In this episode, I welcome back previous guest, Riccardo Manzotti, along with his friend and co-author, Tim Parks. We discussed their new book, Dialogues on Consciousness, in which the two discuss the nature of consciousness. 

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Tim Parks

TIM PARKS, novelist, essayist and translator, is the author of nineteen works of fiction, including Europa, shortlisted for the Booker. He is a regular contributor to both The New York Review of Books and The London Review of Books. He lives in Italy, where he teaches literature and translation studies at IULM in Milan

RICCARDO MANZOTTI is a philosopher, psychologist, and robotics engineer who has written more than 50 scientific papers and several books, among them The Spread Mind: Why Consciousness and the World Are One. A former Fulbright Visiting Scholar at MIT, he is now visiting professor at UAEU University (Emirates).

We had a great conversation. Please enjoy this episode with Dr. Riccardo Manzotti and author Tim Parks.

We discussed: 

  1. Please tell us about these dialogues between you two. How did they come about? Tim, you want to start us off with that?
  2. Tim, I’m curious about your curiosity with consciousness. Where did that come from?
  3. Riccardo, any new revelations in the book for you, anything that builds on the Spread Mind, beyond it?
  4. Okay, let’s start off like your book. What is consciousness?
    1. You use the term “internalist”, whereas I’m used to terms like “physicalist” or “materialist”. Is there a difference?
    2. You can’t deduce “mind” from looking at neurons. What does that tell you/us?
    3. Is mind within the skull? What about memories and information? How exactly are memories stored and recalled?
    4. If the mind is not internal, how do changes in the physical/internal brain affect consciousness? What is the connector between internal brain and external mind?
  5. Red/white square experiment…
  6. It’s fascinating to essentially eavesdrop on your conversation in this book. Over the years that you two had these conversations, did either of you experience a change in how you understand consciousness?
    1. What do you two agree on, and where do you disagree with each other?
  7. I’d like to ask you about “The Now.” Dreams, hallucinations, even thoughts in my mind, are made up of experiences I’ve already had. But don’t I experience those in my consciousness right now? Even if the sun shined eight minutes ago, aren’t I experiencing it, phenomenally, right here, right now?
    1. Sensory events are not simultaneous, right? Light hits my eyes before sound enters my ears. My brain puts the model together, combines the consciousnesses of multiple properties of an object (say, a train). Then, I experience the train in my now. Isn’t that “the now” of all of my phenomenal experiences? No? There is no “now”?
  8. The body facilitates, or selects, the objects and their connected experiences. What is different in this selection/facilitation process during altered states of consciousness, such as dreams or psychedelics or meditation?
  9. Somebody asked you, Tim, about the properties of objects floating “through the air” to the brain. That sounds too literal of a way to describe this. But let me put it another way. I hear about the brain being like a radio receiver, and the transmitted signal is a greater, universal consciousness that we tune in to. The brain as a receiver sounds compatible with Spread Mind. Is it? Anything there? Do objects “transmit” their properties via a universal consciousness medium? Is there a source?
  10. So, what is the ego? What is one’s self?
  11. What’s happening when I have a thought? How does that relate to objects? And what about creativity or inspiration?
    1. Do I have any control at all over my thoughts, my actions, my desires?
  12. Are you two still having these conversations? Is there more to come for us fans of consciousness? What other topics are you exploring?
  13. Looking to the future of our understanding of consciousness, what are you two excited for, what breakthroughs or discoveries or advancements?
  14. What else?

In this episode, I had the honor of speaking with Dr. Riccardo Manzotti. We discussed his explanation of consciousness, which he terms The Spread Mind. With a background in Electrical Engineering, Robotics, and Computer Science, Dr. Manzotti was a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the Department of Linguistic and Philosophy, MIT and is currently an Associate Professor in Theoretical Philosophy, IULM University, Milan and a Google Scholar.

We had a great conversation and covered The Spread Mind and mind-object identity, as well as virtual reality and physicalism. Please enjoy this episode with Dr. Riccardo Manzotti.

Your can order his book through Amazon. Also, check out his cartoons!

The Spread Mind by Riccardo Manzotti on

We covered the following questions: 

  1. Please give us an overview of The Spread Mind theory.
    • How did you come up with this theory, what inspired this? Computer scientist
    • Phenomenal experience is a property of the object?
    • Sounds like the Buddhist notion of becoming one with that which you love. Any connection to Buddhism?
    • The mind is larger than the body of the observer?
    • What is the mechanism that connects our brains to this consciousness?
    • Mind-object versus mind-body: Consciousness not connected to neural activity. Please explain the difference (if you haven’t already). 
  2. Virtual reality.
  3. What if you and I are experiencing the consciousness from the same object. Is that “spread object”? Is there any possibility of our personal ‘consciousness’ crossing over, sharing, combining?
  4. If we are the external objects, how can you explain that we may see reality in different ways? How does your theory address the issue of subjectivity and privacy of experience?
  5. If consciousness is not neural, how do changes in the brain end up affecting consciousness? How does your theory connect with neuroscience? What about brain injury, split brain, sleep, altered states, etc.?
  6. Does the apple experience me, the object being me — flipping the frame of reference? Does it work both ways, like gravity?
  7. Is this panpsychism? Illusionism?
  8. You mention that Spread Mind is part of Naturalism: nothing supernatural exists. Is that right? So you are a physicalist? But you claim consciousness is not in the brain and thus that we are not our bodies, how can both things be true?
  9. A very popular alternative theory about consciousness is Tononi’s integrated information theory (IIT) and other computationalist approaches. Why is your theory different? What’s the connection with information?
  10. What are the bigger ramifications of this theory
  11. If this turns out to be true, how can we use this information?
    • Are there spiritual components?
  12. What else are you working on? What’s in your future? 
  13. What big breakthroughs in understanding consciousness do you see coming in the next 10-20 years?