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The Emotion Machine: Commonsense Thinking, Artificial Intelligence, and the Future of the Human Mind Paperback – November 13, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Twenty years after The Society of Mind, where he introduced the concept that "minds are what brains do," Minsky probes deeper into the question of natural intelligence. Don't look for simple explanations: he believes "we need to find more complicated ways to explain our most familiar mental events"; we need to break our thought processes down into the most precise steps possible. In fact, in order to truly understand the human mind, Minsky suggests, we'll probably need to reverse-engineer a machine that can replicate those functions so we can study it. Thus, he rejects the idea of consciousness as a unitary "Self" in favor of "a decentralized cloud" of more than 20 distinct mental processes. In this view, emotional states like love and shame are not the opposite of rational cogitation; both, Minsky says, are ways of thinking. This is not a book to be read casually; Minsky builds his argument with constant reference to earlier and later sections, imagining objections from a variety of philosophical positions and refuting them. A steady stream of diagrams helps clarify matters, but readers will be forced to dig for the "aha!" moments: they're worth the effort. 100 b&w illus. (Nov. 7)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Minsky, a leader in the field of artificial intelligence (and author of the groundbreaking Society of Mind, 1987), asks nothing less of us here than to reconsider everything we believe about the human mind. He asks us to look at our brains as a kind of flesh-and-blood switching station, using a variety of preloaded "resources" (what he called, in his earlier book, "agents") in a sort of constant problem--solving mode. It is our ability to learn new sets of resources, to think in a variety of ways depending on circumstances, he argues, that makes our species unique. Some readers may find the writing a little stodgy (and Minsky's habit of using awkwardly written interjections from hypothetical readers is more than a little pretentious), but the ideas themselves are challenging and provocative. Ultimately, Minsky seems to be saying that in order to develop a "posthuman mind" we need to make our minds more like thinking machines rather than making the machines more like us. Sure to provoke much debate in the artificial-intelligence community. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Minsky's main take on emotions is that emotional states are not fundamentally different from other types of thinking, and that the entire dicotomy of rationality v. emotion is misleading. He prefers to view them all as different ways of thinking - of utilizing various mental resources at one's disposal, some conscious and some not. He organizes his discussion of difficult material very well, but I wish there was more grounding in the underlying neural anatomy of human emotion.
This book discusses many interesting ideas about human minds in general and provides a plausible framework for understanding our own thought processes.