- Series: Oxford Landmark Science
- Paperback: 640 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; Revised edition (July 1, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0198784929
- ISBN-13: 978-0198784920
- Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 1.5 x 5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #352,846 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics (Oxford Landmark Science) Revised Edition
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"perhaps the most engaging and creative tour of modern physics that has ever been written"
"A superb book... provocative and absorbing"
"A bold, brilliant, groundbreaking work... When Mr Penrose talks, scientists listen"
--New York Time Book Review
". . One cannot imagine a more revealing self-portrait than this enchanting, tantalising book... Roger Penrose reveals himself as an eloquent protagonist, not only of the wonders of mathematics, but also of the uniqueness of people."
"I fail to see how anybody can remain unmoved by the book's central theme, which concerns the nature of human beings... His style is relaxed and entertaining, There are nuggets on almost every page."
About the Author
Roger Penrose, University of Oxford
Sir Roger Penrose OM FRS is the Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the Mathematical Institute of the University of Oxford, as well as an Emeritus Fellow of Wadham College. He is known for his work in mathematical physics, in particular for his contributions to general relativity and cosmology. His books include Shadows Of The Mind ( Vintage, 1995); The Road to Reality (Vintage, 2006); and The Nature of Space and Time, co-authored with Stephen Hawking (Princeton University Press, 2015). He has received several prizes and awards, including the 1988 Wolf Prize for physics, which he shared with Stephen Hawking for their contribution to our understanding of the universe.
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Top Customer Reviews
Rigorously building a case against the fundamental arguments for strong AI, Penrose begins with what for him is to ultimately be 'le coup de grâce', considerations and arguments from mathematical logic. If the human mind works non-algorithmically, then we know of no way to digitize/program its processes. The mind does in fact function non-algorithmically, a fact demonstrated without much difficulty. It learns in intuitive, non-linear, and mysteriously creative ways. The idea that some non-algorithmic approach might achieve a program equivalent to the human mind is not supported by any "useful" (or better, see below) physical theory and is not mathematically tenable. Strong AI is thus relegated to a mere ideological preference (and obviously to sci-fi). In his mathematical considerations, Penrose is most interested in the work of Turing and Gödel and in the Platonic essence of mathematics itself. Concluding that the human mind cannot be reduced to an algorithm (or any set of algorithms), Penrose next questions whether the mind might be reducible physically. Here he finds the questions and answers less well defined than he has in mathematics. His tour of classical and quantum physics features interpretations and ideas that many readers may have not encountered (which makes the text fun). The problem of "correct quantum gravity" (that is, the incompleteness [or incorrectness?] of relativity and quantum theories) is one that Penrose and other theoreticians have struggled with for decades. Penrose wonders if this mysterious and conspicuously missing physical theory might be related to the also conspicuously missing science of mind. This speculation on his part is the theme also of his more recent books. As Erwin Schrödinger (like Einstein and Gödel, Platonists all) seems to be one whose ideas are of particular interest to Penrose, I will cite Schrödinger's view: "Consciousness cannot be accounted for in physical terms. For consciousness is absolutely fundamental. It cannot be accounted for in terms of anything else." But Penrose doesn't quite argue this view, although it would seem an obvious conclusion from his best arguments. Here is a classic example of how we may know 'something' without knowing everything: we can know that the human mind cannot be reduced to an algorithm -- or algorithm of algorithms -- and yet it is not known whether we can even know precisely what mind is. Particularly so if, as Schrödinger says, mind is irreducible.
The chapter on cosmology is excellent, as one might expect of a Roger Penrose. The consideration of the "specialness" of the initial [cosmological] conditions and of the relationship of this specialness to the second law of thermodynamics is also fascinating as it is precisely the second law that lends the "arrow of time" its apparent non-symmetrical aspect -- in other words, defines physical reality as we experience it. In this sense, the second law connects the human mind to the cosmos (which is interesting but does nothing to help us "reduce" mind).
Penrose suggests, and I cannot find any reason to disagree, that all scientific theories can be assigned to one of three broad categories, which he calls: (1.) SUPERB, (2.) USEFUL, (3.) TENTATIVE. All SUPERB theories (there are roughly a dozen) stand within the purvey of physics, and: "It is remarkable that all the SUPERB theories of Nature have proved to be extraordinarily fertile as sources of mathematical ideas. There is a deep and beautiful mystery in this fact: that these superbly accurate theories are also extraordinarily fruitful simply as mathematics. No doubt this is telling us something profound about the connections between the real world of our physical experiences and the Platonic world of mathematics." Over time, theories (particularly those that do not feature such mathematical beauty or fertility) may tend to move between the categories. Theories held to be SUPERB for centuries have dropped completely from the current categories; theories have faded and re-emerged. . . "we should not be too complacent that the pictures that we have formed at any one time are not to be overturned by some later and deeper view."
Some readers will not like the fact that, after extensive rumination on very difficult and deep questions (like "what is mind?"), the author doesn't conclude with a pretense that he, or anyone else, has definitive answers. This reader appreciated the integrity of Penrose's questionings and of his conclusions (or lack of conclusions). I will misappropriate one of Penrose's terms -- as a text examining mathematics, physics, and the human mind, this volume is SUPERB.
Roger Penrose is definitely one scientist that holds a very strong opinion on this opposite, and I do have to say that he is undoubtedly good at explaining his arguments. This book did a good job at disseminating a set of fundamental ideas from a physics perspective in relation to some very philosophical and mathematical issues. From my reading, there are two streams of ideas in the book. The first one is from mathematics, including the introduction of algorithms, Turing machines and logical proof systems. The second one is from physics, from classical mechanics to relativity and quantum mechanics and beyond. The interaction of these two streams by itself is worth reading by anyone who is pondering on the fundamental doubts of the mind, intelligence and conciousness.
From the first stream, the book’s main argument rests on the Turing halting problem and Gödel’s incompleteness theorems. From these theorems, he argues that machines could not be like humans since it could not know the truthness of these self-referencing statements. I am not yet convinced by this seemingly sound argument, because it rests on the fact that there is certain statement about the system itself that it could not know true or false. We humans could perceive that these incomplete statements are true, because we are not these systems therefore they are not self-referencing statements for ourselves. We do not have an answer to whether we ourselves are free from these incomplete limitations, since if we had the answer it would violate the incompleteness theorems. Who knows, maybe some aliens would think of us as no difference from we think of the machines, and apply a form of Cantor’s diagonalization to say that “look, humans cannot have mind because they cannot understand these true statements that are obvious to us”! As a result, the presumption that humans are free from incompleteness is one most ridiculous hidden idea in the book.
In the second stream, the book became much more constructive. It is a great journey to explore the searching of an explanation for the mind through the vast space of knowledge in physics. However, throughout the arguments, the ideas could only belong to a set of speculations. This is not a surprise since he argues for the necessity of a correct quantum gravity (CQG) theory to explain the human mind, which should ultimately unify quantum mechanics and general relativity under a single mathematical framework. It is the fact that no such theory yet exists that shakes down many of his arguments and made them merely speculations. As a result, this book in my opinion does a very bad job at opposing artificial intelligence in both streams.
In general, the book is still very much enjoyable just because it contains a grand set of fundamental knowledge. It is particularly so reading from a critic point of view. Roger Penrose also has two later books in the same string of thought, which undoubtedly may explain his ideas better and may resolve some of this book’s issues. I am looking forward to reading them as valuable thought excercises, but may be after a few books from some other human endeavors.