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The Large, the Small and the Human Mind (Canto) Paperback – April 28, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0521785723 ISBN-10: 0521785723 Edition: Reprint

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The Large, the Small and the Human Mind (Canto) + The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics (Popular Science) + Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness
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Product Details

  • Series: Canto
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; Reprint edition (April 28, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521785723
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521785723
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,256,070 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Will quantum physics let us reduce consciousness to computation? Roger Penrose says "no" with great force and eloquence in The Large, the Small, and the Human Mind. Prepared as a series of three lectures in Cambridge's Tanner Series on Human Values, the material is both meticulously thought out and informally presented, including many illustrations by Penrose and others. For publication, the author sought out rebuttals and commentary by philosophers Abner Shimony and Nancy Cartwright, as well as his own colleague and occasional rival, the well-known theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. Penrose then reserves the last word for himself, an author's prerogative. The result is a sharp but polite argument on the nature of thinking and its reducibility. Readers familiar with The Emperor's New Mind and Shadow of the Mind will find the arguments from quantum physics fleshed out in greater detail, but also attacked with good-natured aplomb. Those who missed out on Penrose's older forays into this territory (or are somehow uninterested in the nature of thought) will find this an excellent broad overview of the modern conception of physics, from subatomic shenanigans to the radius of the universe, as well as a stimulating debate among several great modern thinkers. Despite Penrose's certainty that our brains can't be modeled by computational systems--and hence that strong artificial intelligence will remain in science fiction--the argument continues, and will continue for some time. The Large, the Small, and the Human Mind crystallizes that debate for readers who want to keep up with the latest thinking about thinking. --Rob Lightner

From Kirkus Reviews

Lectures by a renowned mathematician and physicist on the connections of relativity and quantum theory (the science of the very large and the very small), with an eye to understanding the nature of the mind. Penrose has been over this ground before (in The Emperor's New Mind, not reviewed, and Shadows of the Mind, 1994), and his contention that artificial intelligence is an impossibility has generated a good deal of controversy. Here he reiterates and extends his essential arguments and invites refutation from a trio of critics in related disciplines: Abner Shimony, Nancy Cartwright, and Stephen Hawking. One central point of debate has to do with the relation between mathematics and the ``real universe''--or, as Penrose puts it, between the physical and the platonic worlds. A popular view of how science works is that the scientist, looking to explain a series of observations, finds a mathematical relationship that accounts for the data. Penrose argues that this view has things backwards: The mathematical relationship is the reality, and the data merely an expression of it. Einstein conceived his equations before data were available to verify them; when data became available, his calculations checked out exactly. Penrose goes on to consider the paradoxes of quantum mechanics, but readers without sophisticated mathematics are likely to find this section tough going. Finally, Penrose attempts to apply these issues to the question of whether the activities of mind can ever be duplicated by a computational device, a possibility he denies. His three critics then point to what they feel are weaknesses in his arguments, and finally Penrose counters their rebuttals. Penrose pushes the available analytical tools to the limit, and the result is far from light reading, but those willing to think hard about fundamental questions of mind and matter will find this discussion provocative and rewarding. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

I see others have praised this book richly and a couple others poorly.
L. S. Evensen
Chapters 4, 5, and 6 are challenges to Penrose from A. Shimony, N. Cartwright, and S. Hawking, respectively.
Wesley L. Janssen
This book will be greatly appreciated by readers who loved his earlier (much more detailed) books.
Steven H Propp

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

73 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Wesley L. Janssen VINE VOICE on March 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
Let me first say something about Roger Penrose. One notices how certain other mathematicians and mathematical physicists speak of him. He is not only admired and respected; it seems that he is positively enjoyed! This may be a bit surprising when one notices that Penrose is something of a thorn in the side of several popular ideas in contemporary physics (and psychology). Cosmic inflation theories and ideas regarding the fundamental nature of quantum uncertainty find a formidable and articulate critic in the Oxford mathematician. Of the somewhat less popular, but ever fanciful "many-worlds" interpretation of quantum superpositioning, Penrose says "[the 'many-worlds' view] is not a very economical description of the Universe but I think things are rather worse than that for the many-worlds description. It is not just its lack of economy that worries me. The main problem is that it does not really solve the problem." He brings the same mental rapier to what he has called "the missing science" of mind and to the idea of computational / artificial intelligence. It is the problem of superpositioning described by Schrodinger and the decoherence caused by quantum measurement that prompt Penrose's search for an 'objective reduction' (OR) of quantum state vectors, the key ingredient in a "revolutionary" physical theory that remains a mystery. He speculates that this physical mystery may be related to the mystery of consciousness. He is unconvincing in this regard, but his ideas and arguments are quite interesting.
Well, let me now take this a bit further. Penrose also seems to terribly irk certain others! In particular he really raises the hackles of proponents of strong AI and the Dawkins/Dennett camp of 'consciousness-is-merely-mechanism' dogmatists.
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57 of 64 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 29, 1997
Format: Hardcover
On the back of the book jacket it states that this book provides an "accessible" introduction to Roger Penrose's ideas. This is simply false, unless you are a physicist, a mathematician or a genius. For all others (in which category I fall), this book is close to incomprehensible.

Roger Penrose is brilliant, has a wonderfully clear mind, and can write beautifully and clearly. I think that _The Emperor's New Mind_ and _Shadows of the Mind_ are wonderful books. Penrose can make extremely difficult ideas wonderfully clear, by breaking down complex arguments into clear simple steps. Some pages of Emperor's and Shadows take a long time to understand, (I must admit that I have read quite a bit less than all of either book), but the argument is spelled out so clearly that with effort and patience it can be fully understood. Penrose, I think, understands the questions he is wrestling with as well as any one alive, and his is a mind of great depth as well as clarity. Even if you don't find his arguments entirely convincing, you can't help but learn a great deal from these books, and develop insights of great value. What went wrong with _The Large, the Small and the Human Mind_?

I think the key to answer lies in a comment Penrose makes on page 105, where he writes "The first 200 pages of _Shadows of the Mind_ were devoted to trying to show that there are no loop-holes in the argument that I am goind to give you." He then gives his argument in a few pages. The main part of the book (not including the replies of others and Penrose's replies to these replies) is just 139 rather small pages long.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 1, 1998
Format: Hardcover
A previous commentator claimed that this book was not readable enough for a mass audience--I have to disagree with this view wholeheartedly. I would say that his previous works, especially "Shadows of the Minds" were difficult to digest due to the amount of mathematics contained in almost all of the chapters (this doesn't negate the power of his ideas--he just makes them hard to understand). This latest work presents all of his major ideas on cosmology, quantum physics, and the nature of the mind in an extremely clear manner. His treatment of quantum physics is the best I've seen to date in a popular work. A short and rewarding read.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Nodas Boukovalas on April 6, 2004
Format: Paperback
Penrose concisely manages to give us an overview about 3 somehow interconnected fields, the mathematically described large-scale world, the deterministic quantum microcosm and the recently emergent mind science. His major aspiration is to see the new generation of scientists erecting a bridge between the quantum world and the always controversial substance of conscience.
Having in his mind (in a neo-platonic way) the idealistic nature of mathematics that apply to the physical world as a well-justified model, he firstly presents some themes from cosmology and abstract mathematics (e.g. hyperbolic, Riemann geometry), and why, in his opinion, Guth's inflationary universe theory, has weak points (see also Penrose's book- Difficulties with inflationary cosmology) In chapter 2 ,quantum physics related, he gives us interesting examples (the paradox& puzzles reference shows his great sense of humor) and explain us how wavefunction's reduction can assist us to deal with the probabilistic nature of events in this level.
In the most interesting third one, he is concerned to lay an in-depth foundation between quantum procedures through neurons, so as to explain his main belief - brain function (that creates conscience) can't be simulated through A.I. Even though I tend to prefer J.Searle opinion (presented in his book Mind,Brain & Science) Penrose's points are adequately justified, thus leaving an open window for Free Will.
In the next three chapters certain Penrose's point's are opposed from Shimony (physician, philosopher) Nancy Cartwright(logician, philosopher) and the renowned Steven Hawking.
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