What is consciousness and how can a brain, a mere collection of neurons, create it? In Consciousness and the Social Brain, Princeton neuroscientist Michael Graziano lays out an audacious new theory to account for the deepest mystery of them all. The human brain has evolved a complex circuitry that allows it to be socially intelligent. This social machinery has only just begun to be studied in detail. One function of this circuitry is to attribute awareness to others: to compute that person Y is aware of thing X.
In Graziano's theory, the machinery that attributes awareness to others also attributes it to oneself. Damage that machinery and you disrupt your own awareness. Graziano discusses the science, the evidence, the philosophy, and the surprising implications of this new theory.
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Good idea but poor narration.
The last chapters discussing the nature of spirituality and possibility of machine consciousness were intriguing and refreshingly different from most other accounts.
The narrator spoke with very little voice inflection and what was there was annoying. Every sentence ended with a lowered pitch making it sound like each one was the last one in the paragraph or chapter. It became more and more distracting until it was only possible to listen in small doses. However, the content was compelling enough to finish.
The author has an unusual hypothesis about the relationship of awareness and attention, and even though his exposition was repetitive, the concept is exciting and compelling.