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“Waking perception is something like dreaming with a little more commitment to what’s in front of you,” Mr. Eagleman writes. “It’s easy to spot a hallucination only when it’s bizarre. For all we know, we hallucinate all the time.” If we fail to distinguish the influence of the brain on our experiences, it is not because it is too faint. It is because it is too pervasive. “Almost all of our actions–from producing speech to picking up a mug of coffee–are run by alien subroutines.” Still, if consciousness can’t grasp how it gets where it goes, it usually credits itself for where it ends up. As Mr. Eagleman notes, “We are constantly fabricating and telling stories about the alien processes running under the hood.”                

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live,” said Joan Didion. Consciousness tells itself stories in order to persuade itself that it controls itself. But consciousness doesn’t control itself. These are tall tales, and Mr. Eagleman thinks that it is time for us to take an axe to some of the tallest ones.


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