Shadows of the Mind: Roger Penrose -1996

Shadows of the Mind was written by English theoretical physicist and mathematician Roger Penrose. The book takes a stand on modern science and supports a potent argument against artificial intelligence. Penrose also uses the book as a platform towards a new kind of science to explain the human mind and consciousness.

The book is clearly divided into two sections. The first section aims to prove that traditional physics is lacking in its explanation of consciousness, while the second section uses Quantum theory to try and provide an explanation and a new theory.

Penrose’s main argument is the fact that there are mathematical problems which are non-computable and cannot be solved using an algorithm. This is where artificial intelligence lacks what a human mathematician would have which makes them able to solve problems. It is this discrepancy which gives rise to the possibility of an extra level of consciousness which differs to that of computational neuroscience.

Computational neuroscience simply establishes if there is a neuronal signal present, comparing the human brain to a computer, which renders the difference between humans and computers inexplicable. As such, according to Penrose there must be an ingredient which is non-computable. This would be a deeper level of processing within the brain which goes far beyond neurons and their connections. He proposes that microtubules are one potential candidate of the information processing.

Penrose supports that new physics and specifically quantum physics is necessary to comprehend the ‘science of consciousness.’ He presents and extremely detailed and technical argument for this reasoning which requires a certain level of mathematical and technical understanding from the reader.

An exciting look at one of the few viable arguments against artificial intelligence, Shadows of the Mind is a great look into modern science and the possibilities of the future. Highly recommended to physicists and neuroscientists alike.

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