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“Sometimes, we have to completely let go of intuitions that are actually giving us false information about reality.”
What is consciousness? How does it arise? And why does it exist?
We take ‘experience’ for granted. But the very existence of consciousness raises profound questions: Why would any collection of matter in the universe be conscious? How are we able to think about this? And why should we?
Our guide for today’s philosophic and scientific exploration of these mysteries is Annaka Harris.
An editor and consultant for science writers specializing in neuroscience and physics, Annaka is the author of the children’s book I Wonder, a collaborator on the Mindful Games Activity Cards, by Susan Kaiser Greenland, and a volunteer mindfulness teacher for the Inner Kids organization.
Annaka’s work has appeared in The New York Times and all of her guided meditations and lessons for children are available on the Waking Up app, the digital meditation platform created by her husband Sam Harris — the renown author, public intellectual, blogger, and podcast host.
Annaka’s latest book — which recently hit the New York Times bestseller list and provides the focus for today’s conversation — is entitled, Conscious: A Brief Guide to the Fundamental Mystery of the Mind. A must-read for any and all curious about one of the Universe’s great mysteries, it’s a brief yet mind-bending read that challenges our assumptions about the nature, origin and purpose of consciousness.
Equal parts nerdy and fun, this is a deeply profound conversation that tackles the very nature of consciousness itself — and what it means to be a living being having ‘an experience’.
We discuss how Annaka became interested in this field and the path undertaken to writing this book.
Parsing instinct from scientific fact, we deconstruct our assumptions about consciousness and grapple with its essential nature — what is consciousness exactly? And where does it physically reside?
We discuss meditation and artificial intelligence. We dive into plant consciousness. We explore panpsychism (a theory I quite fancy). And we muse about the role of spirituality in scientific inquiry.
All told, this tackles the current limits of science and human understanding and leaves us wondering, is it possible to truly understand everything?
The visually inclined can watch our entire conversation on YouTube here: bit.ly/annakaharris460 (please subscribe!) and the podcast is of course available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
An intellectual delight from start to finish, I thoroughly enjoyed talking to Annaka and I sincerely hope you enjoy the listen.
Peace + Plants,
Photos courtesy of Ali Rogers.
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Background, Context & Reference:
- Connect With Annaka: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
- Latest Book: Conscious: A Brief Guide to the Fundamental Mystery of the Mind* by Annaka Harris
- Children’s Book: I Wonder* by Annaka Harris
- Guided meditations for children: Inner Kids on The Waking Up App
- YouTube: Making Sense with Sam Harris #159 – Conscious (with Annaka Harris) | Sam Harris
- YouTube: Conscious: A Brief Guide to the Fundamental Mystery of the Mind by Annaka Harris | HarperBooks
- YouTube: The Double Slit experiment explained! By Jim Al-Khalili
- NBC News: Is the Universe Conscious?
- Singularity Hub: Exploring the Great Mysteries of Consciousness and Free Will With Annaka Harris
- Duke University Press: The Philosophical Review: What Is It Like To Be A Bat? by Thomas Nagel
- Essay: Spirituality and Intellectual Honesty by Thomas Metzinger
- The Embryo Project: Roger Sperry’s Split Brain Experiments (1959–1968)
- Farnam Street: Who’s in Charge of Our Minds? The Interpreter
- TED Talk: How Trees Talk To Each Other | Suzanne Simard |TEDSummit
- Book: The Order of Time* by Carlo Rovelli
- Book: On Having No Head* by Douglas Harding
- Book: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death* by Jean-Dominique Bauby
- Book: The Case Against Reality: Why Evolution Hid the Truth from Our Eyes* by Donald D. Hoffman
Notable People Discussed:
- Sam Harris: (Annaka’s husband) philosopher, neuroscientist, host of the Making Sense Podcast and author of Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion*
Jud Brewer M.D., Ph.D.: (upcoming guest!) is an American psychiatrist, neuroscientist and author. He studies the neural mechanisms of mindfulness using standard and real-time fMRI, and has translated research findings into programs to treat addictions
Cory Allen: musician, composer, mastering engineer and record label owner
Nima Arkani-Hamed: American-Canadian theoretical physicist of Iranian descent, with interests in high-energy physics, quantum field theory, string theory, cosmology and collider physics. Arkani-Hamed is a member of the permanent faculty at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey
Thomas Nagel: American philosopher and University Professor of Philosophy and Law Emeritus at New York University, where he taught from 1980 to 2016. His main areas of philosophical interest are philosophy of mind, political philosophy and ethics
Susan Kaiser Greenland: author and teacher of mindfulness and meditation, practicing a state of present-moment awareness to develop overall attentiveness and social/emotional skills.
Related Podcasts You Might Enjoy:
- RRP #456: Zach Bush, MD Wants You To Let Go Of Your Story
- RRP #406: The Iceman Cometh: Wim Hof On Elevating Consciousness & Amplifying Human Potential
- RRP #343: LIVE From NeueHouse: Rich & Julie On Creative Partnerships, Enhancing Productivity & Why It’s All About Consciousness
- RRP #274: Idea Architect Douglas Abrams: Cultivating Joy, Collaborating With Spiritual Masters & Elevating Consciousness
- RRP #172: Light Watkins On The Inner Gym: How Meditation Can Train Consciousness For Happiness
- RRP #94: How One Man Reinvented Himself Wholesale — Ruminations On Simplicity, Life In The Zone & The Great Iceberg Of Consciousness
Thanks to Jason Camiolo for production, audio engineering, interstitial music and show notes; Margo Lubin and Blake Curtis for video, editing and graphics. Ali Rogers for portraits. Theme music by Ana Leimma.
*Disclosure: Books and products denoted with an asterisk are hyperlinked to an affiliate program. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
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