Book Review: The Experience Machine

Healthnut
4 min readNov 27, 2023
The UK Edition Cover Page. The US Edition cover page is boring.

I have not written for a while so I am trying to get back into the game. A book review seems like an easy way to get started back. I heard the book on Audible during my runs. I do 6 miles runs two to three times a week, and listening to books on Audible enriches my running experience. I use only one earbud to make sure I have some extra attention available to negotiate the running terrain.

The review of the cutting edge book on how brain functions is quite a good fit topic for Healthnut. After all a properly functioning brain is an important factor for long and healthy life.

The complete title of the book is “The Experience Machine: How Our Minds Predict and Shape Reality” by Professor Andy Clark of University of Sussex in UK. He calls himself a “Cognitive Philosopher” a category whose existence I was unaware of so far!

With success of chatgpt, the leading generative AI model, it was just a matter of time before someone was going to come and say that our brains are basically running on generative ai models🙂

Unless you have been on an island without Internet for last year when Chatgpt (https://openai.com/chatgpt) was made generally available to public in last November, you would have heard of this wonderful way to interact with Internet. Basically, you interact with this AI chatbot in natural language and can ask follow up questions. Chatgpt has been fed all the internet data, but sometimes it will just make up the answers. But most of the time you do get quite good answers.

Since then Google (bard.google.com) and Microsoft (copilot.microsoft.com) have joined this AI revolution benefitting the public immensely.

The Author does have some good points. The book has good discussion of placebo phenomena, neurological disorders, gut brain connection, role of expectations etc. Basically, in this world view, everything, that is every behavior, is a prediction. And then there is prediction error which acts as feedback to modify behavior down the road.

An unhealthy or dysfunctional or suboptimal brain is stuck in a place where it is locked in certain behavior that it has trouble modifying.

The world is modelled in the brain as parallel simulation constantly running. It helps brain responds to the…

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