The Experience Machine: How Our Minds Predict and Shape Reality (Hardcover)
A brilliant new theory of the mind that upends our understanding of how the brain interacts with the world
“This thoroughly readable book will convince you that the brain and the world are partners in constructing our understanding.” —Sean Carroll, New York Times bestselling author of The Biggest Ideas in the Universe: Space, Time, and Motion
For as long as we’ve studied human cognition, we’ve believed that our senses give us direct access to the world. What we see is what’s really there—or so the thinking goes. But new discoveries in neuroscience and psychology have turned this assumption on its head. What if rather than perceiving reality passively, your mind actively predicts it?
Widely acclaimed philosopher and cognitive scientist Andy Clark unpacks this provocative new theory that the brain is a powerful, dynamic prediction engine, mediating our experience of both body and world. From the most mundane experiences to the most sublime, reality as we know it is the complex synthesis of sensory information and expectation. Exploring its fascinating mechanics and remarkable implications for our lives, mental health, and society, Clark nimbly illustrates how the predictive brain sculpts all human experience. Chronic pain and mental illness are shown to involve subtle malfunctions of our unconscious predictions, pointing the way towards more effective, targeted treatments. Under renewed scrutiny, the very boundary between ourselves and the outside world dissolves, showing that we are as entangled with our environments as we are with our onboard memories, thoughts, and feelings. And perception itself is revealed to be something of a controlled hallucination.
Unveiling the extraordinary explanatory power of the predictive brain, The Experience Machine is a mesmerizing window onto one of the most significant developments in our understanding of the mind.
About the Author
ANDY CLARK is a Professor of Cognitive Philosophy at the University of Sussex. He is the author of six books including Supersizing the Mind, Natural-Born Cyborgs, and Mindware.
Praise for Andy Clark's The Experience Machine
“Enjoyable and surprising.” —The Guardian
“This is one of the hottest topics in neuroscience at the moment, and it has been described as a grand unifying theory of the brain. . . . As someone who has been involved in the field for years, Clark makes a knowledgeable tour guide. . . . For those who want to know more about an important and growing field of neuroscience, The Experience Machine is an excellent primer.” —New Scientist
“It’s tempting to think that our eyes and ears passively record the world like cameras and microphones, but our perceptions are much more interesting than that. Andy Clark is a leading figure in understanding the brain as a prediction machine—we don't passively take in the world, we're constantly anticipating it and interpreting it accordingly. This thoroughly readable book will convince you that the brain and the world are partners in constructing our understanding.” —Sean Carroll, New York Times bestselling author of The Biggest Ideas in the Universe: Space, Time, and Motion
“Is the universe a simulation? Yes! But the simulation takes place in your brain. In this engaging and fascinating book, Andy Clark explains how our expectations dominate the input of our senses to construct our individual perceptions of reality. After reading it, you’ll look at human experience in a new way.” —Leonard Mlodinow, bestselling author of Emotional and Subliminal
“There are many metaphors for how your brain works: a magician, an architect, a fortune-teller, a scientist. Andy Clark’s marvelous book The Experience Machine unpacks these metaphors to reveal your brain’s mind-bending (and mind-making) predictive powers that construct the reality you see, hear, and feel. Without them, there is only buzzing, blooming confusion. Strap on your seatbelt and prepare to be amazed!” —Lisa Feldman Barrett, author of How Emotions Are Made and Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain
“A predictably groundbreaking exploration of the predictive basis of our extended minds from one of our deepest and clearest thinkers, and a true pioneer of this transformational view of who we are and how we work. The Experience Machine delivers a remarkable combination of profound insight and practical relevance, and it showcases Clark's ability to convey complex ideas with fluent and accessible language.” —Anil Seth, author of Being You
“Rare among science books, this one has changed the way I experience the world. I now feel the experience machine doing its work as I pay attention, am surprised, or catch myself having made completely ridiculous predictions. It's a book that will help you understand the way you see, think, and act—and it is also a pleasure to read.” —Susan Blackmore, author of Consciousness and The Meme Machine
“If you would like to read the most promising theory of how your brain works (and who doesn’t), told by the clearest and most colorful storyteller, this is the only book you need. Tender yet assertive, Andy takes us by the hand as deep into our mind as anyone can glean.” —Moshe Bar, author of Mindwandering: How Your Constant Mental Drift Can Improve Your Mood and Boost Your Creativity
“In this stunning book, Andy Clark is once again reshaping our understanding of the mind. Clark expertly mobilises the full extent of the predictive experience machine, unifying mind, body and the environment. He then reveals the surprising predictive hacks that enable us better grasp our own unfolding experiences.” —Jakob Hohwy, author of The Predictive Mind
“Drawing on insights from psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy, Clark, a professor of cognitive philosophy, examines how our understanding of the world is fundamentally informed by cognitive forecasting. . . . In this remarkable book, the author clearly and memorably sets forth the profound implications of such a theory. . . . Overall, the author vividly demonstrates that ‘a better appreciation of the power of prediction could improve the way we think about our own medical symptoms and suggest new ways of understanding mental health, mental illness, and neurodiversity.’ Along the way, Clark offers engaging and insightful commentary on tangential matters such as how ceremonial practices can contribute to feelings of well-being and how digital technologies have boosted our predictive capacities and effectively become extensions of our minds. The author defines and explains complex ideas with admirable clarity, and black-and-white illustrations underscore the concrete importance of specific theoretical claims. A startling, profoundly illuminating account of our mind’s predictive abilities.” —Kirkus Reviews [starred review]
“An illuminating investigation of the human brain as a prediction machine that evolved to render reality as a composite of sensory input and prior expectation, replete with implications for neuroscience, psychology, medicine, mental health, neurodiversity, the relationship between the body and the self, and the way we live our lives.” —The Marginalian
“[An] eye-opening study. . . . The mind-bending research upends conventional wisdom about how humans interact with the world around them, and the lucid prose ensures lay readers won’t get lost. This head trip delivers.” —Publishers Weekly