The Experience Machine

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A brilliant new theory of the mind that upends our understanding of how the brain interacts with the world"This thoroughly readable book will convince you that the brain and the world are partners in constructing our understanding." --Sean Carroll, New York Times bestselling author of The Biggest Ideas in the Universe: Space, Time, and MotionFor as long as we've studied human cognition, we've believed that our senses give us direct access to the world. What we see is what's really there--or so the thinking goes. But new discoveries in neuroscience and psychology have turned this assumption on its head. What if rather than perceiving reality passively, your mind actively predicts it? Widely acclaimed philosopher and cognitive scientist Andy Clark unpacks this provocative new theory that the brain is a powerful, dynamic prediction engine, mediating our experience of both body and world. From the most mundane experiences to the most sublime, reality as we know it is the complex synthesis of sensory information and expectation. Exploring its fascinating mechanics and remarkable implications for our lives, mental health, and society, Clark nimbly illustrates how the predictive brain sculpts all human experience. Chronic pain and mental illness are shown to involve subtle malfunctions of our unconscious predictions, pointing the way towards more effective, targeted treatments. Under renewed scrutiny, the very boundary between ourselves and the outside world dissolves, showing that we are as entangled with our environments as we are with our onboard memories, thoughts, and feelings. And perception itself is revealed to be something of a controlled hallucination. Unveiling the extraordinary explanatory power of the predictive brain, The Experience Machine is a mesmerizing window onto one of the most significant developments in our understanding of the mind.