Erik Hoel presents "the World Behind the World: Consciousness, Free Will, and the Limits of Science"
"With the ear of a poet and the eye of a neuroscientist, Hoel pioneers a new marriage between the enchantments of literature and the challenges of modern brain science." --David Eagleman, neuroscientist at Stanford & bestselling author of Sum and Livewired.
This will be an evening of lively discussion ranging across the frontiers of science and philosophy.
In the bookstore, we think perhaps the most important thing about Erik Hoel is that he literally grew up right here in The Jabberwocky Bookshop. Some of our customers might remember -- 30 years ago hearing the dinosaur song sung from under the counter, or 25 years ago the little boy with a sword and shield chasing bad guys through the bookshelves, or 15 years ago the lanky teenager curled up in one of our comfy chairs reading his way through the science essays, the philosophy section, and the classics. Yes, he is Sue Little's son
For everyone else, Erik Hoel is a neuroscientist, neurophilosopher, and fiction writer. His main areas of research are the study and philosophy of consciousness, cognition, the biological functions of dreams (check out his theory about why we humans dream ) and mathematical theories of emergence. He received a PhD in neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he worked with Giulio Tononi on developing aspects of Integrated Information Theory. He was a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University, as well as a visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He has been a "Forbes 30 under 30" in science and a research assistant professor at Tufts University.
Hoel’s fiction has won awards like the Writer's Digest literary short story competition, and his nonfiction has been selected as notable by the Best American Essays series. In 2017 he was chosen as a NYC Emerging Writers Fellow for his short stories. In 2021 Overlook Press/Abrams published his debut novel, Revelations. About which Andre Dubus lll says, “a deeply compelling, thought-provoking work”, and Kate Bolick calls it “a neon-colored cocktail of sci-fi, murder mystery and love story.”
Currently Hoel writes The Intrinsic Perspective on Substack-- a series of intelligent, challenging essays on science, art, literature, technology, artificial intelligence and more.
Hoel's new book, The World Behind the World: Consciousness, Free Will, and the Limits of Science is a fascinating exploration of how the brain creates our conscious experiences--potentially revolutionizing neuroscience and the future of technology.
Throughout history, two perspectives on the world have dueled in our minds: the extrinsic--that of mechanism and physics--and the intrinsic--that of feelings, thoughts, and ideas. The intrinsic perspective allows us to tell stories about our lives, to chart our anger and our lust, to understand our psychologies. The extrinsic allows us to chart the physical world, to build upon it, and to travel across it.
The attempt to reconcile these two perspectives is the science of consciousness, and posits that the intrinsic aspect of the world, how and what we perceive, can coexist in the extrinsic part of the world, in the realm of physics. The World Behind the World is a grand tour of the state of this science, an exploration of the point where tectonic metaphysical forces meet, often in paradoxical conclusions.
Hoel examines the similarities between our brains and black holes; where consciousness fits into physics and morality; and why it may be impossible for AI to ever become conscious, despite popular belief. The World Behind the World argues that establishing a proven theory of consciousness would trigger a paradigm shift in the field of neuroscience and the future of technology--transforming the very fabric of our society.