Category Archives: Consciousness

The mysterious inner life of the octopus

Martha Henriques writes: It was a big night for Inky the octopus. The day’s visitors had been and gone, and now his room in the aquarium was deserted. In a rare oversight, the lid of his tank had been left ajar. The common New Zealand octopus had been without female company for some time, sharing… Read More »

The octopus dreams of crabs

Laura Miller writes: John James Audubon was wrong. The great naturalist may have illustrated and compiled 1827’s Birds of America, a pioneering work of ornithology, but thanks to a series of sloppy experiments on turkey vultures, he insisted that birds can’t smell. This was taken for granted until the 1960s when two women scientists in… Read More »

The man rethinking the definition of reality

Tom Chatfield writes: If you woke up one day and discovered that you were living in a virtual world – that everything you’d ever known was, like the Matrix, a form of hyper-realistic simulation – what would this imply for your hopes, dreams and experiences? Would it reveal them all to be lies: deceptions devoid… Read More »

I feel, therefore I am

Antonio Damasio writes: In the beginning was not the word; that much is clear. Life sailed forth without words or thoughts, without feelings or reasons, devoid of minds or consciousness. Not that the universe of the living was ever simple, quite the contrary. It was complex from its inception, four billion years ago. But living… Read More »

On the evidence for fungal intelligence

Nicholas P Money writes: Mushrooms and other kinds of fungi are often associated with witchcraft and are the subjects of longstanding superstitions. Witches dance inside fairy rings of mushrooms according to German folklore, while a French fable warns that anyone foolish enough to step inside these ‘sorcerer’s rings’ will be cursed by enormous toads with… Read More »

The easy part of the hard problem of consciousness

Tam Hunt writes: How does consciousness arise? What might its relationship to matter be? And why are some things conscious while others apparently aren’t? These sorts of questions, taken together, make up what’s called the “hard problem” of consciousness, coined some years ago by the philosopher David Chalmers. There is no widely accepted solution to… Read More »

Why walking helps us think

Ferris Jabr writes: In Vogue’s 1969 Christmas issue, Vladimir Nabokov offered some advice for teaching James Joyce’s “Ulysses”: “Instead of perpetuating the pretentious nonsense of Homeric, chromatic, and visceral chapter headings, instructors should prepare maps of Dublin with Bloom’s and Stephen’s intertwining itineraries clearly traced.” He drew a charming one himself. Several decades later, a… Read More »

The origin of consciousness

Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka write: MuZero is an algorithm with a superhuman ability to learn: it has learned to play 57 different Atari video games as well as Chess, Go and Shogi, and defeated the greatest human masters in every one of them. Yet, this amazing algorithm and the computer in which it is… Read More »