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Are the Androids Dreaming Yet?: Amazing Brain. Human Communication, Creativity & Free Will. Paperback – 4 Jan 2015

4.6 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 436 pages
  • Publisher: Hurst Farm Books (4 Jan. 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1910464031
  • ISBN-13: 978-1910464038
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 576,132 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

About the Author

James Tagg is an inventor and entrepreneur. A pioneer of touchscreen technology, he has founded several companies, including Truphone, the world’s first global mobile network. He holds numerous patents, filed in over a hundred countries. He studied Physics and Computer Science at Manchester University, Design at Lancaster University and Engineering at Cambridge University. He lives with his family on a farm in Kent, England.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a fantastic book. It seams together cutting edge neuroscience, psychology, thought experiments, artificial intelligence/machine learning, mathematics and even some history! The author throws in some exercises and experiments that you can try yourself too which is good and gets you engaged. The style is like that of Adam Curtis and manages to keep a constant level of interest.

I think along with the spiritual aspects of being human this book was interesting because it explores the mechanical aspect of how we are wired up to this existence including recent developments like the Penrose and Hameroff Orch-OR model of consciousness.

For anyone interested in a meta-analysis of the brain and how to get more from the greatest tool you will EVER own, get this book!
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Format: Paperback
It would be easy to dismiss this book, with the reference in the title to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (the Philip K. Dick book) that Blade Runner was (very loosely) based on, as a vanity project by an entrepreneur who has too much spare time on his hands, but it turns out to be an interesting, if sometimes challenging read.

I think that James Tagg's aim was to compare the human brain with what is now and might ever be within the capabilities of an artificial intelligence, and to explore areas like creativity and free will where we may see a difference. And there are times that he does this very well. If you have the patience, you will find a lot to get you thinking in Tagg's meanderings through different aspects of the nature of thought and creativity, plus lots of insights into the developments of thinking computers (though not enough, I think on how AI has been developing using neural networks etc.). But the problem is that the book has no narrative arc - it is a series of almost independent chapters, which throw information at you, but don't tell a cohesive story. This is where the patience is required, but, as mentioned, you will certainly find plenty to make you pause and think, especially if you have accepted at face value the suggestion from IT experts that a conscious, more-intelligent-than-human supercomputer is inevitable.

Where I wasn't totally convinced was in a couple of chapters where Tagg tries to prove that there are some things humans can do that a Turing universal computer can't, because he reckons there are some things we can do that aren't computable. It's definitely true that there are some things that aren't computable. And I have to take Tagg's word for it that these include, for instance, Andrew Wiles' proof of Fermat's Last Theorem.
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Format: Kindle Edition
At the outset, I approached the book with the mindset of a Science Fiction buff, looking out for ready made cutting edge technology stuff! However, I was drawn into the philosophical tapestry of math, science, creativity and artificial intelligence. Reading this book has been very beneficial for my thinking pattern, since it has helped remove my self-imposed constraints between science disciplines, while it has also stirred my inquiry into how our brains can work out solutions, using intuition and analysis.

The style of the book is conversational and will help you delve easily through the complex ideas presented, especially where mathematical proofs are woven into thought experiments and a paradox presented. The layout of the book lends to the easy cadence of reading, since the topics are given in (modular) chapter structure. This is quite a feat considering how the author still manages to establish a common thread to relate the (sometimes) disparate chapters.

The book's premise is that the worldview ('determinism') that the universe is an entirely destined place, is a flawed model. The author is firmly on the side of "Free will" and from the outset lays out the various theorems to disprove, using modelling approach but balancing this with a call to intuitive thinking.

I would recommend this book since it is a good resource for "learning experiments", e.g based on maths and algorithms. I will certainly be giving it more than one read to help me develop my intuitive and conceptual thinking.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Alpha minus for effort. Lots of reviewers say the book is too long, and I can see why, because it tries to answer many of the difficult questions there are, and ends up (if you get there) by listing all those questions and more, in a kind of cosmic 'to do list', which will keep James Tagg going for the next three hundred years or so.

I don't think it's too long; if anything it's too short, because the only section in which the author's argument is fully expounded is the quantum mechanics section, which arrives at the conclusion (against the evidence, in my view, but hey, I am no nuclear physicist) that free will exists simply on the basis that a photon doesn't know which way it is spinning until you ask it.

The first half of the book, roughly speaking, is a tour d'horizon of the scientific underpinnings of our world, emphasizing the uncertainties and questions that remain to be dealt with. Of which indeed the shattering impact of quantum mechanics is the greatest component, so it is not wrong that the latter part of the book focuses so minutely on that problem to the exclusion of others.

The explanation of quantum theory is excellently done, in a way that is understandable without being simplistic, and probably better than any other that I have encountered. At the end of the matter, my Bell namesake's theorem (a distant relative) is not as crucial to the question of free will as the author proposes. The answer is rather to be found in the operation of consciousness; but that is another subject.

Anyone interested in tackling life's hard problems can benefit from reading this book. If, like the author and me, they end up by admitting defeat, there is no shame in that.
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