The Emperor's New Mind

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9780140145342: The Emperor's New Mind

In "The Emporer's New Mind," eminent physicist Roger Penrose argues that there are facets of human thinking, of human imagination, that can never be emulated by a machine. Exploring a dazzling array of topics--complex numbers, black holes, entropy, quasicrystals, the structure of the brain, and the physical processes of consciousness--Penrose demonstrates that laws even more wondrously complex than those of quantum mechanics are essential for the operation of a mind.

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Review:

Some love it, some hate it, but The Emperor's New Mind, physicist Roger Penrose's 1989 treatise attacking the foundations of strong artificial intelligence, is crucial for anyone interested in the history of thinking about AI and consciousness. Part survey of modern physics, part exploration of the philosophy of mind, the book is not for casual readers--though it's not overly technical, it rarely pauses to let the reader catch a breath. The overview of relativity and quantum theory, written by a master, is priceless and uncontroversial. The exploration of consciousness and AI, though, is generally considered as resting on shakier ground.

Penrose claims that there is an intimate, perhaps unknowable relation between quantum effects and our thinking, and ultimately derives his anti-AI stance from his proposition that some, if not all, of our thinking is non-algorithmic. Of course, these days we believe that there are other avenues to AI than traditional algorithmic programming; while he has been accused of setting up straw robots to knock down, this accusation is unfair. Little was then known about the power of neural networks and behavior-based robotics to simulate (and, some would say, produce) intelligent problem-solving behavior. Whether these tools will lead to strong AI is ultimately a question of belief, not proof, and The Emperor's New Mind offers powerful arguments useful to believer and nonbeliever alike. --Rob Lightner

About the Author:


About the Author
Roger Penrose is the Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford. He has received a number of prizes and awards, including the 1988 Wolf Prize which he shared with with Stephen Hawking for their joint contribution to our understanding of the universe.

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