Being You - Anil Seth - Book review

My one-line summary of the book’s perspective is: The brain as a set of embodied Bayesian best guesses, required to control allostasis.

The scope of the book is huge and could be a considered a high level synthesis work. I found it highly readable and quite compelling. I certainly liked the practical/empirical style. The book is highly referenced and researched, bringing in many perspectives.

As an example, one important topic covers the self, as a modular set of units, with no centre (social, narrative, volitional, perspectival, embodied). Each module is defined by its physical failure modes - informed from medical studies of brain regions.

However one of my many take away points from the book was this:

“We live with an exaggerated, extreme form of change blindness, and to understand why, we need to understand the reason we perceive ourselves in the first place. We do not perceive ourselves in order to know ourselves, we perceive ourselves in order to control ourselves.”
pg 198.

The relationship of this perspective to the Dumb Boss/Smart Advisor model, and the profound limits of introspection, discussed by many on this forum, is quite striking.

I also really like how the hard problem nearly became a “confusion between how things seem from how they are.” There is some light philosophy but the aim seems to be about creating an empirical approach that can be tested.

All other views welcomed.


The Master (Dumb Boss) and His Emissary (Smart Advisor). We just keep circling and circling, don’t we?

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