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Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness
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Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  517 ratings  ·  27 reviews
A New York Times bestseller when it appeared in 1989, Roger Penrose's The Emperor's New Mind was universally hailed as a marvelous survey of modern physics as well as a brilliant reflection on the human mind, offering a new perspective on the scientific landscape and a visionary glimpse of the possible future of science. Now, in Shadows of the Mind, Penrose offers another...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published August 1st 1996 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1994)
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First and foremost Penrose presents the best argument against computer-simulated human intelligence I’ve heard to date. In fact it is the only argument that I know of that holds water (and I think by now I have heard them all – from Searle’s chinese room to the fundamental energy limitations of recursive simulation models). The mechanics and technical details of the argument get a little complex (Penrose approach is very systematic, often formal, and quite exhaustive - a large spectrum of mathem...more
Aug 07, 2012 Rajith added it
Penrose's conclusions imply that there is a separate mental world, grounded in the physical world, and there is also another separate world, that of abstract ideas.

The book is clearly divided in two parts,
corresponding to the two central tenets of Penrose's philosophy.
The first part is a proof that traditional Physics is not adequate to explain consciousness. The second part uses Quantum Theory to draft a theory of consciousness.
Penrose starts his argument by stating that classical Physics...more
Ben Phillips
The main argument that this book presents is incredibly weak. I obviously can't do it justice in a short review but the basic line seems to be (1) "Human mathematicians are not using a knowably sound algorithm in order to ascertain mathematical truth." (p.76) (2) Human mathematicians are sound theorem provers (3) Therefore computers cannot model the human thought process (since computers run algorithms and there is no knowably sound algorithm to ascertain mathematical truth).

Penrose establishes...more
Jason Hoskins
This book was extremely dense, but well worth it for those that have an interest in physics, artificial intelligence, or the philosophy or science of the human mind. The overall idea is that Godel's Incompleteness Theorem (which states that it is impossible to have a known set of axioms/theorems/algorithms that is both complete and sound) precludes the possibility that the human mind functions solely computationally/algorithmically, and this is seen perhaps most convincingly in the ability of hu...more
Consciousness seems to be one of the deepest and intriguing mysteries on the frontier of science today, and there isn't much more than speculation on the subject. Penrose offers an original and exciting (I found it to be :) ) approach.

I've recently started an undergrad engineering degree, and a good deal of this book is way over my head. But I do feel that Penrose has done a good job in conveying the gist of things, and can be sensitive to readers' different backgrounds (sometimes suggesting an...more
Don Rea
The central argument is not as airtight as it should be, being written for a general readership and not for mathematicians, but I'm just in love with the idea of a mathematical proof that the human mind can't be algorithmic. I wonder if Penrose has published a proper version of the proof?

The second half of the book, in which he speculates on what kinds of computation or processes might be the underpinnings of the working of the mind is also fascinating though, again, I don't find his arguments n...more
R.J. O'Connor
Extremely thought provoking and a real wake up call for those assuming we will achieve the singularity in a few short decades. The theories espoused here are truly amazing, and if shown to be true will change the way we think about just about everything.
May 16, 2014 Ant rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: science
It's one of those books that makes things clear in your mind in a way that stays with you. Penrose is the man.
Unnikrishnan Rajan
This was my introductory book to Roger Penrose. But the book was very intimidating, even for a computer science graduate. Only consolation was that exploration of the high level concepts of Turing machine was not the only theme of the book. Which pop-science enthusiast would understand both Goedell theorems (and their proofs !) completely? So, I can justify myself.
Much of this book was a bit too hard on the mathematics for a grade C GCSE underachiever like myself, but I persevered and read through much of the work. However, I just thought that there wasn't much of an argument, nor much of a solution put forward by Penrose. Too much thinking in terms of absolutes, and not enough thinking in terms of a theory of consciousness.
One of the hardest books I've read in a long time, mayhaps its because of the fact that Penrose used methamatical and academic explanation method rather than simplifying facts and me bieng an illiterate and haven't finished middle school yet had its own turmoil reason why this book was a bit heavy on the reading experience, but rich with information never the less.
Rob Springer
In this book, Penrose narrows the thesis he set out in The Emperor’s New Mind, that the human mind cannot be emulated in a computer. He gives the barest outlines of a new approach to physics he thinks is necessary to bring Mind under the prevue of science. I found, however, that I skipped over the maths even more than I did in The Emperor's New Mind.

Penrose proposes that quantum mechanics are at the heart of human consciousness, and the human reality. It leaves the reader to assume that the brain is nothing more than a bio-chemical-electrical computer that has been tinkered with by evolution. Marvelous and thought-provoking illustrations leave little room for doubt about this theory.
Spoiler alert: Consciousness explained by coherent quantum states within microtubules in the cytoplasm. There, I just saved you a lot of reading time. Still very interesting reading. One example is the binary star, one of which is a pulsar - 20 kilometers across, 1.44 time the mass of the sun, spinning 17 times a second!
This book's value is in exploring the question of the nature of consciousness and in dismissing the easy answers. Unfortunately, its ending is very weak as the author poses some kind of biological structure as the reason for consciousness. I found this ultimately unsatisfying, although I wonder if it's just me...
Bradley Hughes
Great book, but pretty freakin' confusing (at least as I remember it.. this was a long time ago). As I recall, most of Penrose's ideas on weak and strong AIs have been rejected by the research community.. but his exposition is good, and his work is always thought provoking.
Continuation of The Emperor New Mind but more focused on specific and in my sense less relevant details. If I had to choose between the two, I would pick The Emperor... over this book; which is somewhat redundant.
I learned Godel's Incompleteness Theorem from this book, and it came to the exact opposite conclusion using it that a book on a similar topic came to using the theorem some 20 years earlier. Go figure.
Kirk Lowery
Penrose's contribution to the mind-body philosophical question: he speculates that consciousness resides at a quantum level in the brain.
Jim Van Fleet
My feelings toward artificial intelligence will forever be colored by this book. (although I may have only understood the first half)
Oct 14, 2011 Ross added it
To be honest, I couldn't get through it, as it got a bit dense and I didn't have the fortitude to carry it through.
Just a masterpiece from a master ...............A comprehensive summary of physics , mathematics and cosmology.
Sanchar Sharma
How difficult and different can consciousness be? It will probably improve or alter the views of many.
Brian Pinnock
Great read. Quantum activity and physical activity in the brain.
5 stars for being a magnificent science fiction after all.
Hugh Chatfield
Consciousness a quantum effect?
Dec 22, 2007 Jilany added it
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Sir Roger Penrose OM FRS is an English mathematical physicist and Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford and Emeritus Fellow of Wadham College. He has received a number of prizes and awards, including the 1988 Wolf Prize for physics which he shared with Stephen Hawking for their contribution to our understanding of the universe. He is renow...more
More about Roger Penrose...
The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics Cycles of Time: An Extraordinary New View of the Universe Subtle is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein The Large, the Small and the Human Mind (Canto)

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