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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A difficult but fascinating read, 29 April 2013
This review is from: Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness (Hardcover)
Shadows of The Mind by Sir Roger Penrose is a difficult read. It is not for everybody. It requires a strong background in mathematics and the physical sciences. The reward is a fascinating peek at the science of human consciousness.

This book is a follow-up of Sir Penrose's first book The Emperor's New Mind. It is divided into two parts. In Part I, using Gödel's incompleteness theorems as he did in his first book, Sir Penrose argues that the human mind, unlike an electronic computer, is non-algorithmic and hence non-computational. In plain English, artificial intelligence based on electronic computers is impossible, no matter how advanced computers become. His argument is terribly dry and mathematical. The point I took from Sir Penrose's argument here is that the human mind works in a way distinctly different from that of an electronic computer. His non-computational thesis is contrary to mainstream theories that the mind emerges from the brain as a result of complex computations at the synapses of the neurons.

The book becomes interesting in Part II, where Sir Penrose explains the "puzzle mysteries" and "paradox mysteries" as well as various aspects of quantum mechanics. But the most fascinating is his theory of how consciousness arises at the human brain, which he co-developed with Dr. Stuart Hameroff, an anesthesiologist and a professor at the University of Arizona. The theory is later called Orchestrated Objective Reduction or Orch-OR. Basically Orch-OR proposes that consciousness is the result of the self-collapse of a quantum wavefunction induced by quantum gravity at the microtubules of the neurons. The theory of Orch-OR complies with Sir Penrose's non-computational aspect of the human mind. He further proposes that the self-collapse of the wavefunction to a definite state (or objective reduction) is not random but rather influenced by "Platonic values" embedded in the fundamental fabric of space-time geometry at the Planck scale, and hence the objective reduction is "orchestrated". These Platonic values include mathematical truth, aesthetic and ethical values. Orch-OR is controversial but it represents a fascinating new approach in the science of human consciousness (See my comment below).

Sir Roger Penrose is a brilliant mathematical physicist, but he is a terrible science writer. He doesn't know how to simplify a complex concept to the degree that a layman can grasp, like Stephen Hawking does. Mathematics becomes a shackle in the book that holds back the reader. Five star for Penrose the scientist, two for Penrose the science writer.
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Initial post: 3 May 2013 19:19:37 BDT
Last edited by the author on 3 May 2013 20:11:03 BDT
Dr. Stuart Hameroff goes one step further. He thinks that consciousness is nonlocal, fractal, and holographic in nature and that it resides at the Planck scale space-time geometry. That makes sense if one considers the Holographic Principle, which states that the universe is a 3-dimensional projection of 2-dimensional data smeared on the surface of the universe. Since it is fractal, it repeats itself in different scales, able to exist at different planes, one of which is within the brain. Dr. Hameroff believes that consciousness, or at least "proto-consciousness" (which I don't fully understand), is a fundamental part of the universe, just like mass, spin, electrostatic charge, etc. This is in addition to Sir Penrose's "Platonic values" of mathematical truth, aesthetics, and ethics. According to Dr. Hameroff, when the brain ceases to function, consciousness of the individual "may persist and remain entangled in Planck scale geometry". That sounds like the afterlife to me. Sir Penrose, on the other hand, will not touch the topic of the afterlife with a ten-foot pole.
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