Recently, there has been a flurry of neuroscientists declaring that free will is an illusion in the popular press. But before we can assess the extent to which we are zombies, we need to first tackle the question of what, exactly, is consciousness. To get up to speed on the state of the art, we talked to Christof Koch, a colorful pioneer in the application of scientific tools to delineate the neural correlates of consciousness, whose famous 18-year collaboration with Francis Crick helped legitimize the field. Koch has never shied away from controversy, commenting on sentience in machines and dogs without skipping a beat.
Christof Koch is Professor of Biology and of Engineering at the California Institute of Technology and Chief Scientific Office of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle. He is the author of Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist and The Quest for Consciousness, among other books.