Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness Reprint Edition

41 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195106466
ISBN-10: 0195106466
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Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness + The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics (Popular Science) + The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This book asserts that human consciousness is not necessarily intelligible in terms of computational models. The brain's conscious activity essentially transcends the forms or possibilities of computation. Penrose (mathematics, Oxford) illustrates his thesis via mathematical logic, including detailed discussions of Godel's proposition of incompleteness, Turing's machines and computabilities, quantum mechanics, and microbiology. Eventually, Penrose argues that artificial intelligence and computer-controlled expert systems are capable of assisting local human expertise but will not be able to replace such expertise. Expanding on some of the ideas and concepts proposed in his controversial book, The Emperor's New Mind (Oxford Univ. Pr., 1989), Penrose challenges others to reconsider traditional concepts. Some familiarity with mathematical logic or processes will facilitate one's appreciation of this book. Recommended for scholars, specialists, and informed lay readers.
Donald G. Frank, Harvard Univ., Cambridge, Mass.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

A leading critic of artificial intelligence research returns to the attack, attempting to lay the groundwork for an analysis of the true nature of intelligence. Building on his arguments in The Emperor's New Mind (not reviewed), Penrose (Mathematics/Oxford) begins by refuting the assertion that true intelligence can be attained--or even adequately simulated--by the strictly computational means to which current computers are ultimately limited. Much of his argument depends closely on the application of G”del's Undecidability Theorem to Turing machines--deep waters for laypeople, although the fundamentals of his argument are accessible to readers without sophisticated mathematical training. Having disposed of the central tenets of current AI research, Penrose then turns to an even more fundamental question: the actual foundations in modern physics (i.e., relativity and quantum theory) of the phenomenon of consciousness. Here much of his summary depends on fairly complex mathematical reasoning, although the key points are summarized for the general reader who has been willing to follow him so far. Penrose feels that a new physical synthesis, reconciling the paradoxes of quantum theory and bringing them into harmony with Einstein's gravitational theories, is ultimately necessary to explain the noncomputational elements of consciousness and intelligence. He speculates on the possible role of cellular structures called microtubules in creating a quantum phenomenon on a macroscopic scale within the brain, but grants that more research is needed to establish any connection between physical and mental phenomena. His conclusion steps back to a philosophical overview of the subject, paying homage to Plato, among others. A challenging examination of a central problem of modern philosophy, with no final answers but plenty of food for thought. (76 line drawings) (First printing of 50,000; $50,000 ad/promo) -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (August 22, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195106466
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195106466
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #401,411 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By "" on December 26, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is a significant improvement on Penrose's previous writing of similar scope, "The Emperor's New Mind", especially that he has more specific ideas on the actual biological manifestations of the noncomputational processes he seeks as basis for consciousness. Even if one does not agree with his arguments, there is a great amount of information on physics and so on, written in a style that makes the book a pleasure to read. A previous review mentioned that many have opposed the logical arguments from the first part of the book. Penrose, however, has replied quite well to many criticisms (see PSYCHE, an electronic journal on consciousness), and I think it is premature to pass final judgement. For an alternative, not necessarily incompatible, view of consciousness I highly recommend "The Feeling of What Happens" by the distinguished neurologist Antonio R. Damasio (or at least check out his article "How the Brain Creates the Mind" in Scientific American, December 1999).
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By avarma on July 10, 2008
Format: Paperback
Just opening this book to a random page and reading that page - sets one's mind on fire.

The basic thread running throughtout the book is that of 'what is computable and what is not'. The process of 'Understanding' as humans know it - Penrose argues - is NON-COMPUTABLE. He provides brilliant examples of how computers can 'solve' any problem - without 'understanding' what they are solving (e.g. DeepThought and the simple chess move which stumped it).

This theme in itself would make this a worthwhile read. However - this book offers further gems from Quantum Physics - with perhaps the simplest and best explanation of lesser known quantum paradoxes such as the 'delayed choice' experiments. Godel's theorem is also dealt with lucidly.

Few authors can tackle the issue of 'mind and conciousness' without stepping into some mystical/unscientific goo. Penrose stays scientific - and works from facts and well known experiments.

I do not know of any other book that tackles this subject so clearly - and in such an exciting fashion. From my perspective - this clearly deserves 5 stars.

For those interested in self-learning physics (without skipping the math), I recently compiled a list of self-learning books.
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43 of 52 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 22, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Between the beautifully written prologue and epilogue, this book approaches a range of topics in modern physics in a unique and readable way. Through a continuation of some earlier work, Penrose furthers an argument for brain function and conciousness that many in the artificial intelligence field will not appreciate. He presents his case that the human mind will never be simulated with digital a computer, no matter how complex. But that is not his main focus of this book.
Even more facinating are his calculations which indicate how mathematically unique our existence is under the 2nd law of thermodynamics. To me, it's ultimately ironic that the physical principal which orders our universe and makes intelligent life possible (the 2nd law), is the result of an unimaginably improbable set of initial conditions. Although Penrose never invokes the concept of a creator or supreme being, in my mind, this poses an interesting challenge to those in the scientific community who claim our universe is simply the result of random particle collisions over a long period of time.
If we combine the concepts of similar structures scaling across space and time (tensegrity and fractals), with Penrose's ideas that consciousness may be associated with quantum gravity interactions in microtubules (present in all living cells), perhaps there is far more mystery and beauty to this existence than some would now believe...
This book was satisfying and throught provoking, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the mysteries of the very large and the very small.
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31 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Alan Wilder on October 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Simple criticism is what Penrose does best. Finding contradictions, oxymorons, and mistakes is his specialty. His critique is certainly warranted now more than ever, as AI seems to be the slowest advancing field of all. In 1970s, we were 20 years from AI. Today, we are apparently 20 years from AI. I wager good money that in 2023, we will be 20 years from AI. How do we build something that we do not even know what it is? Is the mind computational? What is intelligence? These questions are still largely the realms of philosophy and not science. Thre are arguments, but the evidence is basically non-existent and largelly inferential; if it was any other field, literally negligable. But, some people argue, the very question of materialism rests in this quest. This is no necessarily true.
True AI is going to have to be more than a calculator. Actually, the best possible way to see if you believe in AI is to ask yourself: is a calculator a manifestation of AI? If not, there are problems with AI. Too many minds have built their fame and fortune arguing the opposite so the argument is not going away. Hence, I doubt this debate will be over any time soon.
However, in 20 years, I suspect nothing will have changed from the debate. Criticism of Shadows of the Mind usually involves oversimplification of Penrose's arguments. What you may think he says and what he does say are two completely different things.
Penrose has answered some criticism with rightful indignation in place. ....
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