On November 24th, Nicholas Humphrey delivered a lecture on “The Invention of Consciousness”. Humphrey is the author of an original solution to the consciousness problem and a discoverer of the blindsight phenomenon, professor at the London School of Economics.
In English we use the word “invention” in two ways: First, to mean a new device or process developed by experimentation, and designed to fulfill a practical goal. Second, to mean a mental fabrication, especially a falsehood, developed by art, and designed to please or persuade. In this talk I’ll argue that human consciousness is an invention in both respects. First, it is a cognitive faculty, evolved by natural selection, designed to help us make sense of ourselves and our surroundings. But then, second, it is a fantasy, conjured up by the brain, that motivates us to live more fulfilling lives.