science and the more we learn about how the brain works, the less we seem able to answer the really difficult question – why should the activity of millions of brain cells ever produce subjective experience? How can a physical lump of flesh be responsible for my sense of being alive here now? I shall describe some of the recent evidence on consciousness, try out some demonstrations, and discuss how we can investigate our own experience directly.

I hope you will end the evening feeling deeply confused about the most obvious thing in your life – your own experience.