Making sense of our actions
David Eagleman’s Incognito presents the brain architecture as a “team of rivals”: a collection of neural subsystems that have overlapping functions and competing aims, creating a complex, conflict based organisation. In this framework, consciousness is analogous to the chief executive officer of a company, responsible for planning and setting goals, aware only of the headline events and representing the tip of the iceberg. This book’s title refers to the fact that much of the brain’s activity occurs outside of our control and below our levels of awareness. Thus the brain acts “incognito,” controlling most of what we do, think, and feel using neural circuits that are inaccessible to consciousness.
All of this behind the scenes activity raises many questions about how we perceive the world, our control over our thoughts and actions, and ultimately the existence of free will. Eagleman ambitiously delves into each of these areas and discusses what