Philobiblon: On Ego: A Lecture, Thought-Experiment and Drama

Sunday, December 04, 2005

On Ego: A Lecture, Thought-Experiment and Drama

At the start of On Ego at the Soho Theatre, the audience treated to a mini-lecture on the workings of the brain and the nature of consciousness, complete with slideshow, albeit a rather flasher one to be found in any university, and without (mercifully) a Powerpoint list in sight. It is delivered byAlex (Elliot Levey) who looks the classic young lecturer, from his not-quite-matching-brown corduroy "uniform" to his anxious, eager-to-please smile and over-rehearsed jokes.

And his subject is interesting stuff, enlivened by a direction that must read something like "brain called Richard, enters stage left". We learn that in "bundle theory":

"Each life is just a long series of interconnected sensations and thoughts. And the mental processes underlying our sense of self- feelings, thoughts, memories - are scattered through different zones of the brain. There is no special points of convergence. No central core. We come together in a work of fiction. Our brain is a story-telling machine. And the 'self' is the story."

But it is just at the point when the audience starts to shift on their buttocks, wondering "is this all?", when the tone suddenly changes. You are asked: 'If you believe this theory, would you mind being teleported, which involves the complete destruction of our current body, and its perfect recreation at the destination point?' Alex is going to show that he does believe his own lecture by demonstrating. READ MORE


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