Covering decades of research to the present day, Livewired presents new discoveries from Eagleman’s own laboratory, from synesthesia to dreaming to wearable neurotech devices that revolutionize how we think about the senses.

I live in Silicon Valley, where all the talk is on the power of hardware and software. But I assert the next century is going to be all about liveware. What is liveware? It’s machinery that reconfigures itself, that adjusts and adapts to whatever’s going on around it to optimize its function.

This might sound fantastical, but we all carry this futuristic machinery inside our skulls. At the moment, we have no idea how to build this stuff. But we know it should be possible, because everyone reading these words is an existence proof: your biology includes 3 pounds of this alien computational material. The possessors of this livewired machinery, we drop into the world and absorb everything around us, from our local languages to the beliefs of our societies.

Livewired is the first book of its kind to address how the brain does this. What are the principles that emerge from neuroscience? I’m happy to say that this book not only distills the scientific literature into its fundamental points, but also that the writing of this book gave me a view to some next steps, such that I’m able to propose some big new hypotheses: for example, why we dream, and how that’s related to the rotation of the planet.

Some of you may know that I gave a TED talk a few years ago on how we can leverage the principles of livewiring to feed totally new kinds of data streams into the brain (and we’ve now built specialized hardware with which to do this), and I dive deep and wide on this notion in the book. Moreover, I get to address a million cool questions. Why does the world’s best archer not have any arms? Can we control a robot with our thoughts, just as we do our fingers and toes? What does drug withdrawal have in common with a broken heart? What is memory… and why is the enemy of memory not time, but other memories? How can a blind person learn to see with her tongue, or a deaf person learn to hear with his skin? I cover biohackers, humans using echolocation, and the present and future of AI.

From talking with people all around the globe, I think you’ll enjoy this book. Thank you for joining me here on this journey of discovery.

[Color figure for Chapter 7]

Look at the image above, made up of green horizontal and red vertical lines. Stare at the colored lines for a bit: the red lines for a few seconds, then the green lines, then the red lines again, and then the green lines. Do this for about three minutes.

When you’re done, look at the black and white lines below. You’ll see that the spaces between the horizontal lines look reddish. And the spaces between the vertical lines look greenish.

Why? Because when you stared at the colored figure, your brain realized that greenness had become tied to horizontal and redness to vertical, and so it adjusted to cancel out this strange feature of the world. When you look at the black and white lines, you experienced the aftereffect: the horizontal lines were being internally shifted toward the opposite color – red – and vertical toward green.

"Eagleman has a talent for testing the untestable, for taking seemingly sophomoric notions and using them to nail down the slippery stuff of consciousness."
- The New Yorker
"David Eagleman is the kind of guy who really does make being a neuroscientist look like fun."
- New York Times
"David Eagleman offers startling lessons.... His method is to ask us to cast off our lazy commonplace assumptions.
- The Guardian
"A popularizer of impressive gusto...[Eagleman] aims, grandly, to do for the study of the mind what Copernicus did for the study of the stars."
- New York Observer
"What Eagleman seems to be calling for is a new Enlightenment."
- Sunday Herald
"[A] neuroscientist and polymath."
- Wall Street Journal
"David Eagleman may be the best combination of scientist and fiction-writer alive."
- Stewart Brand