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

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  4,406 Ratings  ·  345 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 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
Pompous and vague.

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.

Second half of the book: vague and amateur stumbling through a smattering of topics in neuroscience philosophy, such as identity, free will, and consciousness.

Kurzweil likes to frequently mention all of the contributions tha
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
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
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: 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
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
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
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.
Jun 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Fred Beshears
Jan 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
In this book, Kurzweil develops what he calls a Pattern Recognition Theory of Mind (PRTM). He argues that the human neocortex is actually far less complex than one might think. Citing Vernon Mountcastle's work in 1957, Kurzweil describes the neocortex as having a "remarkably unvarying organization ... composed of a single mechanism that [is] repeated over and over again" (p. 36).

According to the PRTM, the neocortex consists of around 300 million pattern processors that are, in turn, composed of
Paweł Skorupiński
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Definitely, a great introduction to Neuroscience and Future Studies for people with Computer Science background. Ray Kurzweil is a true Man of Renaissance. His arguments are really well-thought through and, even if can't be proven now or will never to proven right, are for sure very inspiring and thought-provoking.
Jake Stevens
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Second to last chapter on rebuttals was a bit self serving and didn't flow well, mostly rebutted arguments against his previous books (which I haven't read..).
Apr 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fakta
Her har vi en person som er kjempeoptimistisk for framtiden til kunstig intelligens. Boken starter med å forklare hva kunstig intelligens er, hvordan hjerner fungerer, litt hva nevral-nett er for noe, og så videre.

Han avslutter med en grandios spådom for framtiden. "Om 200 hundre år har menneskerasken erobret galaksen"...

Til tider veldig lærerik og interessant. Til tider litt veeel optimistisk. Og han hopper totalt over potensielle farer ved utviklingen av kunstig intelligens.
Дмитрий Филоненко
Рэй Курцвейл - из тех авторов, читать которых особенно интересно, т.к. материал, что называется, из первых рук. Разработчик систем распознавания речи, которые сейчас используются в Siri и в аналогичных системах от Google, человек, приложивший руку к Watson - программе, победившей человека в "Jeopardy!", и т.д. Т.е. искусственный интеллект - это дело жизни автора.

Курцвейл довольно детально останавливается на механизмах памяти и принятия решений в мозге. Особенно он подчёркивает унифицированность
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.
Sep 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the most brilliant and intriguing books I've ever read. He covers many of the new things we have learned about the brain in recent years and he ties it together with the latest developments in computer technology. His briefing on these topics alone make this well worth reading.

The other half of the book extends these ideas into the realm of exponential future possibilities and the philosophical implications, which I found equally as riveting. He covers a lot of ground in a short space, s
Yasser Mohammad
Feb 25, 2014 rated it it was ok
OK this is a confusing book to rate.
The book proposes a theory (pattern recognition theory of mind) that simply put states that the neocortex consists of roughly 300000000 pattern recognizers that are more or less the same each consists of an order of 100 neurons or so. There is a lot in this book that is in the same spirit as "on intelligence" but this one is more computational and higher level in its modeling of the cortex.

By profession, I should like a book that may be mentions Hierarchical H
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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.
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“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
“The story of evolution unfolds with increasing levels of abstraction.” 7 likes
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