Consciousness in humans and in other things

26 March 2024 18:30 - 19:30 The Royal Society Free Watch online

Catch-up on the Michael Faraday Prize Lecture given by 2023 winner Professor Anil Seth.

The nature of consciousness remains one of the greatest puzzles in science and philosophy. How do subjective experiences arise from brains and bodies? What is the ‘self’?

In his Michael Faraday Prize Lecture, Professor Seth sheds light on these questions through the idea of the brain as an embodied ‘prediction machine’. In this view, conscious experiences of the world around us, and of being a ‘self’ within that world, emerge as forms of perceptual predictions. These predictions do not reveal the world (or body) as it is, but in ways useful for staying alive – suggesting a deep connection between consciousness and life. Professor Seth will explore implications of this view for technology, especially AI, and for society, in terms of ‘perceptual diversity’.

About the Prize

The Michael Faraday Prize and Lecture 2023 is awarded to Professor Anil Seth for his ability to inspire and communicate concepts and advances in cognitive neuroscience and consciousness, and therefore what it means to be human, to the public.

Anil Seth is Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience at the University of Sussex, where he is also Director of the Sussex Centre for Consciousness Science. He is also Co-Director of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) Program on Brain, Mind, and Consciousness, and of the Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarship Programme: From Sensation and Perception to Awareness. Professor Seth is Editor-in-Chief of Neuroscience of Consciousness (Oxford University Press). His most recent book is Being You: A New Science of Consciousness.

The Royal Society Michael Faraday Prize and Lecture is awarded annually to the scientist or engineer whose expertise in communicating scientific ideas in lay terms is exemplary. The award is named after Michael Faraday FRS, the influential inventor and electrical pioneer who was prominent in the public communication of science and founded the Christmas lectures at the Royal Institution. The medal is of silver gilt, is awarded annually and is accompanied by a gift of £2,500.

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