Mind Meld 171 | Annaka Harris | Why the Lights Are On

Annaka Harris is the NYT bestselling author of CONSCIOUS: A Brief Guide to the Fundamental Mystery of the Mind. She’s also an editor and consultant for science writers, specializing in neuroscience and physics.

In this mind meld, we navigate the mystery of consciousness at large. We also chat free will, panpsychism, why the self is an illusion and much more. 


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What is a thought? What is a feeling? What is an idea? What is a taste? What is a color?

If I zoom in on any of the above, I find vapor. An in flux transitory occurrence in the atmosphere of my consciousness.

I don’t think that implies that experience is without value, but it is incredibly impermanent. Even a highly impactful experience like being grief-stricken fades. It may hit you hard for a while, but how long? A month? A few? It too scars over and people continue on with their lives.

There are endless reams of philosophy dealing with this stuff, of course. Descartes thought he had it explained by saying there was a mind-body dualism, that the stuff of mind isn’t of the physical world at all and that’s why it escapes empirical measurement. Most modern scientists completely disagree arguing the opposite, that all there is is matter. That may be true to an extent, but what of conscious experience itself? Why are the lights on at all? Why do we have this seamless continuity of experience that never ends?

This is such a difficult topic to navigate thoroughly and I’m not even saying we do on this particular episode, but we give it a go. And we do so with one of my very favorite individuals taking on this mystery– Annaka Harris. She’s the author of the book Conscious: a brief guide to the fundamental mystery of mind. I highly recommend it to all of you wonder-dippers. It’s a piping-hot example of being thoroughly scientific while still admitting that there is a real mystery at the heart of consciousness.

Inject your altruism–


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