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The Emperor's New Mind Paperback – January 1, 1991


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (January 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140145346
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140145342
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,602,898 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Some love it, some hate it, but The Emperor's New Mind, physicist Roger Penrose's 1989 treatise attacking the foundations of strong artificial intelligence, is crucial for anyone interested in the history of thinking about AI and consciousness. Part survey of modern physics, part exploration of the philosophy of mind, the book is not for casual readers--though it's not overly technical, it rarely pauses to let the reader catch a breath. The overview of relativity and quantum theory, written by a master, is priceless and uncontroversial. The exploration of consciousness and AI, though, is generally considered as resting on shakier ground.

Penrose claims that there is an intimate, perhaps unknowable relation between quantum effects and our thinking, and ultimately derives his anti-AI stance from his proposition that some, if not all, of our thinking is non-algorithmic. Of course, these days we believe that there are other avenues to AI than traditional algorithmic programming; while he has been accused of setting up straw robots to knock down, this accusation is unfair. Little was then known about the power of neural networks and behavior-based robotics to simulate (and, some would say, produce) intelligent problem-solving behavior. Whether these tools will lead to strong AI is ultimately a question of belief, not proof, and The Emperor's New Mind offers powerful arguments useful to believer and nonbeliever alike. --Rob Lightner

From Publishers Weekly

A physicist who believes that some aspects of the human mind will never be duplicated by artificial intelligence here supports his view with material drawn from quantum mechanics, brain structure and other theories. 75,000 first printing.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Very good book written by a real philosopher.
Anton Mikhailov
In any case one would think that Penrose's own intuition (which he claims helps him to see truth despite Gödel undecidability!)
Olly Buxton
Read this book with an open mind, and even if you disagree with some of his arguments, you will take much away with you.
Pinner Blinn

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

88 of 97 people found the following review helpful By Wesley L. Janssen VINE VOICE on December 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Roger Penrose, "one of the world's most knowledgeable and creative mathematical physicists," presents in his 1989 Emperor's New Mind one of the most intriguing and substantive popularizations of mathematical logic and physical theory that has ever been published. As a reader of many books written by scientists, I will say that few compare with this one. Penrose wrestles with what he sees as some of science's most inadequate or poorly developed (although popularly accepted) ideas. As certain physical theories are found wanting, his grapplings extend to some of the deepest questions of metaphysics. Of the deepest questions, Penrose says, "To ask for definitive answers to such grandiose questions would, of course, be a tall order. Such answers I cannot provide; nor can anyone else, though some may try to impress us with their guesses." While he speaks respectfully of individuals with whom he has certain differences of opinion, the "some" in that statement might be taken to be Hawking, Dawkins, Dennett, to suggest a few. The author here tends toward a more humble and questioning approach. Penrose's puzzlings are complex, creative, and speculative, and even his admirers might easily misrepresent certain of his opinions and conjectures. A case in point may be the fact that he finds cosmic inflation theories to have less explanatory power than others claim for them -- this doesn't mean he necessarily rejects inflation, rather he doubts claims that inflation significantly helps explain the specialness of the early universe. Positivists may be disposed to discount the problem but there appears to be good reason for Penrose's skepticism. However this is not treated in this volume.Read more ›
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Pinner Blinn on September 11, 2007
Format: Paperback
I was compelled to write as I came by on the way to buying Dr. Penrose's more recent book ("Road to Reality") and was appalled that Amazon features 2 out of 3 negative views on the first page, including one which dismisses the "Emperor's new mind" as "rubbish". Surely the book is controversial in certain quarters, but the vehemence of much of the criticism can only make me wonder why some people are so defensive about it.

I have to admit I have not reread this book since my original reading around 1990, so take my remarks at some discount on that basis. But I will tell you that this book remains influential in my choice of what I read and how I evaluate things even to this day. It has indeed changed my life.

Dr. Penrose's premise is that a computer simulation of a brain will not achieve the equivalent of human consciousness. I don't wish to enter the fray of arguing points. Dr. Penrose is a mathematical and scientific genius, a deep thinker on the nature of reality, and he can do his own counterpoint. Read this book with an open mind, and even if you disagree with some of his arguments, you will take much away with you.

Here's my take. "Consciousness" is pretty central to the whole enterprise of scientific endeavor, as well as how each of us understands our place in the world. Consciousness, as modeled by psychological and AI researchers, has a lot to say about the biological/physical systems that underpin what is happening in our heads, but one has to wonder about claims that consciousness is now completely understood. To this end, Dr. Penrose takes us on a fascinating journey to the frontiers of scientific knowledge, at scales both large and small. This is entirely relevant to the central theme.
Read more ›
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51 of 60 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
First, what this book is not: It is not "creation science"...it doesn't address evolution...or the existence of God...or existence of the human soul. In other words, it is NOT special pleading against modern science by someone with a religious agenda. What it IS rather, is a solid study of cognition, theories of artificial intelligence, and the enduring problem of the nature of human consciousness by one of the world's top physicists (a professed materialist by the way, not a religious believer), who together with Stephen Hawking developed the astrophysics of "black holes" in the '60's. What Penrose suggests here (a theory he expands on in his subsequent "Shadows of the Mind"), is that science, and specifically physics, is inadequate now, and more importantly will always be inadequate, to describe the nature of human intelligence, cognition, and consciousness--a thesis similar to the showing of Godel's 1931 Theorem that certain fundamental axioms of mathematics were incapable of proof within any mathematical system. In other words, Penrose suggests that there are elemental restrictions within science itself limiting our understanding of our own mental processes, which concomitantly limit the possibilities for development of artificial intelligence. And that obviously doesn't sit well with those for whom naturalistic science is itself a kind of "religion," as some of the dismissive reviews on this page show. My advice: just ignore them and read this book, and well as its successor, "Shadows of the Mind." It's a challenging read and not for intellectual lightweights, but it will richly reward those with the patience to make it through.
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