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How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  7,141 ratings  ·  532 reviews
The bold futurist and bestselling author explores the limitless potential of reverse-engineering the human brain

Ray Kurzweil is arguably today’s most influential—and often controversial—futurist. In How to Create a Mind, Kurzweil presents a provocative exploration of the most important project in human-machine civilization—reverse engineering the brain to understand precis
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published November 13th 2012 by Viking (first published November 2012)
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Ahmad Sharabiani
How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed, Ray Kurzweil

How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed is a non-fiction book about brains, both human and artificial, by the inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil. First published on November 13, 2012.

Kurzweil describes a series of thought experiments which suggest to him that the brain contains a hierarchy of pattern recognizers. Based on this he introduces his Pattern Recognition Theory of Mind (PRTM).

He says the neocor
Nov 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed by Ray Kurzweil

“How to Create a Mind" is a very interesting book that presents the pattern recognition theory of mind (PRTM), which describes the basic algorithm of the neocortex (the region of the brain responsible for perception, memory, and critical thinking). It is the author’s contention that the brain can be reverse engineered due to the power of its simplicity and such knowledge would allow us to create true artificial intelligen
T K See Tho
Jan 10, 2013 rated it did not like it
I saw this book while browsing around in a local book store and the title really caught my eye. Kurzweil was a name I already knew and there were good reviews from some very well known people printed on the back - I bought it. However, after just the first few chapters I was beginning to get the feeling I wasted my $25, and nearer towards the end I felt that I wasted my time as well. By the end of the book I felt that it was a real waste of the paper it was printed on.

Kurzweil started off by giv
James Dittmar
Dec 23, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: popular-science
I like Kurzweil. But I thought he did a little too much boasting and did not provide enough details.

First half of the book: it appears that we can model the brain with hierarchical hidden Markov models better than we can with neural nets. Some back of the envelope calculations show that Hidden Markov models may contribute to the functioning of the brain. Ok, so far so good.

Second half of the book: wildly uneven coverage of a wide range of topics in neuroscience philosophy, such as identity, fre
Andrej Karpathy
Dec 22, 2012 rated it liked it
Kurzweil's book offers an overview of the biological brain and briefly overviews some attempts toward replicating its structure or function inside the computer. He also offers his own high-level ideas that are mostly a restatement of what can already be found in other books (such as Hawkins' On Intelligence) with a few modifications (he admits this himself though at one point, for which he gets bonus points). Finally, he applies his Law Of Accelerating Returns (LOAR) to field of AI and produces ...more
Feb 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, science
I'm just going to warn everyone at the offset: this book triggered my grumpy, cane-waving, "you kids get off my lawn" reflexes pretty hardcore. So, buckle up.

If you ever need a really clear example of how intelligence and wisdom are not the same thing, this book is a great place to get started. I don't for an instant doubt that Ray Kurzweil is a very, very smart guy. (Almost certainly smarter than I am.) The problem is that, like quite a lot of people who have had a super-abundance of success--a
Feb 19, 2013 rated it liked it
If you don’t know much about the current state of artificial intelligence, brain science, or the philosophy of consciousness, and don’t mind a little bit of technical discussion, Kurzweil does a fine job of articulating the current rapid converge between these areas of understanding. However, if you already do know the basics, this book probably isn’t going to do much to expand your own consciousness.

Speaking as a software engineer who has a fascination with AI, I largely agree with Kurzweil's g
Chaunceton Bird
This is a fascinating look into how our brains operate, and how the first synthetic brains have been operating, and will operate as they become more sophisticated (and, eventually, sentient).
Well, I am simply in love with Kurzweil. How could I not be? This was one of the best books on Philosophy of Mind that I could imagine reading. Early on in the book, Kurzweil respectlfully disagreed with Steven Pinker, and imo, setting himself apart from the good genes crew (Dawkins et. al.). He went on to take his lucky reader on a tour of the future of the mind, teaching them about everything that has been done to date to try to create a mind.

In 2008, I took a cognitive science class that fea
Aaron Thibeault
Nov 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
*A full executive summary of this book is available here: http://newbooksinbrief.com/2012/11/27...

When IBM's Deep Blue defeated humanity's greatest chess player Garry Kasparov in 1997 it marked a major turning point in the progress of artificial intelligence (AI). A still more impressive turning point in AI was achieved in 2011 when another creation of IBM named Watson defeated Jeopardy! phenoms Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter at their own game. As time marches on and technology advances we can eas
Apr 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
I consider myself a singularity skeptic, and I'm definitely not convinced by Kurzweil's so-called "Law of Accelerating Returns", but starry-eyed idealism about the future aside, this book is quite well-reasoned and well-argued. I've seen firsthand how deep learning applications can deliver some pretty amazing results, and it's hardly a stretch to say that can only get better faster as long as Moore's Law holds (which could end tomorrow or a century from now).

But honestly what surprised me the mo
Bryan Vartabedian
Nov 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Beyond some spurious dialog of computer modeling, the book is cleanly written and well-argued. The chapter on consciousness offers an amazing discussion of how a computer can (or can’t) replicate a human mind. The author finishes by taking on objections to his ideas. Highly recommended.

While the brain has been considered by many to be beyond the scope of comprehension, history is replete with claims of what couldn’t be done. How to Create a Mind offers a thoroughly supported argument for the eve
Dec 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Very interesting look at how to create a mind. One of the most fascinating and real world experiences I now better understand is how the Dragon Speech to text engine was created. In the last couple of years, I have been working with dictation applications and the struggles we have had with the tool. You often hear why doesn't it understand what I'm saying. Listening to this book, I now understand how the fundamentals of recognition were constructed and why folks may be struggling. Very interesti ...more
Ardon Pillay
Neuroscience has had such an impact on the development of AI, in particular, with regards to the development of deep neural networks. But what if the goal was to mimic the mind? To do so would require the need to fulfil a few key criteria; processing sensory information, crucially, understanding information fed in, and possessing some level of consciousness (sufficient to pass a Turing test).

There were a few elements to the sensory processing section which were quite fascinating, for one, the id
Nov 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
So this was probably the fattest, densest science book I've read this year. As programmer, I want to understand the theory behind the latest advancements in AI/machine-learning, but as a normal human, I'm fascinated by the brain and all these concepts (conscience, identity, mechanics of memory, etc) science hasn't quite figured out.

I'll say this about Ray Kurzweil just from reading this book. This guy has been in the field for more than 30 years and is highly respected, and in his writing he com
Rachel Williams
I had always dismissed Kurzweil's theories about "strong" artificial intelligence to be wishful thinking but this book changed my mind. I'm not quite as optimistic about scaling things up to human adult levels, but reading this book gave me new found respect for his ideas and the evidence and theories he uses to back them up. I had no idea how powerful "hidden Markov models" are for solving problems, and Kurzweil makes a good argument that neocortical pattern recognition (essentially a form of p ...more
John Patterson
Jan 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
In How to Create a Mind, Ray Kurzweil argues that the human mind is composed of hierarchy of pattern recognizer that uses a statistical model to learn, store, and retrieve information. He then goes on to argue about how this model can be used to develop artificially intelligent machines. He argues that in fact huge strides have been made towards this goal in such machines as Watson (the computer that handily defeated Ken Jennings at Jeopardy!)

This may seem dry, but this book has engaged my imagi
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
Jul 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Kurzweil is not for everyone, but he is for me. He covers a wide range of topics from how the brain works, quantum physics, logical positivism and Ludwig Wittgenstein up to what does it really mean to be human.

I get a little glossy eyed during the description of the brain and its interactions, but he explains them as good as anyone and I could follow them but not well enough to repeat it to others, but when he's talking about what constitutes a thinking human is where he really excels and excite
Dec 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: listened
As my friends well know, a great deal of my neocortex is dedicated to pattern recognition in search of ways to prevent the robot apocalypse. Kurzweil paints a bright picture over a frightening future where humans and computer minds blur and robots overtake the world. When the Kurzweiltron 3000 (controlled by a copy of Ray's consciousness) has been destroyed and I stand on top of a pile of mangled rivets and torn metal, I'll rip the neocortex extender out of my forehead (allowing my amygdala let ...more
Feb 03, 2013 rated it did not like it
The thing about fiction is that I accept errors or lack of reference as long as the story is interesting. In nonfiction, I need all of those elements there. So, when you're completely ripping off Plato, maybe you should give him a hat tip (and not just vaguely 100 pages later about an entirely different topic). ...more
Aug 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
A fascinating weave of neuroscience, artificial intelligence, and the philosophy of mind.

Kurzweil presents the pattern recognition theory of mind (PRTM), which holds that the fundamental unit of computation in the brain is a group of ~100 neurons in the neocortex that recognises a pattern. The clever part is that these patterns can exist within arbitrarily complex hierarchies, containing "pointers" to other patterns, and feeding input/output to both sub-patterns and parents.

It's a nice theory a
Aug 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was fascinating and mildly terrifying. Kurzweil's main point is the Pattern Recognition Theory of Mind: that idea the human brain is nothing more than a series of pattern recognizers and mechanisms for interpreting and acting on those patterns. The suggestion that all of a human's experience (yes, including consciousness) can be reduced to and explained by such a system, and the subsequent implication that this system can be modeled with machines, is depressing, if not a little insulti ...more
Ryan Kirk
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a fascinating book.

I've never thought about combining a biological examination of the neocortex, the study of language recognition (and speech recognition), the development of Artificial Intelligence, and a dive into some of the trickier questions of consciousness, free will, and identity.

Yet, that is exactly what Kurzweil does in this book.

His arguments regarding the functioning of the human mind, and our attempts to mimic and improve upon those processes are compelling, even if at the
Rajkumar Pagey
Jun 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, non-fiction
I'd picked this book up assuming that it'd be just about artificial intelligence.

But along with AI, it also taught me the biology of a human brain, the definition of consciousness and the philosophy of life.

Read these lines:
True mind reading, therefore, would necessitate not just detecting the activations of the relevant axons in a person’s brain, but examining essentially her entire neocortex with all of its memories to understand these activations
How beautifully and simply, we understand how b
Carlos Gaitán
Mar 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Ray Kurzweil really pushes the boundary of our understanding of the brain, and goes as far as claiming that the brain is a much simpler structure than we think. He proposes a basic structure comprised of several neurons that accounts for all learning in the brain. He then explains how he thinks we will be able to simulate this structure using computers and eventually create machines who can think and even be deemed conscious. Some of his claims might be wild, but they definitely spark curiosity ...more
Jan Spörer
Jun 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
These are my key takeaways from the book.
-Kurzweil emphasizes a nonstandard approach of brain modeling that is close to current neurological research and less related to the latest deep learning model designs. One will not find elaborations on the latest LSTMs or other “hot topics” in the book. Kurzweil wants to take a top-down approach and model the brain as realistically as possible. He goes into depth about how the brain is physically wired, how many neurons are in individual sections, how la
Diana Lucaci
Nov 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: half-read
Left at ch8
Jun 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, futurism
This book focuses on two of the author's pet theories:

1. The Law of Accelerating Returns (LOAR)
An evolutionary process inherently accelerates, as a result of its increasing levels of abstraction, and that its products grow exponentially in complexity and capability.
This is strait out of his last book, and refers to things like Moor's Law, and how the price drops when you mass produce something.
What chronically Kurzweil fails to realize is that these returns are only exponential for a time. I
This book makes an attempt at documenting how to recreate a human mind with technology. I was let down by this book. Perhaps it was too early to write the book. Other of Kurzweil books come off as just trying to be the first to document the idea. The structure and presentation of this book seems to support that premise.

First off, there's the definition of the word 'mind.' it's a word made up by humans to describe a phenomena real or not. For a scientific approach you define it then move forward.
Ed Zirkwitz
Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology, science
An amazing cutting edge piece on how the brain and the mind work.
Although so much is revealed, explained and predicted yet one gets the feeling
only the surface has been scratched with so much yet to be learned and\
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Raymond Kurzweil is an inventor and futurist who has published books on health, artificial intelligence, transhumanism, and the technological singularity.

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“In mathematics you don’t understand things. You just get used to them. —John von Neumann” 15 likes
“Finally, our new brain needs a purpose. A purpose is expressed as a series of goals. In the case of our biological brains, our goals are established by the pleasure and fear centers that we have inherited from the old brain. These primitive drives were initially set by biological evolution to foster the survival of species, but the neocortex has enabled us to sublimate them. Watson’s goal was to respond to Jeopardy! queries. Another simply stated goal could be to pass the Turing test. To do so, a digital brain would need a human narrative of its own fictional story so that it can pretend to be a biological human. It would also have to dumb itself down considerably, for any system that displayed the knowledge of, say, Watson would be quickly unmasked as nonbiological.” 14 likes
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