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The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size (Penguin Press Science) Paperback – 26 Aug 1999

4.5 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (26 Aug. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140230122
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140230123
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 45,434 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Anyone with an enquiring mind will be intrigued with this book. Consciousness is a subject that very few physicists have tackled in the past. It is refreshing to know that books like this will inspire debate and further our knowledge of the subject. The author should be congratulated on such a substantial work.
The Paradigm Shift: A Journey Beyond Perception
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Format: Hardcover
Norretranders does a thorough, thoughtful, and excellent job explicating what may be revolutionary ideas about consciousness. True: he tends to repeat the same thought as many as four times in a row to make sure the reader understands a new concept; but this annoying habit does help convince the reader of a number of unfamiliar ideas that are often the opposite of common sense.Norretranders tends to build his concepts one on top of the other, chapter by chapter, leading to what one expects to be a final tying-up of what consciousness really is, with clues as to how we might modulate our actions using this new information.But he doesn't wind up where he seems to be going. Starting with a theory of how consciousness is a kind of summary of millions of bits of information reduced to a mere handful, he ends up by luxuriating poetically in a warm and fuzzy vision of sublime peace and brotherhood.Along the way to this disappointing conclusion, he splits the function of the brain into two parts, which he calls the "I" and the "me."The "I" is the source we take to be our focus of attention and "will." But through an extensive discussion of the work of (and private letters and conversations with) the pioneer neuroscientist Benjamin Libet, Norretranders argues that the "will" is an illusion (like an icon on a Macintosh computer, it is a "user illusion"). We actually start doing things, he claims, before we "want" to do them. We merely assume that we "wanted" to do what we just did. Norretranders's (and Libet's) inference from this theory is that "free will" can exercise nothing more substantial than veto power.Read more ›
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By A Customer on 25 May 1998
Format: Hardcover
This book starts out with eye-opening facts about the history of information theory and its relation to consciousness. This first section takes some concentration to get through, but it's necessary for the next section that explains the nature of consciousness itself. This part of the book is utterly fascinating and often mind-blowing. You'll be shocked to find out how your mind works, and how you previously and certainly weren't aware that it worked like THAT! The last section is disappointing, though, in that the author makes conclusions based on the flimsiest of evidence regarding the evolutionary history of human consciousness. It gets almost gobbledygooky new-agey. But the first parts of the book are founded on hard-won research, and those parts alone (if you haven't read about the original research elsewhere) are worth the price of the book many times over.
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By A Customer on 29 Oct. 1998
Format: Hardcover
I had the opportunity to read the Swedish translation "Märk världen" a year ago when I got the book as a present. It is very pleasant to see the English edition and to know that this wonderful book is reaching an even wider audience!.
"Märk världen" is a book full of scientific facts, and observations on the human mind; all very successfully put in an enjoyable narrative way, and in many passages wrapped in a nice sense of humor...
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book takes a long time to get to the point (is there Free Will?) and when it does get to the point it doesn't reflect on it for very long, but rambles off into other foggy areas. For those of us who have already rejected the traditional concept of free will this book adds very little. It does offer some interesting experimental data which supports, to some extent, what we already believe. But, in my opinion, the book is fundamentally flawed because the author ducks any serious examination of how we should think about our lives and morals, ethics, retribution and suchlike, if free will does not exist. Nevertheless, worth reading for those of us sad souls who think about such things. For a very good book on the subject, read Sam Harris's "Free Will".
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Format: Paperback
This book is stunningly thought-provoking; Do not at all hesitate to read it. The science was presented neatly, in some parts reaches the poetic (this may be due the skill of translator more than anything) and the subject matter is easily understood while not being given patronisingly. A much recommended read.
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Format: Paperback
I agree that the comments on religion are baseless, but nevertheless this is one of my favourite books ever. Its insights into consciousness, psychology and, not to beat about the bush, what it's like being human, have made a practical difference to the way I see things. I find it most liberating to realise that I'm not really in control of my life. Responsible for it, certainly, but it's extremely reassuring to find out that the best advice is often to simply do what you are inclined to do, with as little worry and doubt as you can. Not that I would give that advice to smokers, sociopaths, paedophiles, suididal people or the chronically indolent - but the message that you can trust your unconscious mind to do a better job of living than your conscious cogitation is an opportune rehabilitation of the irrational. It's not all obsession, greed and violence. It is also where the richness of life resides.
I have also picked up in various New Scientist articles notions about 'the universe as information' that I confess I do not yet understand but might make a fascinating extension of the information-theory sections of the book.
Yes, it could have been much shorter, but I was sometimes glad to be told the same thing three times. If I got it the first time, I would skim over the re-presentations, but for difficult concepts I think it's better to give the reader a few different ways of looking at a subject than to leave them to pore over a tangled paragraph until spots form before their eyes - which is the usual modus operandi of philosophical writers.
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