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In this episode we look at the extraordinary phenomena of the Left Brain Interpreter, in which a part of the left hemisphere tends to literally invent an explanation for something we’ve perceived or done based on past experience, sometimes in a completely mistaken way. This is a very important phenomena to our first series as we introduce the cognitive limits of our brains, as it shows just how tricky our so called rational mind can be, and begs questions about the authority and validity of our conscious faculties and how much is the result of previous bias. The most interesting part about this is that the subject has no idea cognitively that this is an invention and thinks that this is true information not a deduction. But before we jump to any conclusions, in order to understand this properly we need to speak to a legend in the relatively young field of neuroscience, the person who actually discovered this phenomena in the first place, Dr Mike Gazzaniga.

He is the founder of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at both the University of California and Dartmouth College. He is also a proficient author of books for both the general public and the more specialised field. Some of his titles include: ‘The Ethical Brain’, ‘Who’s in Charge? Free will and the science of the brain’, and most recently, which we’ll be discussing today, ‘The Consciousness instinct: unravelling the the mystery of how the brain makes mind’. He made is name in the field as one of the pioneers in split-brain research, which led to the bulk of his early work on what the functions of each hemisphere of the brain are, and and how the left and right hemispheres communicate with each other. So who better to answer our questions and doubts about this tricky area. He’s also, unlike many scientists who prefer to stick to hard observable evidence, not afraid to write about the ethics and philosophy of these discoveries.

What we discuss in this episode:

04:40​ The ‘What the hell is going on?’ question.

09:23​ The early split brain discoveries

15:44​ The differences between the two hemispheres.

19:45​ Mythbusting the Left and right brain.

22:54​ The Left Brain Interpreter explained by its discoverer.

31:30​ The connection between the interpreter and confirmation bias

34:00​ Solutions through awareness of the interpreter, the difficulty of changing opinion

36:00​ Facing the resistance of dogma in science

37:00​ ‘How do we go from matter to mattering?’

38:00​ ‘The Consciousness instinct'

43:00​ Complimentarity, the wave particle duality, Howard H Pattee and his paper ‘how does a molecule become a message?’

48:00​ Mike’s ‘babbling brook’ analogy for consciousness.

53:00​ My theory of your consciousness is better than my theory of my own consciousness.

54:00​ Free Will and personal responsibility


Referenced in this episode:

John Doyle at Caltech, Bioengineer.  

Howard H Pattee, Biologist and philosopher - How does a molecule become a message?

Nils Bohr - Complimentarity - complimentary features which can’t all be measured simultaneously.

The Conscious Whole - William James

Sebastian Seung - the Connectome

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