Packed with insight and astonishing in scope, this book offers an original perspective on thinking and consciousness.
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
Page Count: 448
Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022
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by Walter Isaacson ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 12, 2023
Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.
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New York Times Bestseller
A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.
To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.
Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023
Page Count: 688
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023
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BOOK TO SCREEN
by Jonah Berger ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 7, 2023
Perhaps not magic but appealing nonetheless.
Want to get ahead in business? Consult a dictionary.
By Wharton School professor Berger’s account, much of the art of persuasion lies in the art of choosing the right word. Want to jump ahead of others waiting in line to use a photocopy machine, even if they’re grizzled New Yorkers? Throw a because into the equation (“Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”), and you’re likely to get your way. Want someone to do your copying for you? Then change your verbs to nouns: not “Can you help me?” but “Can you be a helper?” As Berger notes, there’s a subtle psychological shift at play when a person becomes not a mere instrument in helping but instead acquires an identity as a helper. It’s the little things, one supposes, and the author offers some interesting strategies that eager readers will want to try out. Instead of alienating a listener with the omniscient should, as in “You should do this,” try could instead: “Well, you could…” induces all concerned “to recognize that there might be other possibilities.” Berger’s counsel that one should use abstractions contradicts his admonition to use concrete language, and it doesn’t help matters to say that each is appropriate to a particular situation, while grammarians will wince at his suggestion that a nerve-calming exercise to “try talking to yourself in the third person (‘You can do it!’)” in fact invokes the second person. Still, there are plenty of useful insights, particularly for students of advertising and public speaking. It’s intriguing to note that appeals to God are less effective in securing a loan than a simple affirmative such as “I pay all bills…on time”), and it’s helpful to keep in mind that “the right words used at the right time can have immense power.”Perhaps not magic but appealing nonetheless.
Pub Date: March 7, 2023
Page Count: 256
Publisher: Harper Business
Review Posted Online: March 23, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2023
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