Sunday, October 3, 2010

Book It! Give a Hoot! Books, Check 'Em Out!

I have been searching for a copy of this book for months! I'm so happy I've finally found it, and so far it doesn't look like it's going to disappoint. The Emperor's New Mind is an examination of the human mind as reflected by computers, artificial intelligence, and our understanding of quantum mechanics. The book was originally published in 1989, so some of the information is dated. But that doesn't seem to be of much importance, as most of the ideas are put forth from a hypothetical context that presumes the existence of very powerful and complex computers. It's interesting that the book cites speculation about the state of computer technology in 2010 and, as usual, the tech sector vastly over-estimates its ingenuity. Anyway, catch the back cover summary after the jump...

Will a computer eventually be able to do everything a human human mind can do? For decades, proponents of artificial intelligence have argued yes. In The Emperor'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 the mind.

Are you like me? Are you frothing at the mouth to read this, too? Yeah? I searched for a few months for this book. The Strand had it in their database, but it had been mis-shelved by someone at some point. After digging through the entire science and math section I finally found it. And for only $9. Which seems kind of expensive for Strand, but it is a big book and probably out of print. Either way, it's a small price to pay for a book that I've been hunting for a long time. 

In other reading news, I've been very much enjoying the Dirk Gently "series" by Douglas Adams. Absolutely hilarious books. Douglas Adams is one of the funniest writers of all time. I love the way his books seem to have a British accent, as in the narration in my mind sounds British. I crack up out loud at many of his passages, which can be kind of embarrassing on crowded subway trains. I go through long bouts of non-fiction reading and I sometimes forget how much I enjoy fiction. Especially if it's completely absurdist and filled with puns.