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Return to Book Page. Preview — Shadows of the Mind by Roger Penrose. Shadows of the Mind: A New York Times bestseller when it appeared inRoger Penrose’s The Emperor’s New Mind was universally hailed as a marvelous survey of modern physics as well as a brilliant reflection on the human mind, offering a new perspective on the scientific landscape and a visionary glimpse of the possible future of science. Now, in Shadows of the Mind, Penrose offers another A New York Times bestseller when it appeared inRoger Penrose’s The Emperor’s New Mind was universally hailed as a marvelous survey of modern physics as well as a brilliant reflection on the human mind, offering a new perspective on the scientific landscape and a visionary glimpse of the possible future of science.

Now, in Shadows of the Mind, Penrose offers another exhilarating look at modern science as he mounts an even more powerful attack on artificial intelligence.

But perhaps more important, in this volume he points the way to a new science, one that may eventually explain the physical basis of the human mind. Penrose contends that some aspects of the human mind lie beyond computation.

This is not a religious argument that the mind is something other than physical nor is it based on the brain’s vast complexity the weather is prnrose complex, says Penrose, but it is still a computable thing, at least in theory. Instead, he provides powerful arguments to support his conclusion that there is something in the conscious activity of the brain that transcends computation – and will find no explanation in terms of present-day science.

To illuminate what he believes this “something” might be, and to suggest where a new physics must proceed so that we may understand it, Penrose dd a wide swathe through modern science, providing d looks at everything from Turing computability and Godel’s incompleteness, via Schrodinger’s Cat and the Elitzur-Vaidman bomb-testing problem, to detailed microbiology.

Soombras particular interest is Penrose’s extensive examination of quantum mechanics, which ssombras some new ideas that prnrose markedly from those advanced in The Emperor’s NewMind, especially concerning the mysterious interface where classical and quantum physics meet. But perhaps the most interesting wrinkle in Shadows of the Mind is Penrose’s excursion into microbiology, where he examines cytoskeletons and microtubules, minute substructures lying dee Paperbackpages.

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Shadows of penrode Mindplease sign up. Lists with This Book. The argument is simple. There are mathematical problems that can’t be solved using algorithms – non-computable problems. If you device an algorithm to solve that kind of problems, and let a computer run the algorithm, it would never stop.

Yet the human mathematician is able to solve that kind of problems. Computational neuroscience and Artificial Intelligence treats the brain as a computer: But that algorithmic The argument is simple.

But that algorithmic representation can’t be truly faithful to what’s really going on in the mathematician’s brain. There must be a non-computable ingredient. Penrose argues then, that there’s a deeper level of information processing in the brain, deeper than neural networks. Microtubules is the best candidate for that.


Think of a unicellular organism, like an amoeba. How does it know where to go and what to do? It has al nervous system, not even a single neuron. Yet it does what it does, by the means of these cellular automata. This is an extraordinary approach to the problem of consciousness, and Penrose is a humble man although in one of his interviews he pointed out to the interviewer that he should be called “Sir” Roger Penrose! He clearly states that the argument is strong at least sombraz the quality of understanding.

And that other qualities of consciousness like feeling, attention, imagination can’t be simply explained by algorithms onlyor be regarded as phenomena emerging out of complexity the cerebellum pnerose as complex as the cerebrum yet it’s totally automated and unconscious. Jun 20, Alex Zakharov rated it it was amazing.

The mechanics and technical details of the argument get a little complex Penrose approach is very systematic, often formal, and quite exhaustive – a large spectrum of mathematical, logical and philosophical corner pejrose are covered but penrse strokes are easy enough to follow. The argument runs mentf follows. The truthfulness of those mathematical statements can be ascertained by humans but not by universal turing machines i.

It is exactly that kind of understanding that computers lack. The second half of the book looks for a non-computational yet scientific basis for human intelligence. Absolutely fascinating overview of the field and its conundrums. No surprises here – we all know TOE is still work in progress and Penrose view is that it is QM that would need to be radically modified to be consistent with relativity, not the other way around. Anyway, QM itself is very well-defined, precise and unambiguous but it is in its transition to non-quantum reality via state vector reduction where quite a few difficulties arise.

Or to put it simply QM is perfectly well-defined i. But smobras the end the author brings us to Hameroff-Penrose theory of consciousness that is linked to OR objective reduction of a wave function. And in the brain this non-computational process takes place not among the neurons themselves but in cytoskeleton microtubules within neurons.

A gallop through QM and its difficulties was a bit masochistic but I did enjoy it. As far as microtubules — clearly highly speculative but Penrose says so himself at the outset, so I suppose you can take it or leave it. Aug 07, Rajith added it. Penrose’s conclusions imply that there is a separate mental world, grounded in the physical world, and there is also another separate world, that of abstract ideas. The book is clearly divided in two parts, The first part is a proof that traditional Physics is not adequate to explain consciousness.

The second part uses Quantum Theory to draft a theory of consciousness. Penrose starts his argument by stating that classical Physics is inadequate to explain consciousness. Somehow this relates to G Penrose’s conclusions imply that there is a separate mental world, grounded in the physical world, and there is also another separate world, that of abstract ideas.

Somehow this relates to Goedel’s theorem, which puts a limit to what a Turing machine can do, a limit that does not apply to the human mind; Consciousness must be a quantum phenomenon because neurons are too big to account for consciousness. Inside neurons there is a cytoskeleton, the structure that holds cells together, whose microtubules hollow protein cylinders nanometers in diameter control the function of synapses. Penrose believes that consciousness is a manifestation of the quantum cytoskeletal state and its interplay between quantum and classical levels of activity.

Subjective reduction is what happens when an observer measures a quantity in a quantum system: This is the only reduction known to traditional Quantum Theory. Objective reduction is a Penrose discovery, part of his attempt at unifying Relativity Theory and Quantum Theory. Super positioned states each have their own spacetime geometries. Under special circumstances, which microtubules are suitable for, the separation of spacetime geometry of the superpositioned states i.


The system must then spontaneously and abruptly collapse to that one state.

Roger Penrose

This “self-collapse” results in particular “conformational states” that regulate neural processes. These conformational states can interact with neighboring states to represent, propagate and process information.

The proteins somehow “tune” the objective reduction which is thus self-organized, or “orchestrated”.

In general, the collapse of the wave function is what gives the laws of nature a non-algorithmic element. Otherwise we would simply be machines and we would have no consciousness. Therefore, “protoconscious” information is encoded in space-time geometry pemrose the fundamental Planck scale and that a sonbras Planck-scale process results in consciousness.

Penrose is stronger in his own backyard, when he describes objective reduction and comments on what has been known as the “Von Neumann measurement problem” of Quantum Theory. Feb 25, C. Phipps rated it it was amazing Shelves: The origins of consciousness are either an elusive mystery or something penrse painfully obvious as gravity. For many years, I didn’t really even know there was an issue lax consciousness and just assumed it was a natural consequence of the brain generator of the soul in my theistic view but still intrinsically linked.

In fact, sombrs a huge feud going on among scientists and philosophers over why a bunch of electrical meat generates “you” and “me. Sir Roger Penrose, one of the smartest men alive, teams up with Doctor Stuart Hammeroff to offer their own version that consciousness is a product of quantum physics “qubits” or quantum information interacting with the microtubbles in the brain. If that sounds like Greek to you and you’re not Greek, it basically means consciousness exists as a product of physics rather than biology.

In more esoteric terms, it ka consciousness is the result of quantum collapse between information states. Schrodinger’s Cat of the cat being both dead and alive is the basis for consciousness as our thoughts are the physical representation of those things coalescing into “yes, the cat is frigging dead.

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Given the sheer volume of “quantum woo” a. The biggest consequence of this theory is that it does have one big huge effect on the immediate future of technology: If Penrose’s theory is correct, basically, computational A. It is a biological process which is related to the celestial geometry of the universe. No matter how we program our NPCs, they’ll never be able to be conscious. That’s another reason the theory really ticks a lot of people off.

The other flaw is penrlse fact this book isn’t exactly written for laymen. I know a good deal of physics for an amateur and required a couple of other scientists to understand everything which was being said.

Penrose basically assumes his readers are familiar with not only quantum physics, his previous work, computation, but also problems of free will. Personally, I’m inclined to believe Orch-Or theory is the source of human consciousness. In effect, “imagination” is the real multiverse penrosee alternate realities last only as long as they’re thought of.

The biggest flaw of this book, though, is a lot of the collaborating evidence for its truth came out through studies conducted after it was written. Many people still dispute this theory but no one has been able to put up a better one, IMHO. Nov 17, Jimmy Ele rated it really liked it Shelves: