Public lecture asks ‘Is a true reality inaccessible?'

St Peter's School

Public lecture asks ‘Is a true reality inaccessible?'

Professor Anil Seth at St Peter'sHundreds gathered at St Peter’s School to hear a leading neuroscientist explain why the world around us may not be as it seems.

Professor Anil Seth, from the University of Sussex, brought together the disciplines of neuroscience, philosophy, psychology and maths to explain that consciousness is a deeply personal and subjective experience for each of us, which poses all manner of questions about the nature of our reality.

A packed-out Memorial Hall heard Professor Seth cover the history of thinking on consciousness from Descartes’ immortal “I think therefore I am”, through to the modern phenomena of virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

In the lecture, entitled What in the World is Consciousness?, the speaker employed audio and visual illusions to demonstrate that it is a mixture of external signals and our internal preconceptions and expectations that inform our brain’s “best guess” as to what reality is. As such, it is difficult to contest that such a thing as reality even exists.

The 400-strong audience enjoyed an inspired discussion with Professor Seth at the end of the lecture, exploring the possibility of artificial intelligence becoming sentient and whether the conscious experience of one person could be replicated for another. 

Andy Parr, Head of Science Outreach at St Peter’s, said: “All our lectures are thought-provoking, but questioning the very nature of our thoughts took this one to a whole new level! The way Professor Seth was able to bring together aspects of a broad range of disciplines meant that everybody in the audience was able to take something away from this fascinating evening. My thanks to him for a truly outstanding talk.”

You can find out more about our varied and exciting science outreach programme here.