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How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed

4.2 out of 5 stars 243 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0143124047
ISBN-10: 0143124048
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

As inventor, futurist, and noted author of several books on technology, Kurzweil has often pushed the boundaries of convention and stirred controversy with his visionary ideas. Guaranteed to trigger still more debate, his latest work expands on a theme first introduced in his best-seller, The Age of Intelligent Machines (1989); namely, a proposed project to reverse-engineer the human mind and use that information to build superintelligent computers to solve the world’s thorniest problems. Arguing against the prevailing notion that the brain is simply too complex to be replicated in machine form, either in hardware or software, Kurzweil points out how recent, groundbreaking scientific advances, from mapping the human genome to 3D molecular imaging, have resulted in exponential technological growth. On his way to demonstrating the inevitability of computer intelligence that outstrips its human creators, Kurzweil dissects such topics as the nature of consciousness and transcendent abilities like love and creativity, and seeks to rebut his potential critics. While his prose sometimes founders when analyzing abstract data, Kurzweil’s extrapolation of technology’s breathtaking potential remains provocative and inspiring. --Carl Hays --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"Kurzweil writes boldly and with a showman’s flair, expertly guiding the lay reader into deep thickets of neuroscience."
~Kate Tuttle, Boston Globe

"A fascinating exercise in futurology."
~Kirkus Reviews

"It is rare to find a book that offers unique and inspiring content on every page. How to Create a Mind achieves that and more. Ray has a way of tackling seemingly overwhelming challenges with an army of reason, in the end convincing the reader that it is within our reach to create nonbiological intelligence that will soar past our own. This is a visionary work that is also accessible and entertaining.
~Rafael Reif, president, MIT
"Kurzweil's new book on the mind is magnificent, timely, and solidly argued! His best so far!"
~Marvin Minsky, MIT Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences; cofounder of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab; widely regarded as "the father of artificial intelligence"
"If you ever wondered about how your mind works, read this book. Kurzweil's insights reveal key secrets underlying human thought and our ability to recreate it. This is an eloquent and thought-provoking work."
~Dean Kamen, physicist; inventor of the first wearable insulin pump, the HomeChoice dialysis machine, and the IBOT mobility system; founder of FIRST; recipient of the National Medal of Technology
"One of the eminent AI pioneers, Ray Kurzweil, has created a new book to explain the true nature of intelligence, both biological and nonbiological. The book describes the human brain as a machine that can understand hierarchical concepts ranging from the form of a chair to the nature of humor. His important insights emphasize the key role of learning both in the brain and in AI. He provides a credible road map for achieving the goal of super-human intelligence, which will be necessary to solve the grand challenges of humanity.
~Raj Reddy, founding director, Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University; recipient of the Turing Award from the Association for Computing Machinery
"Ray Kurzweil pioneered artificial intelligence systems that could read print in any type style, synthesize speech and music, and understand speech. These were the forerunners of the present revolution in machine learning that is creating intelligent computers that can beat humans in chess, win on Jeopardy!, and drive cars. His new book is a clear and compelling overview of the progress, especially in learning, that is enabling this revolution in the technologies of intelligence. It also offers important insights into a future in which we will begin solving what I believe is the greatest problem in science and technology today: the problem of how the brain works and of how it generates intelligence."
~Tomaso Poggio, Eugene McDermott Professor, MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences; director, MIT Center for Biological and Computational Learning; former chair, MIT McGovern Institute for Brain Research; one of the most cited neuroscientists in the world

"This book is a Rosetta stone for the mystery of human thought. Even more remarkably, it is a blueprint for creating artificial consciousness that is as persuasive and emotional as our own. Kurzweil deals with the subject of consciousness better than anyone from Blackmore to Dennett. His persuasive thought experiment is of Einstein quality: It forces recognition of the truth."
~Martine Rothblatt, chairman and CEO, United Therapeutics; creator of Sirius XM Satellite Radio

"Kurzweil's book is a shining example of his prodigious ability to synthesize ideas from disparate domains and explain them to readers in simple, elegant language. Just as Chanute's Progress in Flying Machines ushered in the era of aviation over a century ago, this book is the harbinger of the coming revolution in artificial intelligence that will fulfill Kurzweil's own prophecies about it."
~Dileep George, AI scientist; pioneer of hierarchical models of the neocortex; cofounder of Numenta and Vicarious Systems

"Ray Kurzweil's understanding of the brain and artificial intelligence will dramatically impact every aspect of our lives, every industry on Earth, and how we think about our future. If you care about any of these, read this book!"
~Peter H. Diamandis, chairman and CEO, X PRIZE; executive chairman, Singularity University; author of the New York Times bestseller Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (August 27, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143124048
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143124047
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (243 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,696 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Book Shark TOP 500 REVIEWER on November 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed by Ray Kurzweil

"How to Create a Mind" is a very interesting book that presents the pattern recognition theory of mind (PRTM), which describes the basic algorithm of the neocortex (the region of the brain responsible for perception, memory, and critical thinking). It is the author's contention that the brain can be reverse engineered due to the power of its simplicity and such knowledge would allow us to create true artificial intelligence. The one and only, futurist, prize-winning scientist and author Ray Kurzweil takes the reader on a journey of the brain and the future of artificial intelligence. This enlightening 352-page book is composed of the following eleven chapters: 1. Thought Experiments on the World, 2. Thought Experiments on Thinking, 3. A Model of the Neocortex: The Pattern Recognition Theory of Mind, 4. The Biological Neocortex, 5. The Old Brain, 6. Transcendent Abilities, 7. The Biologically Inspired Digital Neocortex, 8. The Mind as Computer, 9. Thought Experiments on the Mind, 10. The Law of Accelerating Returns Applied to the Brain, and 11. Objections.

1. Well researched and well-written book. The author's uncanny ability to make very difficult subjects accessible to the masses.
2. A great topic in the "mind" of a great thinker.
3. Great use of charts and diagrams.
4. A wonderful job of describing how thinking works.
5. Thought-provoking questions and answers based on a combination of sound science and educated speculation.
6. The art of recreating brain processes in machines. "There is more parallel between brains and computers than may be apparent." Great stuff!
7. Great information on how memories truly work.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like a news commentator explaining a bad day on Wall Street,
the cortex has an explanation for everything -
it generates our subjective universe. To paraphrase George Box,
all our brain's models of the world are wrong,
but some are useful, generative, and simple (but not too simple).

In How to Create a Mind acclaimed inventor Ray Kurzweil
puts forth a model of how the brain works:
the pattern recognition theory of mind (PRTM).
The brain successively interiorizes the world as a set of patterns.

Kurzweil's framework uses hierarchical hidden Markov models (HHMMs)
as its main stock in trade. HHMMs add to the PRTM model the notion
that those patterns are arranged into a hierarchy of nodes,
where each node is an ordered sequence of probabilistically matched lower nodes.

So, the key question for me is this: are HHMMs
really the key to understanding and building a mind?

Ray has been on this track since the sixties,
when he and I were classmates at MIT. In a spectacular
career spanning decades, Ray invented systems for OmniPage OCR,
text to speech (famously for Stevie Wonder), and
automated speech recognition as in Dragon Naturally Speaking.
Nuance bought Ray's precursor company.

All automatic speech recognition nowadays is done using HHMMs,
and the results are astounding. For example, see Microsoft Research
Chief Rick Rashid's YouTube "Speech Recognition Breakthrough."
A computer transcription of Rick's talk appears in
real time and is quite accurate.
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3 Comments 147 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In "How To Create a Mind," Ray Kurzweil offers a fascinating and readable overview of his theory of how the human brain works, as well as a road map for the future of artificial intelligence.

Kurzweil makes a compelling argument that choosing the proper scale is critical when approaching the problem of how the brain works. Many skeptics believe that we are no where near understanding or simulating the human brain because of its overwhelming complexity. However, Kurzweil suggests that a complete understanding of the micro-level details (such as individual neurons or even biochemistry) is really not necessary. Instead, the brain can be understood and simulated at a higher level. The book gives many examples in other fields of science and engineering where such a high level approach has produced tremendous progress.

The core of Kurzweil's theory is that the brain is made up of pattern processing units comprised of around 100 neurons, and he suggests that the brain can be understood and simulated primarily by looking at how these lego-like building blocks are interconnected.

The book includes accounts of some of the most important research current research in both brain science and AI, especially the "Blue Brain Project" (that is working on a whole brain simulation), and also the work on IBM's Watson (Jeopardy! champion) computer.

Kurzweil continues to assert that we will have human-level AI by around 2029. A typical human brain contains about 300 million pattern processing units, but Kurzeil thinks that AIs of the future might have billions, meaning that machine intelligence would far exceed the capabilities of the human mind.

Ray Kurzweil is clearly an optimist both in terms of the progress he foresees and its potential impact on humanity.
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