cover image Journey of the Mind: How Thinking Emerged from Chaos

Journey of the Mind: How Thinking Emerged from Chaos

Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam. Norton, $30 (448p) ISBN 978-1-324-00657-2

Neuroscientists Ogas and Gaddam follow up A Billion Wicked Thoughts with a mind-bending survey that traces “the journey of the mind from the aimless cycling of mud on a dark and barren Earth until the morning a mind woke up.” They examine consciousness and thought as manifested in 17 species, and kick things off with a study of archea, the “tiniest organism on Earth,” to examine how a mind “emerg[ed] from mindlessness” and to distinguish the “Big Three” forms of thinking: consciousness, language, and the self. They dig into the minds of bacteria (which have early blueprints for decision-making), flies (who have complex sensory networks), tortoises (who have a knack for identifying objects), and birds (whose calls shed light on the development of culture), before getting to humans, capable of language and writing. They conclude that consciousness is not an emergent property but rather “a specific mental innovation that arose to solve specific mental challenges.” The authors are at their strongest in breaking down early life-form growths and adaptations, but their conclusions that humans have developed a society-wide supermind, and that mathematics has “opened a gateway to another universe” are less convincing. Still, it’s an original take on the nature of consciousness that gives readers plenty to think about. (Feb.)