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How the Mind Works Paperback – June 22, 2009
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In a series of sections, Pinker somewhat dis-connectedly jumps through findings from psychology and brain science to illuminate interesting problems. I found the opening sections - on areas like the mind's eye and how the brain is a thinking machine - far less interesting and compelling.
Pinker describes the brain as a machine that has costs (in tissue, energy, and time) and confers benefits. Knowing where the gold is buried in your neighborhood - and whether it's broadly in the northwest quadrant, or specifically underneath the flowerpot - improves your position because it reduces the physical work required to unearth it. That one bit of information allows 1 man to find the gold which would have taken 100 if the digging was done indiscriminately.
There are some very nice thought experiments in this section:
"What if we took [a brain simulation computer] program and trained a large number of people, say, the population of China, to hold in mind the data and act out the steps? Would there be one gigantic consciousness hovering over China, separate from the consciousness of the billion individuals?Read more ›
Pinker marries Darwin's theory of evolution to the latest developments in neuroscience and computation. He shows in detail how the process of natural selection shaped our entire neurological networks; how the struggle for survival selects from among our genes those most fit to flourish in our environment. Nature has produced in us bodies, brains and minds attuned to coping intelligently with whatever our environment demands. Housed in our bodies, our minds structure neural networks into adaptive programmes for handling our perceptions. Pinker concludes, "The mind is a system of organs of computation, designed by natural selection to solve the kinds of problems our ancestors faced in their foraging way of life."
Our beliefs and desires are information, allowing us to create meaning. "Beliefs are inscriptions in memory, desires are goal inscriptions, thinking is computation, perceptions are inscriptions triggered by sensors, trying is executing operations triggered by a goal." Pinker writes that the mind has a `design stance' for dealing with artefacts, a `physical stance' for dealing with objects, and an `intentional stance' for dealing with people.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent book that unravels the mysteries of the mind. As always, Mr. Pinker takes a systematic in-depth process and goes step by step explaining how the various modules of the... Read morePublished 10 days ago by Gabriel Wilensky
Well-written for the layperson interested in such matters. Do not, however, imagine this is a science text written for peer-review. It isn't. Read morePublished 26 days ago by Amazon Customer
How the mind works is probably far too complex a question to be answered by one man in one book, but Prof. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Akshar Prabhu Desai
This book makes me understand better why is so important to examine and analyze again my belifefs, the way I think, the way I respond questions, debates, discuss, etc. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Jesus Emilio Pacheco Garcia
It's kind of amazing that something so complicated can be presented in a way that makes it so understandable. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Gwenniviere W. Aspen
The author is a well-known and recognized expert in psychology and cognitive neurosciences. He is an absolute authority at an academically level. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Ferruccio Fiordispini
I was really surprised to see how controversial Steven Pinker is for some people. Apparently, there is a lot of anger by some scientists. I'm not sure why. Read morePublished 5 months ago by David H. Eisenberg