The Experience Machine

The Experience Machine

How Our Minds Predict and Shape Reality

Summary

For as long as we've studied the mind, we've believed that information flowing from our senses determines what our mind perceives. But as our understanding has advanced in the last few decades, a hugely powerful new view has flipped this assumption on its head. The brain is not a passive receiver, but an ever-active predictor.

At the forefront of this cognitive revolution is widely acclaimed philosopher and cognitive scientist Andy Clark, who has synthesized his ground-breaking work on the predictive brain to explore its fascinating mechanics and implications. Among the most stunning of these is the realization that experience itself, because it is guided by prior expectation, is a kind of controlled hallucination. We don't passively take in the world around us; instead our mind is constantly making and refining predictions about what we expect to see. This even applies to our bodies, as the way we experience pain and other states is shaped by our expectations, and this has broader implications for the understanding and treatment of conditions from PTSD to schizophrenia to medically unexplained symptoms. From the most mundane experiences to the most sublime, it is our predictions that sculpt our experience.

A landmark study of cognitive science, The Experience Machine lays out the extraordinary explanatory power of the predictive brain for our lives, mental health and society.

Reviews

  • Enjoyable and surprising
    Steven Poole, Guardian

About the author

Andy Clark

Andy Clark is a Professor of Cognitive Philosophy at the University of Sussex, and at Macquarie University, Australia. He is the author of six books including Supersizing the Mind, Natural-Born Cyborgs and Surfing Uncertainty. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the British Academy, and is an occasional Academic Consultant for Google, UK.
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