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The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics (Popular Science) [Paperback]

Sir Roger Penrose
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Mar 1999 0192861980 978-0192861986 New Ed
For many decades, the proponents of 'artificial intelligence' have maintained that computers will soon be able to do everything that a human can do. In his bestselling work of popular science, Sir 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.

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The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics (Popular Science) + Shadows Of The Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness + Cycles of Time: An Extraordinary New View of the Universe
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Product details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; New Ed edition (4 Mar 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192861980
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192861986
  • Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 13.4 x 3.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 37,116 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


"perhaps the most engaging and creative tour of modern physics that has ever been written" -- Sunday Times

About the Author

Roger Penrose is the Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford. He has received a number of prizes and awards, including the 1988 Wolf Prize which he shared with with Stephen Hawking for their joint contribution to our understanding of the universe.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Penrose's Fascinating Summary of Modern Science 16 Feb 1999
By A Customer
Roger Penrose, one of the world's top physicists, summarizes modern science, examining topics including Turing machines, relativity, quantum physics, black holes, etc. At the end, he argues that the human mind can not be simulated by computers or anything algorithmic. The Emperor's New Mind is my favorite book, although I didn't feel that way the first time I read it. It is quite technical, compared to, for instance, A Brief History of Time, which covers some of the same topics. The second time I read the book, I really dedicated a lot of time to understand the material as well as I could, often working out problems with paper and pencil. This was necessary for me to see that his conclusion was related to the rest of the book. While Penrose obviously can not "prove" his belief, he gives a strong, fascinating arguement, and the book has definitely affected my philosophical views concerning consciousness.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and Mathematically Advanced 21 July 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found this book stimulating and entertaining in equal measure. It looks at the questions such as -- if we had enough information, we could predict absolutely everything, or not? Is the human mind simply a machine (for example a computer)? Can we actually be transported Star-trek style or not? Are we (including our memories) just a collection of atoms that could be reconstituted?

In answering these questions Penrose embarks on a tour of the mathematical concepts and theories that underpin our understanding of the Universe.

There seems to be much more maths than is really needed, and there is a lot of theory (The book runs to over 500 pages after all). You will also need advanced A level maths to cope (on the basis that I just coped, and that's the level of maths I reached).

Entertaining and enjoyable IF you are interested in Maths. If you are not, stay away.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
This is a profound book which, inspired by investigations into the nature of the human mind and of artificial intelligence, takes the reader on a roller-coaster tour of aspects of computer science, maths and physics. It calls for a lot of concentration and is not for the faint-hearted. Explanations of many concepts are at a fairly technical level, full of equations and symbols, and I could not help feeling that at times Penrose could have presented things more simply without losing the thread of the argument.

The ordinary reader would - as the author himself suggests - be well-advised not to strive to understand all the technical detail: it is possible to grasp the essence of what is being described without following all the intricacies Penrose goes into. The trouble is that this means skimming through much of the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Difficult but worth it 23 Nov 2011
By tobsco
This book goes much deeper than most popular science books, it's heavy going at times but well worth it. I'm on my third time through and it's still only just partially sinking in, Mr Penrose is a very clever man.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Computers, Minds and the Laws of Physics! 23 April 2003
By A Customer
At First glance, the topics covered by Roger Penrose may seem unconnected, but incredibly, he manages to connect them seamlessly, and then reaches astounding conclusions about the implications for any theory of everything or any artificial intelligence. On the way, Penrose covers such diverse topics as Turing machines, Tensors and General Relativity, the wave equation and the inner workings of the brain. Thankfully, he explains all of these concepts with such clarity that prior knowledge of them and a degree in mathematics are unnecessary, to gain a full understanding of the book, and the occasional differential equations are not relevant to the theme of the book, and indeed should not discourage any potential reader. Of course, even if you do have good knowledge of the concepts introduced, the book is still a fantastic read, just to see how Penrose links the concepts introduced and reaches conclusions on them.
The book is also rather different to typical books about contemporary physics, which hail Superstring theories as the theory of everything. Penrose does not speak in depth about the newest forms of physics, but instead follows his conclusions from proven physics, and although he makes few specific predictions about the Theory of Everything, he does give a complete overview of the main features that he feels a Theory of Everything should contain. The fact that the conclusions are followed through from the physics explained in the book makes the conclusions much more justifiable than those of Superstring theories, even if you disagree with Penrose's final conclusion.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very thought provoking but logically flawed 2 Oct 1997
By A Customer
I found the book to actually be more interesting in its discussion of physics and quantum mechanics than when I got to his thesis on mind and the computational impossibility of reproducing it in a computer. Although most of this is lucidly written and meticulous in its attention to detail, Penrose's final conclusion that the mind must have a quantum-mechanical aspect is unsupported by any evidence and seems to come from nowhere but his own deep desire to be more than chemicals. For me, the weakest part of the argument (in fact the only "evidence" he gives for his conclusion, really!) is the discussion of how long it takes a computer algorithm to solve a particular type of problem vs. how long it takes a person. It seems plausible, but ignores the fact that in this world, thousands of people work in parallel and cooperatively over many years to solve difficult problems and build on previous successes and failures. It ignores the roles of specialized education, folk knowledge, anecdotal evidence and how all of these result in common-sense elimination of fruitless pathways and recognition of fruitful pathways in human problem-solving.
Nevertheless, I found his physics primer (the first several chapters) to be better than many I have read, and the whole book gave me many nights of weird dreams. At the end, though, I wound up disappointed and feeling like I had been hoodwinked into someone's attempt to logically deduce his own personal faith.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars What makes humans special
Roger Penrose has made a major contribution to theoretical physics and argues in this book that consciousness cannot be replicated by a computer, no matter how powerful. Read more
Published 3 months ago by E. Kraft
3.0 out of 5 stars Meh
Keep this in the bathroom instead of taking the newspaper. Apparently there is a minimum word limit for reviews...there, done.
Published 4 months ago by TalkingMammal
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting Theories on Consciousness
The only problem I have with this book is Roger's over use of exclamation marks. Every time he makes a point the sentence ends with "!". Read more
Published 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Tough in places, yet worthwhile & thought-provoking
The aim of the book is to explore the notion of artificial intelligence (AI), whether or not machines can truly "think". Read more
Published 10 months ago by S. Meadows
4.0 out of 5 stars Understanding Consciousness
As someone who only did A-level physics 40 years ago , I found some of the chapters hard going.

What I did like was the author's admission that there is something... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Jim Seaside
5.0 out of 5 stars An important source of books for me
Getting these "specialist" books is vital and this was as I hoped. I will be using this again and again. Thanks
Published 12 months ago by Liam P Bradley
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic.
Penrose covers all that is fascinating in modern science, mathematics, psychology, philosophy and even politics in his quest for the answer of whether Artifical Intelligence can... Read more
Published 16 months ago by quinninho
2.0 out of 5 stars Incomprehensible
Looking at the tags suggested for this book, I found them all to be subjects in which I am deeply interested, and indeed I awaited the arrival of the book with some anticipation. Read more
Published on 15 Mar 2011 by Pedro Vado
4.0 out of 5 stars About Non-computability
My copy of this book is now 21 years old, but I thought it appropriate to write a short historical review. Read more
Published on 25 Sep 2010 by Dr. Roy Simpson
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Intellectual Voyage
Professor Penrose takes us on a wonderful intellectual voyage as he presents an array of information about consciousness and reality which no one else would put together. Read more
Published on 17 May 2010 by Ila France Porcher, author of My Sunset Rendezvous
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