‘The Emperor’s Mind’ by Roger Penrose


I joined FAB challenge 2016 with the book, “The Emperor’s Mind” by Roger Penrose. The book was suggested by the Librarian Sh. SL Faisal. At first I thought the book was about some ancient dynasty and some research on the present relevance or anything of the sort. But when I went through the cover page and back page, I got excited that it is a popular science best seller.

In the book Roger Penrose takes us on a fascinating roller coaster ride through the basic principles of Physics, cosmology, mathematics and philosophy to show that human thinking can never be emulated by a machine.

A very engaging and creative work – unveiling the nature of human mind along with discussing Physics, maths and other subjects.

The most prominent argument dominating throughout the book is that the phenomenon of consciousness cannot be accommodated within the framework of present day physical theory.

The 1st chapter is “Can a computer have a mind?” The title itself led me through a current of thoughts and reflections – I didn’t think yet about the mind of a computer, was discussing only about intelligence. But here the author is deliberating on the mind of computer.

Though we consider ourselves (human being) to be the most intelligent creature in this world, the author narrates the helplessness of human being as compared to the vastness of the universe and how less we have explored so far. “Things to know is always more than things we know” – (That is a personal quote of mine). We are not sure about many things that we discuss now, we only have assumptions, and hypotheses.

There is a nice description of the Turing test used to determine the artificial intelligence, to check whether a device has developed the ability to think. The test and the consequences are narrated in a very attractive and though provoking manner.

The description about Johann Martin Zacharias Dase, an illiterate farmer’s son (1824 – 1862) of Germany, who was able to multiply two eight digits numbers in less than a minute all in his mind and was able to multiply two 20 figure numbers in less than 6 minutes caught my attention and led me through a series of thoughts and such prodigies often outsmart the smartest of all computers. This was really amazing and inspiring.

The book is full of such inspiring descriptions eliciting reflections and quite interesting than a detective thriller. I have not finished reading. I’ll post my final review once I finish my reading.

Happy reading to you all.

Reviewed by Mathew Abraham, Vice Principal, KV Pattom (Shift-I)

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