Packed with insight and astonishing in scope, this book offers an original perspective on thinking and consciousness.

JOURNEY OF THE MIND

HOW THINKING EMERGED FROM CHAOS

Two computational neuroscientists make a fascinating argument for a “hidden connectedness of all minds,” from primitive bacteria to AI–enhanced human intelligence.

What is “the mind,” and how does it enable consciousness, language, and self-awareness? In carefully constructed chapters that build toward a unified theory of mind—a concept that scientists only recently developed the mathematical tools to explore—Ogas and Gaddam introduce 17 increasingly intelligent entities to demonstrate the incremental and awe-inspiring emergence of awareness and consciousness. For each of these “minds,” the authors devise mental challenges and explain how the mind overcame them, a clever setup that draws readers into the surprisingly relatable drama of each scenario and enhances the authors’ conversational (and equation-free) writing style. Their descriptive language is sharp and engaging, and the easy-to-understand illustrations demonstrate the concepts underpinning evolving conscious experience, such as a bacteria’s interaction with the environment, the amoeba mind becoming aware of itself, and birdsong demonstrating culture. “Birdsong can…fuse the dynamics of two minds,” write the authors, “empowering a couple to focus on joint purposes and enabling them to share similar perceptions of important situations.” In later chapters, the authors explore “superminds,” which gave rise to language, civilization, and the concept of the “self,” and which continue to evolve as technology increases in sophistication and scope. Each of these examples bolsters their argument that “consciousness is a specific mental innovation that arose to solve specific mental challenges.” Though the authors don’t skimp on their analysis, that demystification may leave some readers wanting. Nonetheless, Ogas and Gaddam imbue every detail with awe and enthusiasm, a reminder to readers that the very science underpinning their theories is only possible because of the wondrous machinations of the human mind itself, a mind that likely has not reached its apotheosis.

Packed with insight and astonishing in scope, this book offers an original perspective on thinking and consciousness.

Pub Date: March 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-324-00657-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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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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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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