The Emotion Machine: Commonsense Thinking, Artificial Intelligence, and the Future of the Human Mind

Marvin Minsky, Author . Simon & Schuster $26 (400p) ISBN 978-0-7432-7663-4

Twenty years after The Society of Mind , where he introduced the concept that "minds are what brains do," Minsky probes deeper into the question of natural intelligence. Don't look for simple explanations: he believes "we need to find more complicated ways to explain our most familiar mental events"; we need to break our thought processes down into the most precise steps possible. In fact, in order to truly understand the human mind, Minsky suggests, we'll probably need to reverse-engineer a machine that can replicate those functions so we can study it. Thus, he rejects the idea of consciousness as a unitary "Self" in favor of "a decentralized cloud" of more than 20 distinct mental processes. In this view, emotional states like love and shame are not the opposite of rational cogitation; both, Minsky says, are ways of thinking. This is not a book to be read casually; Minsky builds his argument with constant reference to earlier and later sections, imagining objections from a variety of philosophical positions and refuting them. A steady stream of diagrams helps clarify matters, but readers will be forced to dig for the "aha!" moments: they're worth the effort. 100 b&w illus. (Nov. 7)

Reviewed on: 09/11/2006
Release date: 11/01/2006
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Paperback - 387 pages - 978-0-7432-7664-1
Ebook - 400 pages - 978-1-4165-7930-4
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