Being You Book Summary - Being You Book explained in key points
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Being You summary

Anil Seth

A New Science of Consciousness

4.2 (513 ratings)
25 mins

Brief summary

"Being You" by Anil Seth is a thought-provoking book that explores the nature of consciousness and self. Seth offers insights into how our brains construct our perceptions of reality and how we can harness our ability to shape our experiences.

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    Being You
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    We can’t solve the hard problem of consciousness, but we can dissolve it into real problems.

    What does it feel like to be a bat?

    In 1974, philosopher Thomas Nagel published a famous essay asking just this question. Nagel wasn’t really interested in bats – his interest was in the nature of consciousness. He argued that for every conscious organism – a bat, for example – being alive feels like something. This may seem obvious now, but it wasn’t back then. Many scientists at the time were still confusing consciousness with intelligence, language, or other human-like characteristics.

    Today, most agree with Nagel. Consciousness is its own, unique thing; and all living beings share it to some degree. Even more, it has a certain subjective “flavor” to it. But there’s one big question that remains: Why does it even exist? 

    This question is known as the “hard problem” of consciousness. 

    Here’s the gist of this blink: We can’t solve the hard problem of consciousness, but we can dissolve it into real problems

    Many scientists believe that the hard problem of consciousness is virtually impossible to solve. Think about it: Even if they knew all the biological mechanisms that give rise to your thoughts, behaviors, and emotions, they still couldn’t explain why they’re accompanied by this strange, ever-present feeling of “being you.”

    After all, you could easily imagine a “zombie” version of yourself that walks, talks, and acts exactly like you – but that has no inner life.

    Consciousness seems like some kind of secret special sauce the universe added to all living beings. 

    But that doesn’t mean we can’t find out what the ingredients are. Science already has many tools and theories to explain different conscious experiences – we just need to put it all together.

    Sound lofty? Well, science has done it before. Before the twentieth century, the biological property of life was just as mysterious as consciousness. The philosophy of vitalism proposed that there was some special, supernatural energy present in all living beings. But as biology progressed, and scientists began studying extreme cases like single-celled organisms and viruses, they started to understand that “being alive” wasn’t some mysterious all-or-nothing property. It was more like a scalable collection of different biological processes.

    So, while we might not be able to solve the hard problem of consciousness outright, we might be able to dissolve it—by studying different aspects of consciousness. The author calls those the “real problems” of consciousness. For example, we could study how activity in the visual cortex gives rise to the experience of seeing something dark red versus seeing something light red. 

    The more we can explain about how physical patterns in the brain correspond to conscious experiences, the less mysterious consciousness will become.

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    What is Being You about?

    Being You (2021) offers a new theory of consciousness. What does it mean to be you? Why do your experiences of the world, your selfhood, and your body feel the way they do? Combining neuroscience, philosophy, and a pinch of speculation, these blinks argue that consciousness is not as mysterious as it seems – it is deeply entwined with our living, breathing bodies.

    Being You Review

    Being You by Anil Seth provides a fascinating exploration of the nature of consciousness and the unique experience of being human. Here's why this book is definitely worth reading:

    • Offers a refreshing perspective on the subject, challenging traditional views and proposing new theories that expand our understanding of the self.
    • Presents complex scientific concepts in a clear and accessible way, making it easy for readers to engage with and grasp the profound ideas discussed.
    • Combines rigorous scientific research with thought-provoking examples and anecdotes, ensuring that the book keeps readers hooked and captivated from start to finish.

    Who should read Being You?

    • Science enthusiasts interested in the mystery of consciousness
    • The philosophically inclined
    • Fans and critics of Artificial Intelligence

    About the Author

    Anil Seth is a neuroscientist and author. He’s a professor of cognitive and computational neuroscience at the University of Sussex, where he also codirects the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science.

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    Being You FAQs 

    What is the main message of Being You?

    The main message of Being You is about understanding the nature of consciousness and what it means to be an individual.

    How long does it take to read Being You?

    The reading time for Being You varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Being You a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Being You is worth reading for its thought-provoking exploration of consciousness and the self. It offers valuable insights for personal growth.

    Who is the author of Being You?

    The author of Being You is Anil Seth.

    What to read after Being You?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Being You, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Other Minds by Peter Godfrey-Smith
    • Livewired by David Eagleman
    • Know Thyself by Stephen M. Fleming
    • How Emotions Are Made by Lisa Feldman Barrett
    • (Article) Why can't the world's greatest minds solve the mystery of consciousness? by Oliver Burkeman
    • Supercommunicators by Charles Duhigg
    • Beyond the Pleasure Principle by Sigmund Freud
    • Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown
    • Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson
    • The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene