Mind and Matter: Christof Koch on Consciousness and How to Expand It

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The universe is wider than our views of it – Henry David Thoreau

Christof Koch is a pioneering computational neuroscientist and neurophysiologist best known for his groundbreaking work on the neural basis of consciousness. He collaborated with Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, to establish a neurobiological framework for understanding consciousness. Christof served as the President and Chief Scientist of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle and continues his work there as a Meritorious Investigator. He is also the Chief Scientist of the Tiny Blue Dot Foundation in Santa Monica, CA, which funds research aimed at alleviating suffering, anxiety, and other forms of distress in people worldwide.

Christof has authored over five books on consciousness, with his latest being “Then I Am Myself the World: What Consciousness Is and How to Expand It.” This book delves into the subject of consciousness through the lenses of physics, psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, and computer science, as well as Christof’s personal experiences exploring his own consciousness.

In this episode, Christof discusses what might explain the origin of consciousness and existing contradictions. We explore how our minds construct reality, the wonder of experience, and the profound implications of Integrated Information Theory. Christoph also reflects on the importance of mindfulness, the power of belief, and the ongoing debate on free will.

Our conversation includes:

  • The origin of consciousness and the “Hard Problem
  • Integrated Information Theory (IIT)
  • How far down the phylogenetic tree consciousness might go
  • The mind-body problem: physical structures and subjective experiences
  • Panpsychism and how consciousness might be a fundamental aspect of matter.
  • Qualities of experience and the perception box
  • Mind-melding and the “uber” consciousness
  • Why AI or any compute-based system may never be sentient
  • The boundaries of consciousness and the dissolution of self
  • The notion of “mind at large”
  • Christof’s experiences with psychedelics
  • Free will

 

My hope is that this episode gives you a sense of awe about your mind so that you look at life and your experiences with a bit more wonder.

Enjoy!

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