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The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds and the Laws of Physics

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  6,439 ratings  ·  224 reviews
For decades, proponents of artificial intelligence have argued that computers will soon be doing everything that a human mind can do. Admittedly, computers now play chess at the grandmaster level, but do they understand the game as we do? Can a computer eventually do everything a human mind can do?
In this absorbing and frequently contentious book, Roger Penrose--eminent p
Paperback, 640 pages
Published December 12th 2002 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1989)
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Thomas Dalcolle The whole part of the book about computability, not to mention lambda calculus, is quite hard. Frankly I don't like the way he explained it. But other…moreThe whole part of the book about computability, not to mention lambda calculus, is quite hard. Frankly I don't like the way he explained it. But other parts, mainly all those about quantum physics are enjoyable and well exposed.(less)

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Mark Lawrence
Jun 21, 2015 rated it liked it
I've been reading this one since June and it's now 3 days til Christmas!

Roger Penrose is a famous mathematician who worked with Stephen Hawking on black holes and who has done ground breaking work elsewhere (including on the surprisingly fundamental issue of tiling 2D spaces!).

The book is about the nature of intelligence and whether it really can be an emergent property of algorithmic procedure (i.e. Turing Machines, i.e. computers as we know them). Many people believe that intelligence can aris
Manuel Antão
Mar 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 1991
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Physics and Computer Science for Laymen: "The Emperor's New Mind" by Roger Penrose

Penrose certainly has a generous idea of his readers' mathematical ability. It's a kind of running joke among "Penrose-fans": he always starts his books by saying you'll find it tough going if you haven't got a 12th Year (in Portugal)/GCSE (in the UK) in math, but that he'll explain it as he goes if you haven't. Twenty pages later you're on Gödel and conf
I suggested that one could imagine Albertine's gang in A L'Ombre Des Jeunes Filles En Fleurs as a kind of wave function of girls (see my review), and that made me think of The Emperor's New Mind. Given that it's all about quantum mechanics, I suppose it's appropriate that I have two different and completely incompatible reactions to it. On one hand, I am annoyed with Penrose. OK, he is a great genius in his own field, but why does that give him a license to come in and pronounce on the things I ...more
Ami Iida
Jan 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The contents of quantum mechanics is the highest peak
Among every physics books.
Climax of this book Quantum gravity theory is not currently elucidated.
Description of the structure of the brain is very weak,
Currently, neuroscience is progressing rapidly
Books in the system are better than this book.

What is consciousness?
The answer has not yet been answered.
We should expect the book of the future of neuroscience.
I also am going to read the recent books in this system.
because fMRI and PET have been d
Ivan Vuković
First of all, I absolutely love Penrose.

His style simply amazes me! There's this feeling that he wants to tell you SO MUCH and that he's trying hard to control himself so that he doesn't end up with a book several thousand pages long. Also, it's obvious that he enjoys science and mathematics on a really profound level. Those two things are really what kept me on the edge of my seat (when I wasn't reading while walking) while I was reading this book!

As someone interested both in neuroscience and
Oct 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
It's hard for me to rate this one:
the bulk of the book was a great deal of fun,
in the vein of "Goedel, Escher, Bach";
the concluding section seemed astonishingly
ill-conceived. There's a big debate around
this, but the connections he makes strike
me as terribly wrong. Incompleteness doesn't
prove the human mind does something no machine
can do, and microtubules do not allow brain-wide
coherence for special quantum-supercharged
thinking that results in consciousness.
But watching Icarus crash and burn mi
Mar 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
Here's what I think: Roger Penrose is wrong, and smart enough to convince himself he's right. I know he's smart because the journey he provides to his thesis is so rich with disparate concepts (I awarded an entire extra star just for the chapter that introduces quantum mechanics, for example). Unfortunately the logic that ties the whole thing together doesn't speak to me.

The purpose of the book is to argue that strong AI is fundamentally impossible. He argues this from the last place I think is
May 19, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone with an interest (and a bit of background) in physics, computers, and human intelligence

First, the good. Penrose weaves tales of science, philosophy, and history that few others can, due to his wide-ranging and vast intellect. He touches on a wealth of interesting subjects in this book and his enthusiasm for them bleeds through the pages. In particular, this book offered the most illuminating introduction to entropy (in the "Cosmology and the arrow of time" chapter) that I have ever read. In short, before I read it, I didn't believe in the second law of thermodynamics. After I read
Paul Kieniewicz
Apr 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mind-expanding
After scanning the host of negative reviews of this book, I feel compelled to speak my piece. I've read this book more than once, and often return to it and find a few more nuggets. Is seems to me that there are few other books that grapple as honestly with the nature of consciousness. The AI community, and materialist scientists who start with the premise that --- it's all in the brain; we don't know how or where but one day we will know, are the people that Penrose challenges. This book predic ...more
Samir Rawas Sarayji
I got so bored... too much formalism with having to explain all the mathematical and physical principles from the ground up before adding his own thoughts to the theme of consciousness. It all became too mucky to follow and keep track of, it felt more like a textbook for Penrose's ideas rather than an enlightening conversation that could offer me food for thought which I could digest. ...more
G.R. Reader
Apr 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation and told Roger that the decoherence times were at least ten orders of magnitude too low for the brain to be a quantum computer. No response. Then Max did it more carefully and said they were twenty orders of magnitude too low. Any advance on twenty?

Sigh. I love Roger, but sometimes he just won't listen.
Apr 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing

This is a great mathematical book, which goes deep into many mathematical and philosophical ideas.I was 17 when i first picked it up at a library and this book was my introduction to many mathematical concepts and quantum mechanics.
The basic premise of the author in this book is that human consciousness cannot be simulated computationally.his hypothesis that the human brain is a quantum-mechanical structure is very interesting.
Not an easy read, but definitely worth going through.
Apr 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Penrose sets out to prove that strong AI (minds simulated on digital computer being equivalent to biological minds) is impossible. He argues that minds depend on a physical process which, while perhaps deterministic, is non-computable and therefore can't be simulated on a Turing machine. This was quite convincingly argued, and in the process Penrose takes you through probably the most comprehensible description of quantum theory that I've read in popular form. Not shying away from using the odd ...more
Josh Friedlander
Penrose's magnum opus, The Road to Reality, is supposed to be great but notoriously difficult, so I went for this one, aimed at a general reader. Penrose claims that his arguments "do not require mathematical knowledge beyond that of elementary school", but seems to have a high opinion of elementary schools, covering inter alia the lambda calculus, the Argand plane of complex numbers, Hamiltonian mechanics, the Lorentz equation, Hilbert space, quantum gravity, cosmology and algorithmic complexit ...more
Mar 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: computers
I read this book when it first came out and I was still a student of science so my memory on specific details is sketchy. There is no doubt that it is interesting and lively. I recall agreeing with Penrose's skepticism about artificial intelligence through his discussion of the Chinese Room Problem and the idea that if it were possible to write down the "program" of a person's mind in a book then the book, in a very slowed down sense, would be intelligent. From this I recall that his skepticism ...more
Computers can defeat humans in a game of chess, and perform mathematical operations much faster than humans can. A robot can be built that detects when its batteries are running low and when this happens, goes off to find a power socket to plug itself in and recharge. Computers can be programmed to answer questions as a human being would.

But can a computer solve every problem that a human being can solve? Could computers ever be aware of, and actually understand what they are doing? Could the e
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book of Sir Roger Penrose that I read by now and it left me mesmerized by the originality of his ideas no matter how much speculative they may be. Sir Penrose is a mathematician of first rate and it is very evident from his take on the hard problems which is beyond the mainstream approach of physicists. I am very much biased towards new ideas that can knit a multitude of problems together yet possessing a scientific ring of falsifiability, predictability and testability. This b ...more
keith koenigsberg
Mar 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
Another longtime companion of mine, this book is by turns brilliant and exasperating. It's a bulky layman's discourse on Artificial Intelligence, seeking the answer to the question "Can a computer ever possess true intelligence?" Its brilliance lies in fascinating and lucid coverage of a variety of subjects in mathematics, classical and quantum physics, relativity, and all of the philosophical underpinnings. Unfortunately in the tumble of information Penrose neglects to pull the threads together ...more
Dec 23, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: pop-science
My reaction to this book and its follow up, Shadows of the Mind, were pretty much the same.

Yes, it's true we can't reconcile gravity and quantum mechanics

Yes, reconciling how intelligence arises in a purely mechanical system is not understood

Yes, Godel's incompleteness stuff and Turing halting stuff are weird and not at all obvious

But, no, I am very far from convinced that a mechanism that allowed us to reconcile General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics would allow us to understand how intellige
Adeyemi Ajao
Jan 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is fantastic for two reasons: 1. Its central idea: That the nature of human thought is ultimately non-algorithmic...a fascinating point of view in this AI dominated era 2. Being privy to the inner workings of Roger Penrose's mind. In an era in which scientific specialization is the norm, it is refreshing to read someone that jumps from chaos mathematics to computing and quantum gravity to answer questions about consciousness. If Hesse's "Glass Bead Game" was real, Roger Penrose will no ...more
Jul 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
A book about turing machines, Gödel's theorem, cosmology, quantum mechanics, neurology and consciousness? I was sold!

Penrose is, IMHO, the best writer about physics. His style is friendly and relaxed but thorough. I do not follow his thesis that it is not possible to construct hard AI and brains need an quantum physical element to be understood. But this book deals with such interesting subjects and themes about the universe and our place in it, it is impossible not to be fascinated.
Roshan Rane
May 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Gives a nice introduction to the worlds of physics, math and minds and ties it all together. Roger is an exceptional mathematician and a great writer. But the conclusion of the book and his idea of consciousness is still lacking substance, in my opinion.
Nevertheless, it's a great book. It set a new course in my life by making me fascinated about consciousness and the mind.
Kumail Akbar
A whirlwind tour of physics that culminates in addressing questions relating to consciousness by a recent Physics Nobel Laureate! Bring. It. ON!

Penrose is extremely readable, though I should caveat that having a degree in Physics gives me a bit of a leg up which I might not have otherwise had. Even so, I do feel he has made the mathematics and physics as lucid and readable for the average reader as is humanly possible and for that alone this book deserves 5 stars on its own. However, I did not
Light Bringer
Sep 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
I wish I would understand more.. punched with science.
Apr 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Well, I am still dizzy; It feels like emerging out of a concussion! Amazing read and I indeed loved it, the only problem is you can't read it like a novel because of its information overload - the amount of information that is littered on each page is just phew!

Nevertheless, it was sort of warm up exercise for me for the things that are to be completed in the near future... Loved the whole experience: exciting, exulting, enthralling!
Philip Cartwright
Dec 08, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: philosophy, science
The sections of this book where Penrose outlines recent scientific and mathematical developments are excellent. Unfortunately, his philosophical reflections on those developments are rudimentary and clumsy to say the least. And his central claim that quantum mechanics holds the key to free will is just silly.
Sep 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Incredible, Insightful, and Lucid, from the Master Mathematician / Physicist, the one and only, Sir Roger Penrose.. I found resonance here for many of the ideas I was looking to develop . Shall keep this one close to me for frequent revisits.
Feb 08, 2009 rated it did not like it

(well, I read a bit... zzz)
May 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophical
Although this book brought to my attention some interesting ideas, I felt that as a whole, these ideas weren't communicated very succinctly or convincingly. I was constantly annoyed by the copious amounts of speculation. In the meanwhile, the main chunk of the book that sought to provide an adequate background was pretty okay, but Penrose has a penchant for overexplaining certain trivialties while underexplaining other more important points. Penrose also has very strange views wrt to the philoso ...more
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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 2020 Nobel prize in physics, shared with Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez for the black hole discoveries, and the 1988 Wolf Prize for phys ...more

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“All I would myself ask for would be that our perceptive interrogator should really feel convinced, from the nature of the computer’s replies, that there is a conscious presence underlying these replies” 0 likes
“I argue that the phenomenon of consciousness cannot be accommodated within the framework of present-day physical theory.” 0 likes
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