In this episode, we sit down with neuroscientist David Eagleman to learn how brains turn noise into signal, chaos into order, electrical spikes into meaning, and how new technology can expand subjective reality in ways never before possible.
In his new book, Livewired, Eagleman explores how brains come into the world “half baked” so they can create reality out of the inputs and experiences available. Thanks to that plug-and-play plasticity, not only can we return senses to those who’ve lost them, but add to anyone new senses that we have yet to imagine.
From his official bio:
“David Eagleman is a neuroscientist and a New York Times bestselling author. He heads the Center for Science and Law, a national non-profit institute, and serves as an adjunct professor at Stanford University. He is best known for his work on sensory substitution, time perception, brain plasticity, synesthesia, and neurolaw.
Beyond his 100+ academic publications, he has published many popular books. His bestselling book Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, explores the neuroscience “under the hood” of the conscious mind: all the aspects of neural function to which we have no awareness or access. His work of fiction, SUM, is an international bestseller published in 28 languages and turned into two operas. Why the Net Matters examines what the advent of the internet means on the timescale of civilizations. The award-winning Wednesday is Indigo Blue explores the neurological condition of synesthesia, in which the senses are blended. The Runaway Species, co-authored with music composer Anthony Brandt, explores the neuroscience and behavior behind human creativity.
Eagleman is a TED speaker, a Guggenheim Fellow, a winner of the McGovern Award for Excellence in Biomedical Communication, a Next Generation Texas Fellow, Vice-Chair on the World Economic Forum’sGlobal Agenda Council on Neuroscience & Behaviour, a research fellow in the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, Chief Scientific Advisor for the Mind Science Foundation, and a board member of The Long Now Foundation. He has served as an academic editor for several scientific journals. He was named Science Educator of the Year by the Society for Neuroscience, and was featured as one of the Brightest Idea Guys by Italy’s Style magazine. He is founder of the company BrainCheck and the cofounder of the company NeoSensory.
He was the scientific advisor for the television drama Perception, and has been profiled on the Colbert Report, NOVA Science Now, the New Yorker, CNN’s Next List, and many other venues. He appears regularly on radio and television to discuss literature and science.”
Outstanding popular science. – Kirkus (Starred Review)
“[D]elivers an intellectually exhilarating look at neuroplasticity…. Eagleman’s skill as teacher, bold vision, and command of current research will make this superb work a curious reader’s delight.” – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“Since the passing of Isaac Asimov, we haven’t had a working scientist like Dr. Eagleman, who engages his ideas in such a variety of modes. “Livewired” reads wonderfully, like what a book would be if it were written by Oliver Sacks and William Gibson, sitting on Carl Sagan’s front lawn.” – Wall Street Journal
“The pages of LIVEWIRED are chock-full of mind bending ideas and dazzling insights. Eagleman’s infectious enthusiasm, his use of fascinating anecdotes, and his clear, effortless prose render the secrets of the brain’s adaptability into a truly compelling page-turner.” – Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner
“Fascinating work… recommended for readers interested in neuroscience, technology, and the intersection of the two.” – Library Journal (starred review)
“David Eagleman, the Jolly Sherlock Holmes of neuroscience, makes me believe that the universe of possibility required to create utopia is already housed in each of our brains. His knowledge and enthusiasm are intoxicating. His book demonstrates the principle about which he is writing; my mind has been changed by his words.” – Russell Brand
“Livewired is terrific. If you have a mind, David Eagleman will boggle it for you.” – Hugh Laurie
“David’s a brilliant writer and thinker, and he knows more about how we tick and why we tick than anyone I know.” – Neil Gaiman, author
“I read David Eagleman’s magnificent new book about a month ago, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. Eagleman has (once again) permanently altered the way I experience my brain’s complex and creative dance with the outside world.” – Annaka Harris, author of Conscious
“An altogether fascinating tour of the astonishing plasticity and interconnectedness inside the cranial cradle of all of our experience of reality, animated by Eagleman’s erudite enthusiasm for his subject, aglow with the ecstasy of sensemaking that comes when the seemingly unconnected snaps into a consummate totality of understanding.”– Maria Popova, Brain Pickings
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