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

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  5,434 ratings  ·  422 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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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
Oleksandr Golovatyi
One of the most interesting books this year, which describes in a simple and understandable way the development of the human mind, the structure of the brain and the possibility of building artificial intelligence based on pattern recognition.
Одна из интереснейших книг в этом году, которая описывает просто и понятно развитие человеческого разума, строение мозга и возможности построения искуственного интеллекта основанного на распознавании образов.

Readlax Brain Games - > playing 5 mi
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).
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
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
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
Feb 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science, non-fiction
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
Atila Iamarino
May 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Um tanto repetitivo no começo, mas com um ótimo desenvolvimento. A perspectiva do Kurzweil é bem diferente da maioria dos escritores e atendeu bastante o que eu procurava. Como ele trabalhou programando algoritmos de inteligência artificial, pode falar como poucos sobre reconhecimento de padrões e aprendizado orientado a isso. É um bom livro para essa interface entre cérebro e tecnologia que deve ser cada vez mais comum.
Aaron Thibeault
Nov 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
*A full executive summary of this book is available here:

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
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
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
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
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
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
Aug 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Alex by: Mark
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
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
Peter Gelfan
Apr 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
A computer can recall facts and figures, organize, correlate, and calculate with a speed and accuracy that leaves mere humans in the dust, yet is almost helpless in dealing with nuances of language, gesture, perception, motion, and emotion which we accomplish without even noticing ourselves doing it. This book describes current theory about how the brain functions cognitively, and how a computer might be designed to mimic its operation and abilities while doing away with the brain’s shortcomings ...more
Lucas Weidner
Oct 08, 2018 rated it liked it
“You are what you think.”

“How to Create a Mind” by Ray Kurzweil is a good book which discusses how we could potentially use the biological neocortex as a template to create a digital mind.

The book is split into 2 halves, the former of which is about how the brain came to be, and more specifically how the neocortex has evolved and what it currently does. The latter half concerns itself with how we could use the biological context in artificial situations, i.e. how we can use the neocortex’s desig
Jasmin Shah
Mar 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book covers topics like reverse engineering of brain, Hierarchical Hidden Markov Models(HHMM), Pattern Recognition Theory of Mind(PRTM), Consciousness and relevant philosophies, The Law Of Accelerating Returns(LOAR) and at last Kurzweil's mind-boggling predictions for upcoming 3 decades. My favorite topics were PRTM and LOAR, I enjoyed it so much that I had to give 5 stars to this book. Frankly, some consciousness related philosophies went over my head but I'll try to re-read it later. :P

Dan Stojanovic
Jan 31, 2013 rated it it was ok
Initially, I was both curious and entertained by the prospect and the future ramifications of uploading human consciousness into a computer. As the book went on, Kurzweil dug deeeper into the working brain at an evermore abstract, complicated and very confusing way, to try to dumb down and simplify how the human brain works. This is where the book breaks down. The material gets repetitive and twisted within its own complexities, to the point of misunderstanding and boredom. I was fine with the f ...more
Mohammadreza Shabanali
Oct 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
I have read the book two times.
Once in 2015 and the second time this year.
Although I was excited at first, now I feel that it could be more structured.
While you can omit parts of the book without losing any essential data, other parts could be elaborated.
But still, I give the book four stars as it is insightful enough to read it twice and do not feel any regret.
I have published a collection of insightful excerpts from the book on my personal blog.
Chris Elkjar
Nov 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
I think this is one of Kurzweil's more interesting and well constructed books. Covering the same basic ideas of transhumanism and the singularity but adding in a lot more real word examples of how his technologies are actually making a difference already.

His points about "intelligent" algorithms and evolutionary programming is far easier to digest than the massive futurist sections of "The Singularity is Near".

Definitely his best work since The Age of Spiritual Machines even if it is covering a
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).
Riley Trimble
Mar 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Overall, I agree with Ray Kurzweil's thesis and predictions. There are a few chapters that are 5 stars and a few that are 1 stars for me. If you are interested in consciousness and want to have a dose of futuristic optimism, give it a read.
Stefan-Iulian Tesoi
Nov 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: future, ai
I'm always on the lookout for new discoveries in the neuroscience field and to understand and learn more about the synergy of the  human mind, brain and consciousness  and this book by Ray Kurzweil, one of the leading figures in Artificial Intelligence, proved to be quite enlightening in this regard.

I have a lot of notes and Kindle highlights on this book and here are some of them:

There are no images, videos, or sound recordings stored in the brain. Our memories are stored as sequences of patt
Christopher Willey
Oct 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: zpd
All philosphy is merely a critique {of the technology} of language.

Again! I keep picking books that redefine the boundaries of my understanding.

Between the Inevitable by Kelly, and Drive by Pink they talked about finding a Heuristic. The question that question that does not have answers. A question that continually feeds. A question that only gets more interesting and complex as it is approached from different angles.

“What are the connections between the informations systems nature has select
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Goodreads Librari...: Please combine 3 18 Sep 28, 2013 12:35PM  
  • Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind
  • Phi: A Voyage from the Brain to the Soul
  • Who's in Charge? Free Will and the Science of the Brain
  • On Intelligence
  • Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking
  • The Ravenous Brain: How the New Science of Consciousness Explains Our Insatiable Search for Meaning
  • Connectome: How the Brain's Wiring Makes Us Who We Are
  • Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe
  • What Technology Wants
  • The Myths of Happiness
  • The Emotion Machine: Commonsense Thinking, Artificial Intelligence, and the Future of the Human Mind
  • Consciousness and the Brain: Deciphering How the Brain Codes Our Thoughts
  • Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs That Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime
  • This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking
  • World Wide Mind: The Coming Integration of Humanity, Machines, and the Internet
  • The Ghost in the Machine
  • Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist
  • Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves

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Raymond Kurzweil is an inventor and futurist who has published books on health, artificial intelligence, transhumanism, and the technological singularity.
“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.” 9 likes
“In mathematics you don’t understand things. You just get used to them. —John von Neumann” 8 likes
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