Here is the full text and summary of cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman’s talk: Do We See Reality As It Is? at TED Talk conference.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here:
Donald Hoffman – Cognitive scientist
I love a great mystery, and I’m fascinated by the greatest unsolved mystery in science, perhaps because it’s personal. It’s about who we are, and I can’t help but be curious.
The mystery is this: What is the relationship between your brain and your conscious experiences, such as your experience of the taste of chocolate or the feeling of velvet?
Now, this mystery is not new. In 1868, Thomas Huxley wrote:
“How it is that anything so remarkable as a state of consciousness comes about as the result of irritating nervous tissue is just as unaccountable as the appearance of the genie when Aladdin rubbed his lamp.”
Now, Huxley knew that brain activity and conscious experiences are correlated, but he didn’t know why. To the science of his day, it was a mystery.
In the years since Huxley, science has learned a lot about brain activity, but the relationship between brain activity and conscious experiences is still a mystery. Why?
Why have we made so little progress?
Well, some experts think that we can’t solve this problem, because we lack the necessary concepts and intelligence. We don’t expect monkeys to solve problems in quantum mechanics, and as it happens, we can’t expect our species to solve this problem either.