A valuable reference for technical audiences and a vigorous intellectual hike for the layman.

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ON CONSCIOUSNESS

SCIENCE & SUBJECTIVITY: UPDATED WORKS ON GLOBAL WORKSPACE THEORY

Baars’ (Fundamentals of Cognitive Neuroscience, 2012, etc.) compendium reprints four of the experimental psychologist’s previous works and concludes with a revised statement of a previously stated theory.

In 1983, the author first introduced “Global Workspace Theory,” which he defines here as “a broad framework for the role of conscious experiences in the functioning of the brain.” This collection, intended to be read by both general and academic audiences, includes four sections. The opening one reprints a 2015 Scholarpedia article that defines consciousness and defends it as a field worthy of scientific study despite nearly a century of dismissal by behaviorists such as B.F. Skinner. Baars places his research into context alongside the work of philosopher and psychologist William James; neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield; and neuroscientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal. The second section is an updated introduction to Global Workspace Theory, which originally appeared in the Journal of Consciousness Studies in 1997. In it, the author uses the theater as his metaphor for how the brain’s cortico-thalamic core stands ready—like an audience—to create consciousness from sensory input. The third section reprints the author’s 1988 book A Cognitive Theory of Consciousness, which uses contrastive analysis to derive empirical evidence about consciousness. The collection closes with a 2013 article from Frontiers in Psychology that explains the updated terminology of his “Dynamic Global Workspace Theory” and incorporates modern evidence regarding brain activity. Throughout, the author uses diagrams and color illustrations to help clarify discussions about specific areas of the brain as well as attention frameworks, as when he states that “Some goals are more stable over time: In general, survival has a higher priority than avoiding boredom.” This lengthy book is perhaps too thorough to be a reader’s first trip through the wilds of cognitive science, but Baars’ compilation will be suitably challenging for those who’ve previously enjoyed such popular-science books as Luke Dittrich’s 2016 work Patient H.M. The author is humorously engaging while drawing readers into his complex studies, as when he notes that “consciousness science still resembles sex in the Victorian age: We know it’s there, but we tend to evade it.” Within the text, he poses simple experiments for readers to try, such as attempting to “stop your inner speech for ten seconds.” Baars also presents evidence for consciousness in animals and refutes the concept of consciousness in machines: “Computer programs that seem to act like conscious beings do not provide empirical proof. The map is not the territory.” The third section is perhaps the most formidable one, as its greater length allows the author to offer more depth and breadth to his overall presentation. The Global Workspace Theory reveals insights into such subjects as PTSD and why rote activities, such as walking, stop impinging on the conscious mind enough to permit a second, simultaneous activity, such as listening to music. Some of the illustrations (by the author and by third-party sources) are beautiful and astonishingly detailed.

A valuable reference for technical audiences and a vigorous intellectual hike for the layman.

Pub Date: May 21, 2019

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 912

Publisher: Nautilus Press

Review Posted Online: June 13, 2019

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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