EP105 Christof Koch on Consciousness



Christof Koch

Christof Koch and Jim have a wide-ranging conversation about the science of consciousness. They start by exploring some key topics brought up in his book, The Feeling of Life Itself: Why Consciousness Is Widespread But Can’t Be Computed: defining conscious experience, the importance of feeling, the historical value of Cartesian dualism, the challenge of materialism to explain mental phenomena, emergent consciousness, neural correlates of consciousness & enabling factors, ways of understanding qualia, and consciousness vs intelligence. They finish this episode by talking about integrated information theory (IIT): origins & dynamics, consciousness substrates & what it could mean for AI, small & large phi, uniting consciousnesses, IIT vs. global workspace theory (GWT) experimentation, panpsychism, and much more.

Episode Transcript Expected 1/22

Mentions & Recommendations

Christof Koch, PhD is a neuroscientist best known for his studies and writings exploring the brain basis of consciousness. Trained as a physicist, Koch was for 27 years a professor of biology and engineering at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. He is now Chief Scientist, MindScope Program at the Allen Institute in Seattle, leading a large-scale, high through-put effort to build brain observatories to map, analyze and understand the visual system of the mouse. Dr. Koch is interested in the biophysics of the brain, in brain-machine interfaces, in the neurophysiology of cortex, in conscious experiences and what they can tell us about the mind and the brain. He published his first paper on the neural correlates of consciousness with the molecular biologist Francis Crick thirty years ago.


EP104 Joe Henrich on WEIRD People



Joe Henrich

Joe Henrich talks to Jim about some of the key insights from his book, The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar & Particularly Prosperous. They cover who the WEIRD people are & what impact their WERDness has on academic research, the impact of literacy on cognition, nature & nurture, the unique characteristics of WEIRD people, individualist vs relational dispositions, guilt vs shame cultures, how events in Middle Ages driven by the Catholic Church lead to WEIRDness, kin-based institutions & cultures, non-kin organizations in societies & their impacts, differing views on justice, individualism’s role in innovation & wealth, wholistic vs analytical thinking, moral universalism, free will, possible WEIRD genetic drivers, and more.

Episode Transcript

Mentions & Recommendations

Dr. Henrich is currently a Harvard Professor and Chair of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology. Before moving to Harvard, he was a professor of both Economics and Psychology at the University of British Columbia for nearly a decade, where he held the Canada Research Chair in Culture, Cognition and Coevolution. In 2013-14, Dr. Henrich held the Peter and Charlotte Schoenenfeld Faculty Fellowship at NYU’s Stern School of Business. His research deploys evolutionary theory to understand how human psychology gives rise to cultural evolution and how this has shaped our species’ genetic evolution. Using insights generated from this approach, Professor Henrich has explored a variety of topics, including economic decision-making, social norms, fairness, religion, marriage, prestige, cooperation and innovation. He’s conducted long-term anthropological fieldwork in Peru, Chile and in the South Pacific, as well as having spearheaded several large comparative projects.