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The Tides of Mind: Uncovering the Spectrum of Consciousness
     

The Tides of Mind: Uncovering the Spectrum of Consciousness

by David Gelernter
 

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"The arch-genius…has some radical ideas about the supremacy of the human mind…[Gelernter] is a computer virtuoso who happens to find human consciousness even more entrancing than the most amazing digital apparatus." —TimeThe holy grail of scientists and psychologists since the beginning of artificial intelligence has been to replicate thought

Overview

"The arch-genius…has some radical ideas about the supremacy of the human mind…[Gelernter] is a computer virtuoso who happens to find human consciousness even more entrancing than the most amazing digital apparatus." —TimeThe holy grail of scientists and psychologists since the beginning of artificial intelligence has been to replicate thought patterns of the human mind. Challenging the notion that this can ever be achieved through state-of-the-art research, legendary AI authority David Gelernter—a "rock star" (New York Times) of the computing world—surprisingly turns to literature, hoping that the works of introspective geniuses like Shakespeare, J. M. Coetzee, and Karen Blixen can help answer the same fundamental questions that neuroscientists have been struggling with for generations. Indeed, Gelernter’s landmark "spectrum of consciousness" decodes some of the deepest, most mysterious aspects of the human mind, such as the numinous light of early childhood, why sadism and masochism underpin some of our greatest artistic achievements, and why dreams often do predict the future. With "penetrating insight and a graceful, inviting presentation" (National Review), The Tides of Mind revolutionizes our very understanding of what it means to be a human being.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
12/21/2015
Those in a state of panic induced by books and articles about the possibility of a “singularity” in which artificial intelligence triumphs over the human race will find comfort in this quite reasonable and decidedly human study of the mind. Gelernter (America-Lite), a professor of computer science at Yale, argues that the current trend in philosophy toward “computationalism” ignores basic, glaringly obvious truths about the difference between brain and mind. For example, he asserts that human intellect and selfhood are not merely the product of the conscious mind. He explores the “spectrum” of thought experienced over the course of a day: the creative haze encountered upon first waking, the focused and rational thoughts of our most productive hours, the daydreaming we engage in while drowsy, the involuntary free association of near-sleep, and finally the opaque and mysterious realm of dreams and the unconscious. The author contends that the “down-spectrum” realms of dreams and fantasies, which are controlled by emotion and memory, allow for the creative thinking that will always separate humans from machines. Quotes about the mind from Proust, Pynchon, Shakespeare, and other literary giants provide welcome reassurance that we’ve still got something on the robots. Agent: Glen Hartley and Lynn Chu, Writers’ Representatives. (Feb.)
Kirkus Reviews
2015-12-06
Everyone agrees that computers do not employ reason; they compute. This harmony dissolves when the discussion turns to the future, where vastly more powerful machines will develop sentience and feelings—or not. In this dense but imaginative meditation on how humans think, Gelernter (Computer Science/Yale Univ.; America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture and Ushered in the Obamacrats, 2012, etc.) marshals philosophers, poets, and authors (J.M. Coetzee's Life & Times of Michael K provides one illuminating exploration), but few scientists, in support of his mildly quirky view of human consciousness. According to the author, the mind is a "room with a view" that combines inner thoughts with events in the outside world. He downplays the popular view that thought relates to the brain as software relates to hardware, maintaining that the mind is never in a steady state. All thought processes—e.g., memory, emotion, reason, and self-reflection—vary along a spectrum that depends on one'sur physical state and the time of day. At the top, where the computer analogy works, focus is intense, reason rules, and memory is subordinate: a source of data. Focus, but not memory, dims as the mind moves down-spectrum to fatigue, drowsiness, and finally sleep. Along the way, memory takes over, but it's pliable human memory, not hard-wired silicon. Perception becomes unreliable; we dream. "Up-spectrum, the mind pursues meaning by using logic," writes the author. "Moving down-spectrum, it tends to pursue meaning by inventing stories—as we do when we dream. A logical argument and a story are two ways of putting fragments in proper relationship and guessing where the whole sequence leads and how it gets there." Eschewing research in favor of literature and Freud, Gelernter delivers a personal, reasonable, nonscientific analysis of the mind.
Wall Street Journal
“Fascinating. . . . [Gelernter] shows a lovely deference not to neuroimaging or computers but to the pen . . . the technique allows him to paint a rich portrait of different modes of thinking,
something like Proust’s masterly descriptions of the workings of memory.”
David Eagleman - Wall Street Journal
“The problem of consciousness sits at the heart of neuroscience, and it is into this question that Yale computer-science professor David Gelernter steps with his fascinating The Tides of Mind…[A] rich portrait of different modes of thinking, something like Proust’s masterly descriptions of the workings of memory.”
Kathryn Tabb - American Scholar
“Sometimes it takes an expert to recognize when expertise is not enough…Gelernter employs not algorithms but introspection, personal reflection, and an engagement with a broad range of literary sources.”
Moshe Koppel - Mosaic
“Dazzling.”
Nick Romeo - Chicago Tribune
“Fascinating…Gelernter marshals evidence from psychological and scientific research as well as the works of Marcel Proust, Franz Kafka, Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Ernest Hemingway, J.M. Coetzee and many others to advance a new paradigm for the study of human consciousness. It’s an astonishingly ambitious book, beautifully written and ultimately persuasive.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780871403803
Publisher:
Liveright Publishing Corporation
Publication date:
02/22/2016
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
217,045
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

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Meet the Author

David Gelernter is the author of eight books and a professor of computer science at Yale University. His 1991 work, Mirror Worlds, not only "foresaw" (Reuters) the World Wide Web but is considered "one of the most influential books in computer science" (Technology Review). Gelernter's research has proved important to several leading Web-search efforts, and has been central in the development of the Java programming language as well as the first modern social network. He lives in Woodbridge, Connecticut.

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