The World Behind the World: Consciousness, Free Will, and the Limits of Science
From a Forbes 30 Under 30 scientist comes a fascinating exploration into how the brain creates our conscious experiences—potentially revolutionizing neuroscience and the future of technology—transforming the very fabric of our society.
Throughout history, two perspectives on the world have dueled in our minds: the extrinsic—that of mechanism and physics—and the intrinsic—that of feelings, thoughts, and ideas. The intrinsic perspective allows us to tell stories about our lives, to chart our anger and our lust, to understand our psychologies. The extrinsic allows us to chart the physical world, to build upon it, and to travel across it. These perspectives have never been reconciled; they almost seem to exist on different planes of thought. Only recently, due to the pioneering work of DNA-discoverer Francis Crick, have these two perspectives been conjoined.
This attempt to reconcile these perspectives is the science of consciousness, and posits that the intrinsic aspect of the world, how and what we perceive, can coexist in the extrinsic part of the world, in the realm of physics. The World Behind the World is a grand tour of the state of this science, an exploration of the point where tectonic metaphysical forces meet, often in paradoxical conclusions.
Dr. Erik Hoel lays out the evidence that nothing in the brain makes sense except in the light of a theory of consciousness. Some topics he examines include what the similarities are between our brains and black holes; where consciousness fits into physics and morality; and why it may be impossible for AI to ever become conscious, despite popular belief.
What does the science of consciousness tell us about what happens beyond brain death? Does our understanding of consciousness strengthen or weaken the case for free will? Is science itself incomplete in the way Gödel showed mathematics is? By taking us through the heated debates of the field and drawing on Hoel’s own original research to shed light on the latest theories about how the brain creates consciousness, The World Behind the World shows us that at long last, science is coming to understand the fundamental mystery of human existence.
Praise for The World Behind the World: Consciousness, Free Will, and the Limits of Science
The Next Big Idea Club’s July 2023 Must-Read Book
Behavioral Scientist’s Summer Book List 2023
“Neuroscientist and fiction writer Hoel draws on history, philosophy, mathematics, and neuroscience to examine ways that consciousness has been imagined and investigated.” —Kirkus Reviews
Praise for The Revelations:
“A dizzying, impressive debut . . . Fast and furious, this mind-stretching novel makes the grade.” —Publishers Weekly
“Hoel’s debut is one of the year’s most ambitious novels to date, a provocative and weighty exploration of nothing short of human consciousness. . . . The novel is packed full with ideas, debates, scientific inquiry, and language that seems itself to come alive. This is a mystery novel you won’t soon forget and the announcement of a major new talent.” —CrimeReads
“The Revelations is written in muscular, hypnotic prose, and not unlike its main character, is ambitious and abrasive. It is bursting with ideas, ranging from Greek mythology to the dark realities of animal testing, to some of the biggest unanswered questions facing scientists today.” —Brooklyn Digest