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214 of 224 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICEon December 28, 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Short Review: Interested in getting current with state of the art neuroscience and some philosophical discussions about our brain and consciousness? If so, read this approachable and easy-to-understand book!

Longer Review:

Michio Kaku is a theoretical physicist with a knack for explaining difficult concepts with simple analogies and clear descriptions. I've been a fan for some years now, and I thoroughly enjoyed Physics of the Impossible, Parallel Worlds, and Hyperspace. I was a bit surprised when I heard that Kaku was extending a bit outside his theoretical physics wheelhouse to write a book about the brain - but I'm very glad I decided to give this one a read.

After reading this book I feel like I'm much more up to date with where we currently stand when it comes to state-of-the-art neuroscience. Kaku stresses greatly the avalanche of modern neuroscience progress that was triggered by widespread use of MRI technology starting in the 90s, and this new information is forcing us to confront and redevelop longstanding ideas regarding our brains. A discussion of the various technological developments unlocking this new information leads into some philosophical discussion of consciousness and what makes us 'human'.

The bulk of the remainder of The Future of the Mind is focused on how the increase in brain-technology will affect the world, including discussions of telepathy, telekinesis, memory implants, memory recording, potential mental illness cures, brain enhancement, and mind reading. He also discusses different 'types' of consciousness including things like the consciousness of robots and the potential consciousness of alien life forms. The topics covered are very forward thinking, and there is a lot of time devoted to the various ways in which we will likely continue to stride forward in the future (such as the section on reverse engineering the brain). As you can tell this is a huge range of topics, and reading The Future of the Mind it sure sounds like we're just scraping the surface of potential topics with this book. Prepare to feel overwhelmed at how quickly brain science is marching along.

Kaku interviewed a huge number of experts in the field of neuroscience, and quotes from their conversations are features prominently throughout. A common pattern in the book is to reveal a shocking-but-true fact or experimental result about our brain accompanied by a metaphor and/or expert quote easing into an explanation that is understandable and clear. This approach works well in general, and keeps the pages turning. I had a hard time putting this book down, and brought it to work to finish during my lunch break. I have a habit of highlighting interesting/important passages whenever I read science books, and practically the entire book was highlighted by the time I was finished by this one!

It's hard to come up with any significant negatives for this review, but I have to mention that Kaku's constant movie references grew tiresome for me after a while. Many of the concepts in this book are introduced by way of "This happened in a movie and now it's happening FOR REAL!" I understand the benefits of this approach, but I could have used a bit more variety - I felt the technique was overused. Just a minor complaint, but something I noticed.
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83 of 86 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 29, 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"The Future of the Mind" by Michio Kaku introduces inquisitive readers to the exciting science of the human mind. Dr. Kaku is perhaps the preeminent popular scientist of our time with numerous books, television productions and media appearances to his credit. This fascinating book will interest everyone who wants to get up to speed on the rapidly evolving field of brain sciences including what the future might hold for humanity.

The book is divided into three sections. `Book I: The Mind and Consciousness' is a brief survey of brain research up to the present day including an overview of how the brain works. `Book II: Mind Over Matter' discusses how science is shedding new light on telepathy, telekinesis, memories and the possibility of enhancing the brain's powers. `Book III: Altered Consciousness' speculates about how humanity's mastery of brain sciences might radically change our destiny on earth and beyond, including allowing us to reach across the universe with our minds.

Of course, Dr. Kaku carefully weighs the myriad ethical issues that inevitably come up when scientists talk about tinkering with the human brain. For example, when discussing the possibility of improving human intelligence, Dr. Kaku points to the benefits of enabling workers to rapidly learn new job skills but also warns about the social disparity that might ensue if such powerful technology is distributed only to the few. More than anything else, Dr. Kaku shares his vision and enthusiasm for where science can lead us. Through his demonstrated command of the subject matter, we become excited not only about the shorter-term promise of discovering more effective treatments for mental illnesses; but also about the longer-term possibility of exploring distant stars using our minds. The end result is a highly engaging book that rewards us with its keen intelligence, compassion and sense of wonder.

I highly recommend this outstanding book to everyone.
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84 of 89 people found the following review helpful
on November 24, 2014
One idle evening I was reading an old magazine and read about mind games. I don’t know why, but I felt a great drive to explore for the nature of mind, its functioning and the processing. Although I came across dozens of books and magazines, yet being a student of science, I was looking for some scientific explanation of our brain and its domains. Then I day I came across, what I wanted. The book titled “The future of the mind “, proved to be the perfect answer to all my questions and once I started with the introduction of the book, I could not resist to go further. The book is a perfect combination of fiction and science explaining the various mental coding models and possible potentials if human brain. If someone wants to dig out the future dimensions of the human mind and its miracles, this book is the best.

Once I got fully involved in learning about the human brain, I kept on reading more material over the topic. During this phase another perfect piece of writing came up my way, the book titled “Maximizing Brain Control : Unleash The Genius In You”. In this marvelous piece of writing the author has motivated all the readers about the controlling ability of our mind. He suggests that our brains are just like programmed machines, so better is the programming, better will be the results. He has suggested a number of simple tactics to conquer our mind strengths and use them for more useful purposes. He has helped the reader to understand the different divisions of the brain, by explaining it in very simple terms.

Having read these two books, I felt obvious changes in my personality, by having improvement in my cognitive and affective behaviors. The books have helped me to think about an arena of my life, which was neglected by me for very long. I recommend these books to all those who want to multiply their knowledge of the brain and its capabilities, because the brain miracles are the greatest mystery of this world and must be revealed to everyone.
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148 of 177 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 1, 2014
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Although Michio Kaku is a theoretical physicist by training, his enthusiasm for neuroscience comes through very clearly. As the title suggests, this new book The Future of the Mind discusses the current state of neurology, bionics, and artificial intelligence, and then forecasts possible breakthroughs in the near and distant future. Kaku's experience in writing popular-level science books is obvious, as it is a fairly easy read with natural break points every 2-3 pages. There are really no dense walls of text to slog through, a definite positive attribute.

If you're an avid reader of popular level books on neurology or psychology, many of the topics may be familiar. There's a discussion of Phineas Gage, an attempt to define consciousness, a look into the new efforts to map the human brain, etc. And this background information is where the book shines. For example, Kaku's description of the CIA's mind control research is pretty interesting, as are his explanations of the current problems in AI research.

The rest of the book, however, reads a lot like articles from Popular Science. Kaku comes across as too optimistic about the future of these research areas, with more focus on what's possible rather than what's likely to happen. One assumes that this book will have to be updated a lot over the next five to ten years, as areas of research change, get delayed, or stall out entirely. And while it's fun to imagine the distant future where people might be able to beam their consciousness to surrogate bodies halfway across the galaxy via wormholes (an actual topic this book covers), I'd rather learn about the technologies which are right around the corner.
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39 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on April 9, 2014
Dr. Kaku may be a fine physicist, but I see little evidence that he has engaged in any deep study of the problem of consciousness and its related spheres of perception, memory, cognition and cognitive development. The book is indeed interesting - if only on a semi-surface level - for its tour of developments in neuroscience with its new mapping technologies (e.g., fMRI), genetics and brain regions, massive planned research programs proposing to map the entire neural structure and connections of the brain and ultimately of course, recreate it in silicon. I say "on a semi-surface level" because Kaku does, at points, pull the unbridled optimism and unrealistic time-projections for future AI achievements a little closer to reality than I have seen elsewhere. Despite this, by the end, he is not far from the same optimism - one that belies any deep understanding - a mindset surely supported by the unhesitating reductionism displayed throughout the book, towards the end manifesting by simply assigning NDE's and out-of-the-body experiences as simply "generated" by the brain, in a treatment that nicely ignores all the problematic phenomena reported that might indicate an objective status to these experiences.

The book holds an interesting discussion of various brain imaging methods, their strengths and limitations, and therefore the fact that these are far from a panacea for research. As Kaku examines the topic of using raw computer power to simulate brains, to include Kurzweil's invocation of Moore's law with its projected doubling of computer power each year, he notes a brick wall that is about to block this tech-advance via quantum-physical limitations - an interesting point. In his discussion of plans to "download" memories or transfer them to other brains/devices, he does reveal that in reality there is no understanding today as to how the brain actually stores experienced events, noting the standard view that fragments or features of the event are stored in various spots in the brain, but that it is not known how these are reassembled in a remembering operation. This is not a usual admission. As he explores the future in creating an artificial human with the ability to act intelligently in the concrete world, he does some serious acknowledgement of the problem of "common sense knowledge" and AI's failures on this hitherto, and he projects that this will take much longer than writers like Kurzweil and others suppose. These are some welcome notes of caution, rare in this literature.

The problem is that these latter two problems go far more deeply than Kaku realizes, so deep that they question the entire information processing paradigm in which his book is framed. That little problem of how experience is actually stored in the brain stems directly from the fact that there is no theory of perception, i.e., how we see a coffee cup "out there," on the table surface, with its coffee being stirred by a spoon. Yes, this scene/event has "qualia" that must be accounted for, for given that the information from the external world has been transduced to neural-chemical flows (or for computers, changing bit patterns) which look nothing like the external world, we must explain how, from such an homogeneous architecture, we account for the "whiteness" of the cup, the "clinking" of the spoon, the smell of the coffee. The "qualia" formulation is Chalmers', and Kaku, following Dennett (who is far from accepted in philosophical circles), simply rejects as a problem how we explain the way the brain architecture, or any AI architecture, accounts for qualia.

The difficulty is this: Chalmers' formulation has been misleading; the deeper problem is explaining the origin of the image of the external world - not only the cup with its "whiteness," but the kitchen table with its wood-grained surface, the spoon stirring, coffee swirling, steam twisting and rising, the floor stretching in every direction with its tiles ... The "forms" in the image, and more obviously forms dynamically changing over time - rotating cups, twisting leaves, gently waving kitchen curtains - are themselves qualia, and equally non-computable. The origin of the image as a whole is the problem, and this image (of our kitchen with cup) is equally our "experience." This is why the problem is more critical than any AI-type theorist wants to realize: If you have no theory of the origin of our image of the external world, then you have no theory of experience, and in turn therefore, you can have no theory of the "storage" of this experience; your theory of memory is totally ungrounded, and this despite the current confidence, echoed by Kaku, that only a "subset" or a selected set of elements/features of this "experience" is stored - a current, widely held theory by the way with absolutely no in-principle method of the selection of what "parts" or "elements" or "features" of the coffee-stirring event will be stored, let alone of how this dis-assembly/reassembly would work - either in the real time required while the coffee stirring event is ongoing, or at a later time for retrieval of the experience. Ungrounded too then is any theory of cognition, therefore of that problematic "common sense knowledge," reliant as this knowledge is on the retrieval and use of our experience.

Abstract "computations" in themselves (and this is entirely the framework in which Kaku works) are simply insufficient to explain consciousness (our qualia-laden experience). There is a possibility concerning the nature of the brain that should give Kaku - particularly in his physicist persona - some pause: What if the brain, along with its computations or statistical/network analyses (same thing) is at the same time, and actually more importantly, sustaining a real, concrete dynamics - as real, for the sake of example, as an AC motor generating an oscillating electric field of force. Yes, knowing its equations, one can "simulate" the AC motor via a computer, but the computer is not generating the oscillating field of electric force; it is not even running a tiny light bulb. For this, one needs a device whose construction and function is to generate a real, concrete dynamics. One would need to engage in real engineering. This in fact was the thesis of Bergson (Matter and Memory, 1896). Bergson had presciently seen the essence of holography in 1896 (making his theory incomprehensible to his contemporaries). He viewed the universal field, in which we all are embedded, as holographic - a vast interference pattern, a field intrinsically non-image-able. Effectively, he saw the brain (with all its underlying quantum dynamics) as a modulated reconstructive wave passing through this holographic field, selecting out information in the field related to the action systems of the body, and in this becoming "specific to" a subset of the field - now, by this process, an image of aspects of the field, e.g., the kitchen with its tables, its chairs and cup. In other words, we are explaining how perception is limited, not how it arises. This image of the external world, due to the brain's dynamics (with its underlying chemical velocities) is specified at a scale of time - a fly "buzzing" by the coffee cup, his wings oscillating at 200 cps, is seen as a blur in our normal scale of time. Drop in a catalyst into this dynamics - the brain/modulated wave is now specific to a heron-like fly slowly flapping his wings and equally now specific to a new possible action of the body, e.g., picking the fly out of the air by a wing, for as the selection of a subset of the field is made in relation to the action systems of the body, then, as Bergson stated succinctly, perception is virtual action. If the brain is actually such a device - a modulated reconstructive wave - all the future brain-mapping projects Kaku is discussing will be proceeding under the wrong assumptions, and the goal of rebuilding all this as a device in silicon, as purely sustaining computations, is utterly misguided.

For all this, Bergson's model requires a quite different model of time, where the flow of time is indivisible or non-differentiable, and it demands a re-conception of the relation of subject and object, for the difference between, and the relation of each, is in terms, not of space, but of time. But one will find in Kaku but a trivial discussion of the problem of time in relation to mind, namely the role of consciousness as planning for future events, and this is in reality the great problem of explicit memory or the localization of events in time, something requiring the development of the symbolic function - an extremely complex trajectory of development requiring the human child several years, long ago discussed in great depth by Piaget - of all of which Kaku (and AI as well for that matter) is apparently unaware, but a trajectory that would need to be replicated by his AIs. One finds nothing in Kaku on the origin of our scale of perceptual time, or the form of memory that supports the ongoing perception of rotating cubes or stirring spoons, or the support of invariance laws defined only over time. One will find nothing of the problem of subject and object.

In Bergson's conception, since the brain is specific to sources within the external field (as an image) perception/experience is not occurring solely within the brain (nor is it simply "generated" by the brain), therefore experience cannot be solely stored there, yet our experience is retrievable by the same reconstructive wave process. The fact that a konk on the head produces retrograde amnesia does not mean that experiences are stored in the brain and are destroyed - as opposed rather to there now being damage to the mechanisms responsible for modulating the retrieving reconstructive wave. (Similarly, a successful artificial retinal implant supporting vision - one of many advances noted by Kaku that appear to support the computational metaphor - does not imply more than achieving partial support of the overall, very concrete dynamics supporting vision). Obviously this is a quite different theory of memory retrieval; it is inherently supportive of analogical retrieval - a phenomenon basic to thought, to include analogy in general. Hofstadter in his vast consideration of the subject of analogy (Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking) clearly has no idea (and appears to harbor doubts) as to how to implement this operation in a computer (or neural net). Yet analogy - the foundational operation of thought as Hofstadter shows - is at the heart of common sense knowledge: I am given a 12" cubical box, rubber bands, pencils, toothpicks, string, razorblade, staples, cheese, etc., and asked to create a mousetrap. I make a "crossbow" using the box, pencil and rubber bands, or a "beheader" using the box, pencil, razorblade and rubber bands. I am doing analogy via my stored experience. This is why that problematic issue of common sense knowledge is so deceptively difficult - it is bound to the entire problem of conscious perception or experience (with the "qualia" problem as a subset) and the memory "storage" of this experience. (For the sake of those interested in a deeper discussion of Bergson and these issues, as I know of none other, one can search (on Amazon) for "Collapsing the Singularity.")

The failure of current science/AI to solve (or admit) the hard problem, properly understood as the more general problem of the image of the external world, is an index into the possibility that the entire framework in which Kaku, AI and neuroscience are working is badly wrong. But this is just a glimpse - when we write of projected feats such as "downloading memories," "transferring consciousness," or "AIs as or more intelligent than humans" - of the tremendous scope and depth of the issues surrounding these topics that Kaku has presumed irrelevant.

For an interesting tour of projects and developments, the book is good. As I have grown tired of these shallow analyses of the issues involved, I can only give so many stars.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 13, 2014
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Whoa! What a book to read if you want a glimpse of where science is taking us in the future! This highly interesting read does a great job of explaining current and future possiblities of tracking, improving and studying the human brain. From current research of creating prosthetics which can be controlled from thought to 'helmet' scanners which can read your thoughts to portable body scanners like "Doc" from Star Trek used - the future possibilities are amazing. There is so much work being done in creating ways to actually read one's mind - which would be of enormous benefit for some people stricken with disease...to implants in the brain to stimulate thought, movement, recovery from stroke or traumatic brain injury. The book lightly touches on the downside of such technology - could police use some of these devices which are currently in development to read your mind? could the government? What are the ethical implications of this technology? How could it be controlled once it's on the open market? The author did a great job of presenting the information in an easy to read, understandable format - I almost read the book in one sitting the concepts were so interesting. The book touches on the amount of research being done by private companies as well as DARPA, and it left me feeling that futuristic science fiction movie plots aren't really that far away from becomming a reality.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 18, 2014
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
First, I should disclose that I have read a number of his books: Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100,Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel,Parallel Worlds: A Journey Through Creation, Higher Dimensions, and the Future of the Cosmos,Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the 10th Dimension,
Visions: How Science Will Revolutionize the 21st Century. I enjoyed them all.

What has remained consistent throughout all of these books is the author's expertise and enthusiasm for each subject and a discussing it in a very accessible way for a broader audience, yet not 'dumbing it down'. Even though I struggled with these subjects in college, I thoroughly enjoy reading Dr. Kaku's books. If I only had him as a professor...

After tackling space, other dimensions and the likely future, in The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind, Dr. Kaku departs from his typical field of study and explores artificial intelligence and the future of the human mind. We are learning about neuroscience at a tremendous pace and Dr. Kaku takes you along, breaks everything down and in his usual style, explains challenging concepts in readily understandable bites. As he has done in previous works, he organizes the subject well starting to build a foundation at the beginning and near the later chapters touch on the exotic possible future.

Dr. Kaku begins by taking us through a definition of consciousness, explaining the brain and the current state of our knowledge. Next, he guides us through the research on the brain in some of the unusual, like telepathy and brain enhancements. Finally, as he often does, he explains how the aforementioned advances would change our world. This is as informative as it is interesting.

If you liked any of his previous books, this should also meet with your approval. It maintains the exciting tone of what is, what may be possible and the direction we are headed in neuroscience. This would be a great book for those that haven't read him before, especially to someone with a curious mind and a desire to see a glimpse of what may be. The book was a great read, very consistent with his previous works and tremendously interesting. A well deserved 5 star rating.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 2014
DO NOT BUY THIS INACCURATE BOOK!!
The author makes serious errors showing that he does not understand basic material relevant to his content.
For example on page 14 he writes a whole section headed "Broca's brain" in which he erroneously describes Broca's cases and attributes Broca's aphasia to lesions in the temporal lobe ("usually left"). It is well known that Broca's area is in the left frontal lobe, not the temporal lobe. Shortly following this on page 25 he shows an image he describes as functional MRI, but it does not contain any discernible fMRI content, only standard MRI in sagittal plane.
I find it inexcusable that in a book of this type that the author would not at least check his material with someone more expert in the field if it is not an area familiar to him.
I am a neurologist myself, and after finding such severe errors in basic material, I do not feel I can trust other portions of the book where he writes about areas less familiar to me.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on April 28, 2014
This is my first reading from this author and was expecting much more because I really enjoy him whenever I see him on the screen. However, this book I thought had a whole lot of 'fill' in it and really didn't seem to address the title of the book. Rather boring reading, nothing really exciting new stuff in the making, just seemed to fill pages with 'stuff'.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on November 25, 2014
Skip this book if you are a psychologist or have a background or training in cognitive science or the study of consciousness. The book will frustrate you, because Kaku gets his facts wrong so often--which is surprising given that Kaku is a scientist. For example, his theory of consciousness is not a theory of consciousness at all. It is sort of a theory of one kind of mental function, but certainly not a theory that has any chance of explaining why we need to have subjective experience (qualia). One could easily argue that Kaku's concept of consciousness, which centers on the mental function of making mental models of the future, could conceivably have nothing to do with conscious experience, since it may well be possible to create such models unconsciously. By the way, Kaku uses the term "subconscious" instead of "unconscious," a term that carries its own misleading implications. And Kaku completely misconstrues David Chalmers' "hard problem," among many other errors. Finally, Kaku tends to go on and on with long passages in which he ruminates about issues that he imagines might come up in the future, such as which children robots should be programmed to rescue in a disaster. With all that said, however, if you don't know anything about theories of consciousness or cognitive science, you might enjoy the book.
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