jordan peterson and karl friston

Karl Friston

Karl Friston is a prominent British neuroscientist, best known for his contributions to the fields of neuroimaging and computational neuroscience. Born on 12th July 1959 in Norwich, England, he pursued his education in medicine at the University of Oxford and later specialized in psychiatry. Friston's work has been pivotal in understanding the human brain's functional organization, especially through his development of statistical parametric mapping (SPM) and voxel-based morphometry. His groundbreaking research extends to the field of free energy principle, a theoretical framework for understanding brain function and behavior. This theory suggests that the brain is constantly making predictions about its environment and minimizing the error in these predictions. Friston's innovative approaches and theories have significantly influenced neuroscience, earning him numerous awards and recognitions, including election to the Fellowship of the Royal Society. His ongoing research continues to shape our understanding of the brain and its intricate mechanisms.

Books Mentioned on The Jordan B. Peterson Podcast #298 - Karl Friston

Book Title: The Neuropsychology of Anxiety

Author: Jeffrey A. Gray and Neil McNaughton

Book Title: The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception

Author: James J. Gibson

Understanding Chaos and Order: Insights from Dr. Karl Friston’s Conversation with Jordan Peterson


In the 298th episode of the Jordan B. Peterson Podcast, a fascinating dialogue unfolds between host Jordan Peterson and guest Dr. Karl Friston. Dr. Friston, a leading neuroscientist and authority on brain imaging, delves into the complexities of human perception, chaos, and order. This article explores the key themes from the first third of their conversation, offering insights into how our brains process and make sense of the world.

Hierarchical Computation and Entropy

Dr. Friston introduces the concept of hierarchical computation, explaining how our brains construct models of the world to minimize surprise and uncertainty, essentially reducing entropy. He likens the process to binding free energy and entropy, where making sense of sensory information involves minimizing surprise through predictive processing.

Predictive Coding and Active Inference

A significant part of the discussion revolves around predictive coding and active inference. Dr. Friston describes how the brain predicts sensory input and uses prediction errors to update beliefs, thus minimizing surprise and uncertainty. This process is key to understanding both perception and action within the brain’s hierarchical structure.

Entropy and Dopamine

An intriguing aspect of their conversation is the link between progress towards a goal, entropy reduction, and dopamine release. Dr. Friston suggests that moving towards a goal decreases the entropy between the current state and the goal, leading to a ‘dopamine hit’. This connection highlights the brain’s intrinsic motivation to resolve uncertainty and maintain order.

The Role of Language in Perception

Language, as Dr. Friston points out, is a crucial tool for navigating and making sense of the world. It functions as a means of gathering information, enabling individuals to categorize and understand their environment more predictably and efficiently.

Social Interactions and Shared Narratives

The discussion also touches on the importance of social interactions in shaping our perception and understanding of the world. Shared narratives and mutual understanding play a crucial role in minimizing entropy in social contexts, leading to more predictable and harmonious interactions.

The Complexities of Human Perception

Continuing our deep dive into the 298th episode of the Jordan B. Peterson Podcast, this article focuses on the second third of the engaging conversation between Dr. Karl Friston and Jordan Peterson. Here, we explore their intriguing discourse on the complexities of human perception, the nature of entropy, and the role of dopamine in goal achievement.

The Interplay of Desire and Expectation in Perception

Peterson raises an interesting point about the interplay between desire and expectation in shaping our perception. He suggests that our interactions with the world are more about realizing desires than just meeting expectations. This perspective brings a dynamic element to the concept of predictive processing, emphasizing the role of motivation and desire in shaping our perception and actions.

Entropy Reduction as a Driver of Dopamine Release

A key highlight of the conversation is the idea that achieving goals reduces entropy, leading to dopamine release. This notion ties the concept of entropy with our neurological response to achieving objectives, suggesting that our brains are wired to seek order and predictability.

Language’s Pivotal Role in Perception

Language emerges as a vital tool in this dialogue, not just as a means of communication, but as a framework for categorizing and understanding our environment. This discussion underscores the importance of language in reducing entropy and enhancing predictability in social interactions.

The Significance of Shared Narratives in Social Dynamics

The conversation also delves into the importance of shared narratives in social contexts. Dr. Friston and Peterson explore how mutual understanding and shared perspectives play a crucial role in reducing entropy in social interactions, leading to more predictable and harmonious relationships.

Dopamine, Entropy, and the Human Brain

An enlightening part of their exchange is the discussion on the relationship between dopamine, entropy, and brain function. They explore how the human brain is motivated to resolve uncertainty and maintain order, with dopamine playing a key role in this process.

Realms of Human Perception

In the final third of the 298th episode of the Jordan B. Peterson Podcast, Jordan Peterson and Dr. Karl Friston delve deeper into the realms of human perception, the interplay of chaos and order, and the neurochemical underpinnings of our experiences. This article captures the essence of their thought-provoking conversation, highlighting its profound implications.

Dopamine, Entropy, and Progress Towards Goals

A fascinating aspect of the discussion is the exploration of dopamine’s role in signaling progress towards goals. Peterson and Friston agree that approaching a goal decreases entropy, the uncertainty between the current state and the goal, triggering a ‘dopamine hit’. This underscores the brain’s drive towards reducing uncertainty and achieving predictability.

Psychedelics, Openness, and Cognitive Flexibility

The conversation shifts to the effects of psychedelics and their impact on cognitive flexibility and openness. Psychedelics, by altering the usual hierarchical processing in the brain, potentially decrease the barriers between different cognitive categories, leading to increased creativity and openness. This effect aligns with empirical findings showing a lasting increase in openness following psychedelic experiences.

Neurochemical Modulators and Predictive Processing

Friston and Peterson discuss the role of various neurochemical modulators, like serotonin and acetylcholine, in predictive processing. They highlight how these chemicals influence the brain’s hierarchy, adjusting the weight given to sensory information versus top-down predictions. This balance is crucial in understanding conditions like depression and the action of antidepressants.

Narrative Flexibility and Exploration

A key takeaway from their dialogue is the importance of narrative flexibility. Peterson posits that the most functional narratives are those that remain open to new information, allowing for continual narrative updates. This adaptive approach encourages exploration and staying on the border between chaos and order, a fundamental aspect of human existence.


The final part of the conversation between Jordan Peterson and Karl Friston provides profound insights into how our brains process information, the significance of neurochemistry in shaping our experiences, and the power of narratives in our lives. These discussions not only illuminate complex scientific concepts but also offer practical wisdom on navigating the uncertainties of life.