Neuroscientist David Eagleman — Exploring Consciousness, Sensory Augmentation, The Lazy Susan Method of Extraordinary Productivity, Dreaming, Improving Hearing with a Wristband, Synesthesia, Stretching Time with Novelty, Lessons from Titans of Science, and Much More (#674)

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“Question your truth.”

— David Eagleman

David Eagleman (@davideagleman) is a neuroscientist, New York Times bestselling author, TED speaker, and Guggenheim Fellow. He is the writer and presenter of the Emmy-nominated series The Brain on PBS, as well as the podcast Inner Cosmos with David Eagleman. In Palo Alto, California, he teaches at Stanford University, runs a startup neurotech company called Neosensory, and directs the Center for Science and Law. Dr. Eagleman also runs a film and television production company, Cognito Entertainment, to bring scientific themes (fiction and nonfiction) to the screen. He is the author of eight books, including the international bestsellers Sum, Incognito, and his newest book, Livewired.

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The transcript of this episode can be found here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#674: Neuroscientist David Eagleman — Exploring Consciousness, Sensory Augmentation, The Lazy Susan Method of Extraordinary Productivity, Dreaming, Improving Hearing with a Wristband, Synesthesia, Stretching Time with Novelty, Lessons from Titans of Science, and Much More

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Want to hear another episode that ponders the nature of reality? Have a listen to my conversation with Professor Donald Hoffman here, in which we discuss the science of consciousness, how perception may influence the physical world, the holographic model of the universe, panpsychism (and influential panpsychists), cosmological polytope, the use of hallucinogenic drugs to tap into deeper reality and interact with conscious agents, QBism, the probability of zero that humans evolved to see reality in full, and much more wild stuff.

#585: Professor Donald Hoffman — The Case Against Reality, Beyond Spacetime, Rethinking Death, Panpsychism, QBism, and More

What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.



Connect with David Eagleman:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | TikTok


  • [07:10] Mnemonists and synesthetes.
  • [12:13] Creating new senses.
  • [17:39] Practical applications in practice.
  • [24:36] Five years from now.
  • [28:26] The curious resilience and vulnerability of memory.
  • [32:25] Testing the accuracy of memory.
  • [34:50] Meeting Francis Crick.
  • [36:25] The dangerous lumberjack.
  • [39:43] Dream projects.
  • [41:23] Exploring consciousness.
  • [44:38] Dreaming and brain plasticity.
  • [54:13] Influences.
  • [57:23] Why neuroscience?
  • [1:00:22] Sum: An extended failure that became a wild success.
  • [1:05:36] The Don Vaughn method.
  • [1:07:02] Recommended reading.
  • [1:08:50] Hypothesis testing.
  • [1:09:40] Lazy Susan advice.
  • [1:11:18] A week in the life of David.
  • [1:16:28] Livewired.
  • [1:20:48] Assumptions ripe for challenging.
  • [1:25:34] Possibilianism.
  • [1:27:35] David’s billboard.
  • [1:30:28] Empire of the Invisible.
  • [1:32:11] Learning from AI.
  • [1:34:42] Perception of time.
  • [1:39:47] Idiotheses.
  • [1:40:59] Parting thoughts.


“The brain is locked in silence and darkness inside the skull, and all it ever sees are these little electrical signals … yet when you open your eyes and look at the world, you see everything in full color and it looks so rich and you’re hearing music and you’re feeling things on your fingertips and you’re smelling cinnamon. All these things seem like very distinct senses to you, but they’re all made of exactly the same stuff, which is these electrochemical spikes. And so I got really interested in this idea of could we feed information into the brain via an unusual source, and would the brain just figure it out?”

— David Eagleman

“We experience lots of data. When you’re a kid, when you’re a baby, you don’t know how the heck to use your eyes or ears or whatever. You’re just getting all this data going into the darkness there and you figure stuff out. You figure out correlations.”

— David Eagleman

“Memory is a myth-making machine, and we’re constantly reinventing our past, especially as we tell the stories over and over again.”

— David Eagleman

“I think the notion of how plastic the brain actually is is something that’s totally underappreciated. There’s an idea that I think many people have, which is, “Oh, you’re just born with the brain. The brain unpacks and then you’re who you are,” but really, we are totally functions of our culture and our society. And one of the things that’s amazing to me is, imagine, Tim, that you and I were born 10,000 years ago, exactly the same DNA, but we wouldn’t be anything like what we are now. Even though with the same DNA we might look vaguely like we do now, but my God, the culture, everything we’re pulling in would be so different. And that’s what actually shapes a human being.”

— David Eagleman

“The beauty of science is that it’s always willing to knock down its own walls.”

— David Eagleman

“Question your truth.”

— David Eagleman


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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6 Replies to “Neuroscientist David Eagleman — Exploring Consciousness, Sensory Augmentation, The Lazy Susan Method of Extraordinary Productivity, Dreaming, Improving Hearing with a Wristband, Synesthesia, Stretching Time with Novelty, Lessons from Titans of Science, and Much More (#674)”

  1. It’s becoming clear that with all the brain and consciousness theories out there, the proof will be in the pudding. By this I mean, can any particular theory be used to create a human adult level conscious machine. My bet is on the late Gerald Edelman’s Extended Theory of Neuronal Group Selection. The lead group in robotics based on this theory is the Neurorobotics Lab at UC at Irvine. Dr. Edelman distinguished between primary consciousness, which came first in evolution, and that humans share with other conscious animals, and higher order consciousness, which came to only humans with the acquisition of language. A machine with primary consciousness will probably have to come first.

    What I find special about the TNGS is the Darwin series of automata created at the Neurosciences Institute by Dr. Edelman and his colleagues in the 1990’s and 2000’s. These machines perform in the real world, not in a restricted simulated world, and display convincing physical behavior indicative of higher psychological functions necessary for consciousness, such as perceptual categorization, memory, and learning. They are based on realistic models of the parts of the biological brain that the theory claims subserve these functions. The extended TNGS allows for the emergence of consciousness based only on further evolutionary development of the brain areas responsible for these functions, in a parsimonious way. No other research I’ve encountered is anywhere near as convincing.

    I post because on almost every video and article about the brain and consciousness that I encounter, the attitude seems to be that we still know next to nothing about how the brain and consciousness work; that there’s lots of data but no unifying theory. I believe the extended TNGS is that theory. My motivation is to keep that theory in front of the public. And obviously, I consider it the route to a truly conscious machine, primary and higher-order.

    My advice to people who want to create a conscious machine is to seriously ground themselves in the extended TNGS and the Darwin automata first, and proceed from there, by applying to Jeff Krichmar’s lab at UC Irvine, possibly. Dr. Edelman’s roadmap to a conscious machine is at

  2. Tim, the last show note has David Eagleman’s named misspelled as “Eatleman”. This has been one of my favorite podcasts in the past 8 years that I’ve been listening. Keep up the hard work!

    1. Thank you, Jason, for this note. We have made the correction and are happy to hear you enjoyed the interview!


      Team Tim Ferriss

  3. Outstanding mind-expanding podcast! AI and machine learning may indeed be an existential threat to humanity, but as Dr. Eagleman makes clear, they also have tremendous potential to help. As a long-time tinnitus sufferer (can everybody hear those crickets?) with increasing hearing loss, I’m ready to sign up as a tester for the wristband. His visionary thinking and ability see potential practical applications for his hypotheses put him in the same league as Ray Kurzweil, Yuval Noah Harari, and Elon Musk.

  4. Great interview. David Eagleman’s energy is infectious. I love the way he talks about neuroscience with such joy and enthusiasm. Like his graduate professor, he too breaks the mold of the stereotypical scientist. I don’t know why but the discussion of synesthesia reminded me of the pre-cogs from Minority Report! Ha! On a more serious note, David’s advice to seek novelty and lay down dense memories to create the perception of time expansion was particularly intriguing. So often the personal growth ‘to do’ list can seem daunting, but this piece of advice is one that I’m excited to put into practice.