World Science Festival TV: Another afternoon shot

By Carl Zimmer | February 25, 2011 1:59 pm

I really do have work to do. So I’m profoundly resentful (in the best way possible) that the World Science Festival has launched a video site called WSFtv. Here’s seven minutes of neuroscientist Giulio Tononi (subject of my recent New York Times profile) talking about his theory of consciousness. There is a lot more where that came from.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Brains, Link Love, Writing Elsewhere

Comments (4)

  1. Hey, it’s raining and gross out anyway (in the northeast). A good afternoon to put off work and snuggle up with some of your favorite scientists and thinkers 😉

  2. the Tall Ape

    Alda seems to be rushing Tononi, let the man speak – I assure you it’s all fascinating!

  3. johnk

    Warning: I’m a neuroscientist and I’ve spent long largely unproductive hours thinking about these questions.

    I have mixed feelings about the videos (Tononi, Charlie Kaufman and Alan Alda). The main gripe is that almost nothing about consciousness is “explained” and no theory is presented — not even Tononi’s. Tononi does a nice job of presenting interesting cases and experiments that make us ask what consciousness is, but these don’t lead to towards answers.

    Other comments. Tononi and others (Searle, Koch) say that we are not conscious when asleep. Isn’t it better to say that a sleeping individual is an another state of consciousness? Certainly dreams have aspects of consciousness. And who knows if we aren’t conscious continuously, but lacking memory storage?

    Tononi also asks Alan Alda a strange and interesting question: who is more similar, your conscious state now and your state when you were 5 or your conscious state now and my conscious state? Although its not clear what he’s getting at, he’s apparently trying to suggest that your consciousness cannot be the same as the consciousness when you were 5 because your brain’s set of information is so different. But I think the answer goes a different direction. There cannot be consciousness without memory, and the sense of continuity, partially fabricated, of an autobiographical self.

    Briefly, its hard to ‘explain’ consciousness without a definition. And there are no definitions. This type of conversation typically promises more than it can deliver.

  4. There goes another week.


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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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