Being A Self: A Perfectly Ordinary, Utterly Extraordinary Experience

By Chris Fields

Being a self—being one’s own self, in particular—is the most familiar of all experiences. Indeed it is one’s self that is experienced as having one’s experiences: one’s sensations, emotions, memories, feelings of agency, feelings of thinking, deciding and acting, the very feeling of existing. Philosophical traditions encourage us to know ourselves, but also to not take ourselves too seriously and to not get too caught up with the wanting, thinking, deciding and acting “ego” part of the self. But what is this self experience, why do we have it, and what happens if it starts to unravel? I’ll suggest that we should marvel at the experience of the self, and speculate as to why we have it.

Chris Fields wants to understand how systems exchange information, and how information exchange creates the boundaries that separate and distinguish systems from each other. He uses tools from quantum information theory, evolutionary and developmental biology, and cognitive neuroscience. Chris has become convinced that all information exchange, at all scales, can be described with a single set of simple principles. The trick is to figure out which ones. Biographical details and recent publications are available from


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