A challenging, rewarding read that will undoubtedly alter your consciousness.



Neuroscientist and psychiatrist Tononi (Consciousness Science/Univ. of Wisconsin; co-author: A Universe of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination, 2000) offers an original, provocative tale of a scientist’s quest to understand how the brain generates consciousness.

The scientist is the aging “father of science” Galileo, who sets out in the company of three others (Francis Crick, Alan Turing and Charles Darwin) to investigate all aspects of consciousness: what it is, how it can be measured, why it fades during dreamless sleep but returns when we dream, and how the known facts can form a theory of consciousness. The theory is Tononi’s integrated information theory (IIT) of consciousness, which, as he notes in the preface, he describes scientifically in his paper “Consciousness as Integrated Information.” This book takes Galileo—and readers—step by step through the development of the theory, now widely viewed as a promising fundamental theory of consciousness. During the course of his imagined journey of discovery, Galileo has lengthy conversations with his guides, hears accounts of what’s involved—or not—in consciousness and sees innumerable paintings, photographs, drawings and other images from over the centuries (all reproduced here) that help elucidate aspects of the lessons. There are intriguing discussions of whether consciousness exists in the split brain, during seizures, in dementia and other states. Tononi playfully draws us deeply into the wondrous adventure of understanding consciousness and the critical role of integrated information in shaping our experience in the world. With Galileo, we learn that each moment of awareness is a unique and unified experience unlike others before or after it. Indeed, consciousness—the flow of integrated information—can be expressed in a set of mathematical equations.

A challenging, rewarding read that will undoubtedly alter your consciousness.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-90721-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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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 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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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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