Episode 320

Constructing Self and World

A Conversation with Shamil Chandaria

May 22, 2023

Sam Harris speaks with Shamil Chandaria about how the brain constructs a vision of the self and the world. They discuss the brain from first principles; Bayesian inference; hierarchical predictive processing; the construction of vision; psychedelics and neuroplasticity; beliefs and prior probabilities; the interaction between psychedelics and meditation; the risks and benefits of psychedelics; Sam’s recent experience with MDMA; non-duality; love, gratitude, and bliss; the self model; the Buddhist concept of emptiness; human flourishing; effective altruism; and other topics.

Dr. Shamil Chandaria is a philanthropist, serial entrepreneur, technologist, and academic with multidisciplinary research interests spanning computational neuroscience, machine learning and artificial intelligence, and the philosophy and science of human wellbeing. His PhD from the London School of Economics was in mathematical modeling of economic systems using stochastic differential equations and optimal control theory. Later he completed an MA in philosophy with distinction from University College London, where he developed an interest in philosophy of science and philosophical issues in biology, neuroscience, and ethics.

In 2018, Dr. Chandaria helped to endow the Global Priorities Institute at Oxford University, an interdisciplinary research institute focusing on the most important issues facing humanity. In 2019 he was a founder of the Centre for Psychedelic Research in the department of Brain Sciences at Imperial College London, a neuroscience research institute investigating psychedelic therapies for a number of conditions including treatment resistant depression. He has also funded research on the neuroscience of meditation at Harvard, and at the University of California in Berkeley.

Twitter: @shamilch

YouTube: @ShamilChandaria


Learning how to train your mind is the single greatest investment you can make in life. That’s why Sam Harris created the Waking Up app. From rational mindfulness practice to lessons on some of life’s most important topics, join Sam as he demystifies the practice of meditation and explores the theory behind it.