Here is the full transcript of neuroscientist Anil Seth’s TED Talk: Your Brain Hallucinates Your Conscious Reality.
Anil Seth – Neuroscientist
Just over a year ago, for the third time in my life, I ceased to exist. I was having a small operation, and my brain was filling with anesthetic. I remember a sense of detachment and falling apart and a coldness. And then I was back, drowsy and disoriented, but definitely there.
Now, when you wake from a deep sleep, you might feel confused about the time or anxious about oversleeping, but there’s always a basic sense of time having passed, of a continuity between then and now. Coming round from anesthesia is very different. I could have been under for five minutes, five hours, five years or even 50 years. I simply wasn’t there. It was total oblivion.
Anesthesia — it’s a modern kind of magic. It turns people into objects, and then, we hope, back again into people. And in this process is one of the greatest remaining mysteries in science and philosophy. How does consciousness happen?
Somehow, within each of our brains, the combined activity of many billions of neurons, each one a tiny biological machine, is generating a conscious experience. And not just any conscious experience — your conscious experience right here and right now.
How does this happen? Answering this question is so important, because consciousness for each of us is all there is. Without it there’s no world, there’s no self, there’s nothing at all. And when we suffer, we suffer consciously whether it’s through mental illness or pain.