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on 16 February 1999
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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on 21 July 2006
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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on 18 July 2010
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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on 2 October 1997
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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A joust between Sir Roger Penrose and the illusions of modern brain theory and more.

I highly recommend Schrodinger's Mind and Matter. Penrose wrote the introduction and like Kurt Godel, Schrodinger believed that there is something else outside the laws of physics.

Sir Roger Penrose himself is a Platonist and he writes very well indeed. What a shame we've elected Richard Dawkins as our champion to send to America. I once watched Dawkins of You Tube and this man even hinted that even physicists are stupid for believing that there is something else! What hubris!
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on 11 January 1999
Penrose's text should be seen as a two fold effort: the first is pedagogical: it exposes with superb insight the theories of mathematical physics, the physical basis of computation theory (he draws on an analogy with geometry), as well as, a Platonic philosophy of mathematics (the present reviewer believes in a naturalistic approach, but that is hardly the matter here!). IF this was all in the book one could hardly give it less than five stars. However, Penrose goes further and discusses the biology of cognition; in my opinion at this point he is a bit out of his personal scientific experience and contributions, and his thoughts are speculative; the further involment of cosmology in the work makes the whole project a bit incoherent. Overall Penrose connects cosmology with biology of cognition through the key theory of quantum gravity which he speculates ties them together!; well for those who like to study science and not mere speculations these mean that they shall not enjoy some parts of the book! The other central theme, that quantum gravity is nonalgorithmic, and thus since (as he speculates) cognition is a quantum-gravitational phenomenon it should be also nonalgorithmic, it is of course a consistent conception, but again science requires more than that, it requires ways to test ideas and in my opinion Penrose offers none! But after all perhaps he did not intented to write down a science book.
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on 9 May 2003
This book made me go away and learn math. After that I came back and found it incredible. It has inspired me to read books in many diverse subjects and made me consider taking a second degree. I had previously read "Brief History of Time" and found it frustrating and limited. Penrose covers the subjects in that book in two chapters of this one, and in a much more satisfying way because he is not afraid to use math. If you're prepared for the work, go read this book
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on 1 April 2014
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. Most of the book is, however, taken up with with an explication of how the universe is structured, very much as was done by Stephen Hawking in A Brief History of Time. Hawking was warned that his reading audience would halve for every equation he used. The classic e=mc2 was this equation and his book was a best seller. Penrose has no such inhibition and, as a result, his book is hard work. Indeed one may sometimes feel that he could have got his point across with less cosmology. The discussion on consciousness in the last few chapters is fascinating.

Some reviewers have recommended reading the book more than once. One reading was enough for me and I followed Penrose's advice by skimming some sections. Nevertheless there is enough in this book to recommend it to anyone interested in what makes us human and what makes humans special.
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on 24 March 2016
I would generally agree with much of the argument of the author but it's not clearly presented in this book. Although at the beginning he promises only a rudimentary understanding of mathematics is required from the reader there are large sections of the book that are completely incomprehensible to a reader of my ability even though I do have an honors degree in a science subject. It's unfortunate as I would have liked to understand the deeper insight he chose to describe in those terms. That being said there is a lot of insightful information in the book.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 19 October 2013
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 "!". After a few chapters this becomes very tiresome. However that is my only criticisms of what is otherwise a very interesting book and proposes that consciousness is a quantum process.
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