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Anil Seth: How your brain invents your “self” | TED

Who are you, really? Neuroscientist Anil Seth lays out his fascinating new theory of consciousness and self, centered on the notion that we “predict” the world into existence. From sleep to memory and everything in between, Seth explores the reality we experience in our brains — versus the world as it objectively might be. This…

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Who are you, really? Neuroscientist Anil Seth lays out his fascinating new theory of consciousness and self, centered on the notion that we “predict” the world into existence. From sleep to memory and everything in between, Seth explores the reality we experience in our brains — versus the world as it objectively might be.

This talk and conversation, hosted by TED science curator David Biello, was part of a TED Membership event. Join TED Membership for access to exclusive monthly members-only events, including special conversations with some of the most brilliant TED speakers. Visit to learn more.

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77 Comments

77 Comments

  1. 5piles

    November 24, 2021 at 5:20 pm

    brains don’t hallucinate.

  2. Life Is My Opportunity☀️

    November 24, 2021 at 5:25 pm

    I lost my job during the pandemic

    I created my YouTube channel in faith, believing for myself, you and the rest of the world 🌍

  3. TrinkBruder

    November 24, 2021 at 5:49 pm

    Sunyata eliminates the atman. I am 2 minutes in maybe. The soul is impossible. Change your major from psychology. I major in anatman

  4. Reinier Moran

    November 24, 2021 at 6:27 pm

    Great topic! Thanks. To the friends who would like to deepen into the knowledge of what is a human being I recommend the book “AllatRa” by Anastasia Novykh. It is a reading that can completely change how we understand life.

  5. No gun no fear

    November 24, 2021 at 6:49 pm

    So your whole life occurs between your ears that is not news. Thought it is the only creative force and whatever you think is what you get. It’s all about focus. You can have any world you want. That is what’s so disappointing about our current one.

  6. David Randell

    November 24, 2021 at 6:49 pm

    Light is a cluster of electrons. The red part of light is the more massive than the others. A mass spectrometer- prism- shows this.Does the falling tree make noise/ sound absent an ‘observer.’ “The Unique and Its Property “, Max Stirner,1844/2017 Landstreicher translation for “ you.” Creative nothing.” No advance since then.

    • Ethan

      November 24, 2021 at 7:03 pm

      Are you okay?

  7. TrinkBruder

    November 24, 2021 at 6:50 pm

    Brains are like mucus the Egyptians sucked out of the skulls of dead Pharaohs before stuffing them in a giant Pyramid

  8. Kdot

    November 24, 2021 at 6:59 pm

    Just had a meditation where I realized that all ‘I’ am is awareness of & executive decisions for my unconcious mind, which caused me to freak out a little. Seeing this video in my inbox helped me put my thoughts into context & calm down. Thanks, my fellow feeling-machines 🤖

  9. David Randell

    November 24, 2021 at 6:59 pm

    Every atomic object doubles in ‘size ‘ in 19 minutes. Can you- psyche, ego, soul, memory, ad infinitum keep up? Well it must otherwise…. It follows such are also physical.

  10. TrinkBruder

    November 24, 2021 at 7:03 pm

    OMG physics. To attach more existence to a human brain than a black hole in the physical universe is the essence of Megalomania

  11. Sailor Moon

    November 24, 2021 at 7:16 pm

    Great ☺️

  12. haku4207

    November 24, 2021 at 7:50 pm

    the dislike bar was useful to know what others thought about the talk

  13. Carl John Reyes

    November 24, 2021 at 8:12 pm

    I always believe that our brain is a transducer of the world beyond our material reality, we know that energy cannot be destroyed nor created but where do the electrical impulses inside our brain go after thoughts were produced, if we will follow that conservation of energy technically we must be able to retain all of the memories we used to have? Consciousness might be one form of energy which far exceeds the reality our physical body lives in which we uses to wonder about things beyond, just imagine how vast our thoughts are, for sure we aren’t just bound in this material world. It is like our brain is limited only by physical means, death could be another way to achieve a greater consciousness.

  14. Rupok Das

    November 24, 2021 at 8:21 pm

    Thinks you create your brain and my Brian are same only darecsion to why your Brian is so biggie and my brain is seclent belence limits on discipline

  15. Salvador Pelaez

    November 24, 2021 at 8:50 pm

    Very interesting. Love that little reduction of a human person to a living machine at around 9 minutes in. The dehumanizing eye of western science rearing it’s head.

    • Salvador Pelaez

      November 24, 2021 at 8:53 pm

      I would love to read a book by this guy.

    • Salvador Pelaez

      November 24, 2021 at 9:40 pm

      Bought the book highly recommended he’s a genius

  16. Erich TheCat

    November 24, 2021 at 8:55 pm

    I would be interested in your view of the role and mechanisms of sub-consciousness (I’m living in Vienna 😉😉

  17. Final Destination

    November 24, 2021 at 9:25 pm

    Life is nothing but a illusion created by our minds still we fight each other on a daily basis knowing this

  18. Cellar Door

    November 24, 2021 at 9:27 pm

    I feel ya bruh
    Seagulls are like the rappers of the bird kingdom

  19. Final Destination

    November 24, 2021 at 9:42 pm

    You reach to the ultimate reality when you question everything.

  20. Od4n

    November 24, 2021 at 9:53 pm

    To the question of are we seeing the same colour or shade of colour… I remember having seen a documentary of an African tribe who can differentiate between greens where other people cannot. They were very observant in their environment where more shades of green existed and it mattered.

  21. MasterPeibol

    November 24, 2021 at 9:57 pm

    There was a time that I thought that consciousness would never be achieved by the machine. But if this new approach of how consciousness works gets validated, it is strikingly similar on how we train AI today through neural networks. Therefore, self awareness can be achievable by an AI. This would be truly remarkable.

  22. Od4n

    November 24, 2021 at 9:59 pm

    Short term memory only… Good movie is Memento. See how things can play out 😁

  23. Jacob Solace

    November 24, 2021 at 10:08 pm

    Being Human: What is Love, Relationship, Peace, Happiness, & Creativity?

  24. The polio and disable daily life

    November 24, 2021 at 10:14 pm

    ❤️❤️❤️

  25. dlanska

    November 25, 2021 at 12:30 am

    Well some of this is misstated. “Newton discovered long ago that all of the colors that we experience, the rainbow, the visible spectrum, are based on just a few wavelenths of electromagnetic radiation. … For us humans a whole universe of color is generated from just 3 of these wavelengths” Cones have a point of meximum sensitivity, but respond to a wide range of wavelengths. One can give the impression of different colors from mixing of 3 wavelenths (eg as approximated in a video screen), but that does NOT mean that for regular vision our eye picks out the 3 wavelengths and relies on just those. I know that it isn’t possible to fit sensory perception into just 23 minutes, much less a sense of “self,” but it really undercuts the overall argument to overstate or misstate supporting points.

  26. Anik A

    November 25, 2021 at 2:47 am

    16:53 He took ‘never mind’ to the whole different new level😅 and I love it.
    Some time ago, I’ve thought this way too that people have their own brain so they have their own thought. 😅

    When people and I disagree with some stuff, it was just ‘never mind’ 😅

  27. Thomas To, the Taichi Guy

    November 25, 2021 at 2:54 am

    Prof Donald Hoffman would say that the cup isn’t really there in reality as we know it, because not even time and space exist in the way that we perceive it for they like the red colour are constructs of the conscious mind.

  28. EL OST

    November 25, 2021 at 3:06 am

    The problem is, how can one “pseudo-self” ask or blame some other “pseudo-self”. They do, although! It’s pretty hard to realize that any of our achievements is just “A Turn Of A Friendly Card”…🎲

  29. ikkedansk

    November 25, 2021 at 4:14 am

    what a demagogue! shut up!

  30. Dirtydawgy

    November 25, 2021 at 4:41 am

    That red coffee cup is orange !! 🙂

  31. Dewyu Nohmi

    November 25, 2021 at 4:53 am

    @TED & Anil Seth — I Intensely Like What You Do. 😎

    Thank You For This Video. 💓

  32. Top Lista Nadrealista & Slozna Braca

    November 25, 2021 at 6:45 am

    That coffee mug looks orange…

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    November 25, 2021 at 6:51 am

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  34. Matt Diamand

    November 25, 2021 at 7:26 am

    *It’s orange

  35. Rusty Cherkas

    November 25, 2021 at 7:31 am

    “I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant”
    –Alan Greenspan

  36. Know Art

    November 25, 2021 at 9:21 am

    This sounds like it was meant to be read, not heard.

  37. RAV3N

    November 25, 2021 at 11:23 am

    Thinking back to when he said, if a cup was perceived as green but to him it was red is not a good line of thought I think it is. Imagine you don’t understand color by their names and someone holds a green leaf. They teach you the leaf is red. You then call the leaf red. You now know the leaf is red. the same person looks at the purple leaf in his hand and knows it is red as well. He was also taught the name of that color by someone before he knew what it was called. We can only describe the color based off of colors closely related to that colors wave length or more simply an object by the same color. We cannot prove it is not red to ourselves because of this. A man from a far away land is speaking to you. He looks at the orange leaf in the man’s hand and teaches you it is called Erup in his language. You teach him that it is called red in yours. you both agree that it is the same color but both of you use different names for the leaf color. The color of the leaf looks completely different based on how both yours and his brain perceive the wave lengths of that color. Yet, you both still agree it is red.
    I think this is interesting but not as dramatic as your perceived red as another’s purple. I think its more along the lines of Orange is someone’s Red since genetics would keep it similar between everyone. Think about how your taste is different from someone else. I think it’s something like that.

  38. Caleb McCartney

    November 25, 2021 at 11:36 am

    Meanwhile, the red cup looks orange to me. But it’s still just a cup regardless. Our experience of color “or anything” technically it’s a flipped orange/red cup. Pretty cool to think about. Have a great thanksgiving btw!!! Best wishes!

  39. Todd Chavez

    November 25, 2021 at 11:39 am

    Come on Ted you couldn’t finish this guy with a decent microphone?

  40. zaha star

    November 25, 2021 at 11:51 am

    This is all just your perception.

  41. Kunal Khan

    November 25, 2021 at 12:59 pm

    I did 9 Brain Surgeries becasue of Brain tumor and Internal infections. I got paralyzed and my vision is still Blind too. I had PTSD as well. Is there any opinion about my situation that you can give me plz?

  42. Thefakedream46

    November 25, 2021 at 1:45 pm

    Thank you for this video. Love TED : )

  43. Ada Pan

    November 25, 2021 at 2:28 pm

    reminds me of Embodied Simulation Hypothesis

  44. Joshua Willis

    November 25, 2021 at 3:08 pm

    I just don like feeling pain 🙁

  45. Quest4Content

    November 25, 2021 at 3:46 pm

    the topic presented at the 20.5 mark is interesting.. its because we are not meant to go back and revisit things.. we’re supposed to live in the moment at all times.. the fact that looking at old pictures has you remember things you would otherwise forget shows you how bad we are at recalling past events.

  46. Quest4Content

    November 25, 2021 at 3:48 pm

    the reason we’re not meant to think back isn’t only because its essentially meaningless.. but also because it hinders our momentum which is only properly achieved if we forget our place in space and time.. not bowing down to our place in space and time.

    • MARYANNE269

      November 26, 2021 at 9:28 pm

      Cool. Like your thinking x

  47. Ricardo Hoerde Porto

    November 25, 2021 at 4:28 pm

    correction: ORANGE coffee cup

  48. user990077

    November 25, 2021 at 6:27 pm

    That coffee cup is orange.

  49. Erfan Ghasempoor

    November 25, 2021 at 8:11 pm

    کیرم تو اون چشات

  50. Tyler Castles

    November 26, 2021 at 2:10 am

    Ideas like this are intriguing. What a beautiful video. A similar subject is that of conscious control. Most of us assume we are steering the ship more than we actually are. When I am hungry, I consciously choose what to eat. However, I do not consciously choose when to become hungry. I do not choose when to be satiated. I do not control the digestion of the food I have ingested. I do not control the multitude of functions that occur within my body. I simply react to them and my response is what little conscious control I have. Most of what happens in my body and mind is occurring on a subconscious level. The examples and thoughts I have provided only even provide an infinitesimal insight into the ideas of what consciousness truly is.

  51. John Moffat

    November 26, 2021 at 3:08 am

    I heard and read about this thinking 30+ years ago. Anil, why does this make us human separate from all living life when we don’t and may never know what the process is for life to be cognizant of the environs around them?

  52. Abu Hilal

    November 26, 2021 at 5:27 am

    Even though we know the self is an illusion, we still live by it. But there are people, such as Tony Parsons, Jim Newman, and others who say they don’t have this sense of being a self anymore. I wonder what would Anil think of that.

    • Katarina Janoskova

      November 27, 2021 at 9:31 pm

      Give a listen to his chat with Sam Harris

    • Abu Hilal

      November 28, 2021 at 3:37 pm

      @Katarina Janoskova I sure will thanks 👍🏻

  53. HominidPetro

    November 26, 2021 at 1:39 pm

    Anil is a high elf from the college of winterfell who specializes in illusion magic

  54. Paper Tiger

    November 26, 2021 at 3:06 pm

    book sales video for the fail

  55. John Matthias

    November 26, 2021 at 5:35 pm

    Yes, please, more of this.

  56. David Chamberlin

    November 26, 2021 at 6:18 pm

    Do animals experience the level of consciousness discussed here, as in the same experience of integrating disparate external inputs into an artificially constructed, and error corrected model of the world? I’m going to say yes, but that human consciousness has one more piece built on top of that: another modelling system that is most significantly developed in humans – that of modelling our own behaviour, and predicting what we ourselves will do next. As any AI researcher will tell you, just because a brain (wet or electronic) is a machine, it’s in no way easy to describe in a meaningful way how the algorithm got to the solution it did. Why is this ability important or adaptive? Because we are social animals and it behoves us to behave in relatively predictable ways to others (to not do so, is the ultimate sin). We call training this self-prediction model ‘thinking’, so to misquote Descartes “I tell stories (about myself), therefore I am”.

  57. MARYANNE269

    November 26, 2021 at 9:24 pm

    That’s why I 100%belive things happen for a reason.. I haven’t even begun to listen what this man has to say and in his first sentence is where I am at.. Who am I? … At the moment I really want to cut my hair.. Have a drastic change. But aware of the ‘vulnerable people I work with know me.. Do I just wanna get out and be a different version of me that I wanna be or do I just cut my hair and let them see a different me. Sounds mad now I am texting this but. Who are WE? . I conform to the’ right way of being to suit my job.. But we can only do this for so long.. I say give a job a year.. Ive been ther 2 1/2.. But my hair is part of me who I am. .. If I can’t wear it down and natural then I am not being me.. Hmmm yes I’ve got on with it for years..but… We need to live and express ourselves as if not our lives are being wasted!.. Surely.. I just need a fucking hair cut.. Just (lol took 7 mths.) brushed out my dreadlocks.. Now want a short shaggy mullet 😊 all the best to all of you who will find a way.. Enjoy your time x

  58. MARYANNE269

    November 26, 2021 at 9:32 pm

    Red is my favourite colour.. 😊

  59. Miklo

    November 27, 2021 at 4:05 am

    Outside forces and influences invents yourself. That’s why there’s good and bad. Female and Male.

  60. Michael Ridgway

    November 27, 2021 at 11:41 am

    In the quest for enlightenment in Indian traditions, the snake in the rope analogy is given in which in the dim light you think you see a coiled snake, but when you examine it more closely you realise its only a rope. The snake is analogous of the apparent self in the mind, which is realised to be an illusion when examined closely with the Indian method, and with this realisation, your true self shines forth as the one and only reality of yourself and a state of infinite bliss without beginning or end. Science is beginning to realise the illusory nature of the apparent self in the mind, but hasn’t yet got to realising the Reality (capital letter intended) of who you ultimately really are, and this is because it uses an “objective” approach which is a major facet of the illusion itself. Its an underlying assumption or belief that is built into the structure of the brain. The Indian approach, in particular Advaita Vedanta , proposes using consciousness itself (rather than consciousness of things) to escape the trap of the illusory self and to realise who you really are.

    • TrinkBruder

      November 28, 2021 at 10:56 am

      That just directs us to Jesus. Believing in the self, metaphysically, leads to Christ. You are asserting the world has a beginning and an end and we are created beings without admitting it

    • Michael Ridgway

      November 28, 2021 at 11:35 am

      @TrinkBruder I don’t think I was commenting on whether or not we are created beings or the time line of the planet. I was referring to a different approach to the nature of the mind cat can be found expressed in some Indian philosophy, but I think it was discovered by some Indians rather than formulated by them. I like the idea that Christ is what you find if you delve into the nature of yourself. Christ in the sense that he is the eternal spring from within. The Self, that you realise , when you overcome the ego illusion, is said to be the the causeless principle and the ultimate reality without beginning or end, and your natural state. Its the eternal spring from within,, or the Christ within you.

    • TrinkBruder

      November 28, 2021 at 4:33 pm

      @Michael Ridgway a defense of the Jewish Calendar. The Creation Story. I got cancelled before. I said Jew. Reliable authorities claim the same, the late Stanley Jaki. I am not an antiSemite

  61. TrinkBruder

    November 28, 2021 at 11:03 am

    You are not created in the image of God. The Imago Dei is a lie

  62. TrinkBruder

    November 28, 2021 at 11:29 am

    So can I say Chinese Zodiak?

  63. Phil Kerby

    November 28, 2021 at 9:29 pm

    I love this, just watched it for the third time. Mind continues to be totally blown. Also heard Anil Seth on the Evolving Leader podcast last week, so so interesting.

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