I was a bit put off by this book at first. I had a rather dramatic and terrifying experience a few years ago when it took a longer time for me to come out of general anesthesia than is common. It took me 2+ weeks before I was mentally stable and 5 before I was actually released by the hospital and convalescent home. The experience was scary and it scared me to even think much about. My doctors and various places on the internet said it was not uncommon – okay fine, But it was still scary and Being You turned out to be quite helpful and hopeful.
A New Science of Consciousness
by Anil Seth
2021 / 342 pages
read by author
Rating: 10 / biology-psychology
The way Seth introduces his subject in the Prologue put me back in that awful place so I decided to skip this book on my reading group’s list. But I didn’t like just skipping a book, so I picked it a few weeks later, when discussion time actually came and to my surprise the Prologue wasn’t as bad as I’d felt the first time. And Chapter 1 was better and the book never became scary again, in fact, it was comforting in several ways. The whole thing was very interesting, perhaps even more so because of my experience with anesthesia.
The book isn’t a light read by any means, and the first few chapters are some of the most rigorous. In fact, I read and listened to the book at least two times because the new vocabulary gets confusing. I may still have another go at some point this month.
What Seth is doing is presenting the science of today about consciousness and the chapters are developed cumulatively so it’s better to treat the work as one work instead of skipping around picking chapters which seem interesting. He’s talking about self-awareness type of self-consciousness, not the “someone’s watching me” kind of self-consciousness.
The subject goes from the basic consciousness of organisms to the scientific definitions and findings about human consciousness and this includes types and what constitutes consciousness. Toward the end Seth goes into Artificial Intelligence and animal consciousness/
Seth keeps the style lightish with quotes and anecdotes throughout as appropriate. And if you’re listening to the book he narrates it better than almost any other author who reads his own work. Also, there’s a pdf file to provide various graphics, there really are quite a few. And as an added bonus, he can be pretty funny.
The Footnotes include source material as well as further information related to the subject and the text includes a number of links to outside sources or the author tells you how to find them.
I really feel like I learned a whole lot of very interesting material from this book but some of it is still quite speculative. I still won’t have surgery again though – if it happened once it’s almost more like to happen again, I’m definitely a senior, considered elderly by some, so there are several reasons it’s likely to reoccur. And what if I got stuck that way?
What a dreadful experience you had!
I’m not surprised that you were a bit anxious about reading this one.