Phi: A Voyage from the Brain to the Soul

Giulio Tononi

Phi: A Voyage from the Brain to the Soul is a really good read. From one of the most original and influential neuroscientists working today comes a unique look at consciousness, as told by Galileo, who made it possible for science to be objective and now wants the subjective experience to be part of science as well.

Galileo’s trip comprises three parts, and a different person leads each one. In the first, he learns, with the help of a scientist who looks like Francis Crick, why some parts of the brain are more important than others and why consciousness fades when you sleep. In the second part, when his friend seems to be named Alturi (Galileo is hard of hearing; his friend’s real name is Alan Turing), he sees how the facts he collected in the first part can be explained by a scientific theory that connects consciousness to the idea of integrated information (also known as phi). In the third part, he sits with a man with a beard who can only be Charles Darwin and thinks about consciousness as an ever-growing awareness of ourselves in history and culture. He says that consciousness is everything we have and everything we are.

Since Godel, Escher, and Bach, there hasn’t been a book with such a unique mix of science, art, and imagination. The way we think about ourselves and the world will change because of how beautiful and interesting this story is.