Being You is not as simple as it sounds
Somehow, within each of our brains, billions of neurons work to create our conscious experience. How does this happen? Why do we experience life in the first person? After over twenty years researching the brain, neuroscientist Anil Seth puts forward a radical new theory of consciousness and self. His unique theory of what it means to ‘be you’ challenges our understanding of perception and reality and it turns what you thought you knew about yourself on its head.
The instant Sunday Times Bestseller and Guardian Book of the Week. Being You – A New Science of Consciousness is also a Bookseller Editor’s Choice, A Financial Times Book of the Year, and is available here (UK) and here (US/Canada).
Being You is an exhilarating book: a vast-ranging, phenomenal achievement that will undoubtedly become a seminal text.
A fascinating book. A joy to read. Anil Seth explores fundamental questions about consciousness and the self from the perspective of a philosophically-informed neuroscientist. Highly recommended.
An accessible, unfailingly interesting look inside the workings of the human brain, celebrating its beguiling nature.
[Seth’s] extraordinary debut sets out his exhilarating new theory about how we experience the world.
What makes you, you? What explains your consciousness and sense of self? In this remarkable and ground-breaking work, Anil Seth offers a surprising answer, rooted in the new science of the predictive brain. Compulsory reading for anyone who wants to better understand their inner ‘beast machine’.
In lucid, engaging process Seth deftly navigates long-standing philosophical debates over the nature of consciousness.
Insightful and profound. The nature of consciousness is still one of the hardest problems in science, but Anil Seth brings us closer than ever before to the answer. This a hugely important book.
A brilliant beast of a book ... Hugely inspirational—I filled up 10 pages with exuberant notes. Keep a pencil handy.
Reviews of Being You
“Seth … deftly weaves the philosophical, biological and personal with a lucid clarity and coherence that is thrilling to read … consciousness [is] one of the most exciting scientific frontiers, and nobody is better placed to guide us there … this much-anticipated book lays out his radical theory of our invented reality with accessible and compelling writing … Being You is an exhilarating book: a vast-ranging, phenomenal achievement that will undoubtedly become a seminal text.”
— Gaia Vince, The Guardian, Book of the Week [full review]
“Seth makes a convincing case that perception masquerades as conscious reality… Fluent and accessible.”
“Drawing on philosophy, biology, cognitive science, neuroscience and artificial intelligence, he argues that our brains are prediction machines that constantly invent our world and then correct our mistakes, so that our sense of self derives from our body.”
“Imaginative and compelling…”
“In lucid, engaging prose Seth deftly navigates long-standing philosophical debates over the nature of consciousness… awe-inspiring.”
“An accessible, unfailingly interesting look inside the workings of the human brain, celebrating its beguiling nature.”
“[Seth’s] extraordinary debut sets out his exhilarating new theory about how we experience the world.”
—The Bookseller (Editor’s Choice)
“[Anil Seth] takes on the prodigious task of defining consciousness and explaining its origins in this intense survey.”
“Bracingly revisionist and deeply fascinating, Seth’s rigorous new analysis of human consciousness is a game-changing volume for our understanding of the interrelationship between perception and reality..”
What people are saying...
“One of the most authoritative voices in a central question of neuroscience: what is consciousness? His new book is a page-turner and a mind-blower. If you’ve ever wondered how billions of neurons chattering in the dark equate to your experience, start here… Beautifully written, crystal clear, deeply insightful.”
— David Eagleman, neuroscientist at Stanford University, writer and host of the Emmy-nominated PBS television series The Brain, and author of Livewired and Incognito
“A brilliant beast of a book. A wide ranging synthesis pulling together disparate stands—from philosophy, science, literature, personal experience and speculation—this latter being the most exciting for me, despite some proposals being as yet unproven. Seth proposes to explain not just what and how we are, but probably provocative for some folks, why we are the way we are. Why do we have the feeling of continually being the same person? (When obviously I, at least, am not.) Why do we have this feeling of being self aware? What is it for? Hugely inspirational—I filled up 10 pages with exuberant notes. Keep a pencil handy.”
— David Byrne, founding member of Talking Heads, and author of How Music Works
“Seth provokes us to think about thinking. And he offers what the interested reader always needs—a book which makes complex ideas readable, relatable, and gripping. If you want to understand his subject better—he’ll help you. And who wouldn’t want to better understand consciousness? In our lives, there is nothing weirder or more fundamental.”
— Alex Garland, director of EX MACHINA
“Being You offers us a new cause for astonishment and wonder. Through expert science writing and engaging personal narrative, Anil gives us a new perspective on everything we perceive, down to space and time itself. Being You is a must read for anyone seeking a better understanding of the brain and how nature sculpts the human experience.”
— Annaka Harris, author of Conscious
“Reality is real, but how our brains construct a picture of reality—perceiving, integrating, predicting—is far from direct. It’s a complicated, fascinating mess, which neuroscientists are just beginning to piece together. Anil Seth’s Being You is a wonderfully accessible and comprehensive account of how our minds capture the world, and how that makes us who we are.”
— Sean Carroll, author of Something Deeply Hidden
“In this lucid and thought-provoking exploration of the nature of consciousness, Seth takes us closer than ever to making sense of our experience of being conscious selves. A must-read.”
— Anil Ananthaswamy, award-winning journalist and author of Through Two Doors at Once and The Man Who Wasn’t There
“A fascinating book. A joy to read. Anil Seth explores fundamental questions about consciousness and the self from the perspective of a philosophically-informed neuroscientist. Highly recommended.”
— Nigel Warburton, bestselling author of A Little History of Philosophy and Philosophy: The Basics
“Insightful and profound. The nature of consciousness is still one of the hardest problems in science, but Anil Seth brings us closer than ever before to the answer. This a hugely important book.”
— Jim Al-Khalili, author of The World According to Physics and presenter of BBC The Life Scientific
“What makes you, you? What explains your consciousness and sense of self? In this remarkable and ground-breaking work, Anil Seth offers a surprising answer, rooted in the new science of the predictive brain. Compulsory reading for anyone who wants to better understand their inner ‘beast machine.’”
— Andy Clark, author of Surfing Uncertainty: Prediction, Action, and the Embodied Mind
“There could hardly be a better guide to the theories—good and bad—currently swirling around the science of consciousness. Seth writes with grace and charm, gently demolishing bad ideas—such as panpsychism, and Integrated Information Theory—while building a case for his own very good idea that consciousness is a kind of controlled hallucination, the brain’s best guess at inventing the future.”
—Nicholas Humphrey, neuropsychologist and author A History of the Mind and Soul Dust
“Seth is uniquely placed to truly advance our understanding of one of humanity’s deepest riddles.”
— Chris Anderson, Curator of TED
“The treatment of consciousness on offer is eclectic and delivered with a particular kind of generosity: it is both generous to the reader, in its earnest (and successful) attempt to lay bare the essentials of different contributions. It is generous to these contributions per se: ranging from anaesthesia—the art of turning people into objects—from information theory to the Wizards of Odds (abductive Bayesian inference), from the Beholder’s Share to the free energy principle—aptly defined as there are more ways of being mush than there are of being alive. It’s dénouement is a millennial take on being A Beast Machine: a potent account of embodied sentience and selfhood. An account that is rendered irresistible by Anil Seth’s gentle and inclusive arguments.”
— Karl Friston, University College London, ranked by Semantic Scholar as the most influential neuroscientist in the world
“Anil Seth is one of the world’s leading consciousness researchers—his take on the subject is unique and refreshing, and his talks and writing always exciting, accessible, and engaging.”
— Christof Koch, President and Chief Scientific Officer of the Allen Brain Institute, Seattle, and author of Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist
“Anil Seth thinks clearly and sharply on one of the hardest problems of science and philosophy, cuts through weeds with a scientist’s mind and a storyteller’s skill … Being You is the brightest picture yet on the science of consciousness..”
— Adam Rutherford, author of A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived, and presenter of BBC Inside Science