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The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest To Understand, Enhance and Empower the Mind [Format Kindle]

Michio Kaku
4.5 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (2 commentaires client)

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Descriptions du produit


Houdini believed that telepathy was impossible. But science is proving
Houdini wrong.

   Telepathy is now the subject of intense research at universities around
the world, where scientists have already been able to use advanced sensors to
read individual words, images, and thoughts in a person’s brain. This could
alter the way we communicate with stroke and accident victims who are
“locked in” their bodies, unable to articulate their thoughts except through
blinks. But that’s just the start. Telepathy might also radically change the way
we interact with computers and the outside world.
   Indeed, in a recent “Next 5 in 5 Forecast,” which predicts five revolutionary
developments in the next five years, IBM scientists claimed that we will
be able to mentally communicate with computers, perhaps replacing the
mouse and voice commands. This means using the power of the mind to call
people on the phone, pay credit card bills, drive cars, make appointments,
create beautiful symphonies and works of art, etc. The possibilities are endless,
and it seems that everyone— from computer giants, educators, video
game companies, and music studios to the Pentagon— is converging on this

   True telepathy, found in science-fiction and fantasy novels, is not possible
without outside assistance. As we know, the brain is electrical. In general,
anytime an electron is accelerated, it gives off electromagnetic radiation. The
same holds true for electrons oscillating inside the brain, which broadcasts
radio waves. But these signals are too faint to be detected by others, and
even if we could perceive these radio waves, it would be difficult to make
sense of them. Evolution has not given us the ability to decipher this collection
of random radio signals, but computers can. Scientists have been able
to get crude approximations of a person’s thoughts using EEG scans. Subjects
would put on a helmet with EEG sensors and concentrate on certain
pictures— say, the image of a car. The EEG signals were then recorded for
each image and eventually a rudimentary dictionary of thought was created,
with a one- to- one correspondence between a person’s thoughts and the EEG
image. Then, when a person was shown a picture of another car, the computer
would recognize the EEG pattern as being from a car.

   The advantage of EEG sensors is that they are noninvasive and quick.
You simply put a helmet containing many electrodes onto the surface of the
brain and the EEG can rapidly identify signals that change every millisecond.
But the problem with EEG sensors, as we have seen, is that electromagnetic
waves deteriorate as they pass through the skull, and it is difficult to locate
their precise source. This method can tell if you are thinking of a car or a
house, but it cannot re- create an image of the car. That is where Dr. Jack Gallant’s
work comes in.

The epicenter for much of this research is the University of California at
Berkeley, where I received my own Ph.D. in theoretical physics years ago. I
had the pleasure of touring the laboratory of Dr. Gallant, whose group has
accomplished a feat once considered to be impossible: videotaping people’s
thoughts. “This is a major leap forward reconstructing internal imagery. We
are opening a window into the movies in our mind,” says Gallant.
   When I visited his laboratory, the first thing I noticed was the team of
young, eager postdoctoral and graduate students huddled in front of their
computer screens, looking intently at video images that were reconstructed
from someone’s brain scan. Talking to Gallant’s team, you feel as though you
are witnessing scientific history in the making.

   Gallant explained to me that first the subject lies flat on a stretcher, which
is slowly inserted headfirst into a huge, state- of- the- art MRI machine, costing
upward of $3 million. The subject is then shown several movie clips (such
as movie trailers readily available on YouTube). To accumulate enough data,
the subject has to sit motionless for hours watching these clips, a truly arduous
task. I asked one of the postdocs, Dr. Shinji Nishimoto, how they found
volunteers who were willing to lie still for hours on end with only fragments
of video footage to occupy the time. He said the people in the room, the grad
students and postdocs, volunteered to be guinea pigs for their own research.
As the subject watches the movies, the MRI machine creates a 3- D image
of the blood flow within the brain. The MRI image looks like a vast collection
of thirty thousand dots, or voxels. Each voxel represents a pinpoint of neural energy, and the color of the dot corresponds to the intensity of the signal and blood flow. Red dots represent points of large neural activity, while blue dots represent points of less activity. (The final image looks very much like thousands of Christmas lights in the shape of the brain. Immediately you can see that the brain is concentrating most of its mental energy in the visual cortex, which is located at the back of the brain, while watching these videos.)

   Gallant’s MRI machine is so powerful it can identify two to three hundred distinct regions of the brain and, on average, can take snapshots that have one hundred dots per region of the brain. (One goal for future generations of MRI technology is to provide an even sharper resolution by increasing the number of dots per region of the brain.)

   At first, this 3- D collection of colored dots looks like gibberish. But after
years of research, Dr. Gallant and his colleagues have developed a mathematical
formula that begins to find relationships between certain features of a picture (edges, textures, intensity, etc.) and the MRI voxels. For example, if you look at a boundary, you’ll notice it’s a region separating lighter and darker areas, and hence the edge generates a certain pattern of voxels. By having subject after subject view such a large library of movie clips, this mathematical formula is refined, allowing the computer to analyze how all sorts of images are converted into MRI voxels. Eventually the scientists were able to ascertain a direct correlation between certain MRI patterns of voxels
and features within each picture.

   At this point, the subject is then shown another movie trailer. The computer
analyzes the voxels generated during this viewing and re- creates a rough approximation of the original image. (The computer selects images from one hundred movie clips that most closely resemble the one that the subject just saw and then merges images to create a close approximation.) In this way, the computer is able to create a fuzzy video of the visual imagery going through your mind. Dr. Gallant’s mathematical formula is so versatile that it can take a collection of MRI voxels and convert it into a picture, or it can do the reverse, taking a picture and then converting it to MRI voxels.

   I had a chance to view the video created by Dr. Gallant’s group, and it was
very impressive. Watching it was like viewing a movie with faces, animals,
street scenes, and buildings through dark glasses. Although you could not
see the details within each face or animal, you could clearly identify the kind
of object you were seeing.

   Not only can this program decode what you are looking at, it can also
decode imaginary images circulating in your head. Let’s say you are asked to
think of the Mona Lisa. We know from MRI scans that even though you’re
not viewing the painting with your eyes, the visual cortex of your brain will
light up. Dr. Gallant’s program then scans your brain while you are thinking
of the Mona Lisa and flips through its data files of pictures, trying to find the
closest match. In one experiment I saw, the computer selected a picture of
the actress Salma Hayek as the closest approximation to the Mona Lisa. Of
course, the average person can easily recognize hundreds of faces, but the
fact that the computer analyzed an image within a person’s brain and then
picked out this picture from millions of random pictures at its disposal is
still impressive.

   The goal of this whole process is to create an accurate dictionary that
allows you to rapidly match an object in the real world with the MRI pattern
in your brain. In general, a detailed match is very difficult and will take years,
but some categories are actually easy to read just by flipping through some
photographs. Dr. Stanislas Dehaene of the Collège de France in Paris was
examining MRI scans of the parietal lobe, where numbers are recognized,
when one of his postdocs casually mentioned that just by quickly scanning
the MRI pattern, he could tell what number the subject was looking at. In
fact, certain numbers created distinctive patterns on the MRI scan. He notes,
“If you take 200 voxels in this area, and look at which of them are active
and which are inactive, you can construct a machine-learning device that
decodes which number is being held in memory.”

   This leaves open the question of when we might be able to have picture quality
videos of our thoughts. Unfortunately, information is lost when a
person is visualizing an image. Brain scans corroborate this. When you compare
the MRI scan of the brain as it is looking at a flower to an MRI scan
as the brain is thinking about a flower, you immediately see that the second
image has far fewer dots than the first. So although this technology will
vastly improve in the coming years, it will never be perfect. (I once read a
short story in which a man meets a genie who offers to create anything that
the person can imagine. The man immediately asks for a luxury car, a jet
plane, and a million dollars. At first, the man is ecstatic. But when he looks at
these items in detail, he sees that the car and the plane have no engines, and
the image on the cash is all blurred. Everything is useless. This is because our
memories are only approximations of the real thing.)

   But given the rapidity with which scientists are beginning to decode the
MRI patterns in the brain, will we soon be able to actually read words and
thoughts circulating in the mind?


In fact, in a building next to Gallant’s laboratory, Dr. Brian Pasley and his
colleagues are literally reading thoughts— at least in principle. One of the
postdocs there, Dr. Sara Szczepanski, explained to me how they are able to
identify words inside the mind.

   The scientists used what is called ECOG (electrocorticogram) technology,
which is a vast improvement over the jumble of signals that EEG scans
produce. ECOG scans are unprecedented in accuracy and resolution, since
signals are directly recorded from the brain and do not pass through the
skull. The flipside is that one has to remove a portion of the skull to place a
mesh, containing sixty-four electrodes in an eight-by-eight grid, directly on
top of the exposed brain.

   Luckily they were able to get permission to conduct experiments with
ECOG scans on epileptic patients, who were suffering from debilitating seizures.
The ECOG mesh was placed on the patients’ brains while open- brain
surgery was being performed by doctors at the nearby University of California
at San Francisco.

   As the patients hear various words, signals from their brains pass through
the electrodes and are then recorded. Eventually a dictionary is formed,
matching the word with the signals emanating from the electrodes in the
brain. Later, when a word is uttered, one can see the same electrical pattern. This correspondence also means that if one is thinking of a certain word, the
computer can pick up the characteristic signals and identify it.
With this technology, it might be possible to have a conversation that
takes place entirely telepathically. Also, stroke victims who are totally paralyzed
may be able to “talk” through a voice synthesizer that recognizes the
brain patterns of individual words.

   Not surprisingly, BMI (brain- machine interface) has become a hot field,
with groups around the country making significant breakthroughs. Similar
results were obtained by scientists at the University of Utah in 2011. They
placed grids, each containing sixteen electrodes, over the facial motor cortex
(which controls movements of the mouth, lips, tongue, and face) and
Wernicke’s area, which processes information about language. The person was then asked to say ten common words, such as “yes” and “no,” “hot” and “cold,” “hungry” and “thirsty,” “hello” and “good- bye,” and “more” and “less.” Using a computer to record the brain signals when these words were uttered, the scientists were able to create a rough one- to- one correspondence between spoken words and computer signals from the brain.

   Later, when the patient voiced certain words, they were able to correctly
identify each one with an accuracy ranging from 76 percent to 90 percent.
The next step is to use grids with 121 electrodes to get better resolution.
In the future, this procedure may prove useful for individuals suffering
from strokes or paralyzing illnesses such as Lou Gehrig’s disease, who would
be able to speak using the brain- to- computer technique.


At the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, Dr. Jerry Shih has hooked up epileptic
patients via ECOG sensors so they can learn how to type with the mind.
The calibration of this device is simple. The patient is first shown a series
of letters and is told to focus mentally on each symbol. A computer records
the signals emanating from the brain as it scans each letter. As with the other
experiments, once this one- to- one dictionary is created, it is then a simple
matter for the person to merely think of the letter and for the letter to be
typed on a screen, using only the power of the mind.

   Dr. Shih, the leader of this project, says that the accuracy of his machine
is nearly 100 percent. Dr. Shih believes that he can next create a machine to
record images, not just words, that patients conceive in their minds. This
could have applications for artists and architects, but the big drawback of
ECOG technology, as we have mentioned, is that it requires opening up
patients’ brains.

   Meanwhile, EEG typewriters, because they are noninvasive, are entering
the marketplace. They are not as accurate or precise as ECOG typewriters,
but they have the advantage that they can be sold over the counter. Guger
Technologies, based in Austria, recently demonstrated an EEG typewriter at
a trade show. According to their officials, it takes only ten minutes or so for
people to learn how to use this machine, and they can then type at the rate
of five to ten words per minute.

Revue de presse

Praise for The Future of the Mind,  #1 New York Times Bestseller

“Compelling…Kaku thinks with great breadth, and the vistas he presents us are worth the trip”
The New York Times Book Review
“Intriguing….extraordinary findings…A fascinating sprint through everything from telepathy research to the 147,456 processors of the Blue Gene computer, which has been used to simulate 4.5% of the brain’s synapses and neurons”
“Fizzes with his characteristic effervescence….Fascinating….. For all his talk of surrogates and intelligent robots, no manufactured being could have a fraction of his charisma.”
The Independent
“A mind-bending study of the possibilities of the brain....a clear and readable guide to what is going on at a time of astonishingly rapid change.”
The Telegraph

In this expansive, illuminating journey through the mind, theoretical physicist Kaku (Physics of the Future) explores fantastical realms of science fiction that may soon become our reality. His futurist framework merges physics with neuroscience... applied to demonstrations that “show proof-of-principle” in accomplishing what was previously fictional: that minds can be read, memories can be digitally stored, and intelligences can be improved to great extents. The discussion, while heavily scientific, is engaging, clear, and replete with cinematic references... These new mental frontiers make for captivating reading”
-Publishers Weekly
“Kaku turns his attention to the human mind with equally satisfying results
…Telepathy is no longer a fantasy since scanners can already detect, if crudely, what a subject is thinking, and genetics and biochemistry now allow researchers to alter memories and increase intelligence in animals. Direct electrical stimulation of distinct brain regions has changed behavior, awakened comatose patients, relieved depression, and produced out-of-body and religious experiences… Kaku is not shy about quoting science-fiction movies and TV (he has seen them all)… he delivers ingenious predictions extrapolated from good research already in progress.”                                                                                                                                     
-Kirkus Reviews

“Facts to ponder: there are as many stars in our galaxy (about 100 billion) as there are neurons in your brain; your cell phone has more computing power than NASA had when it landed Apollo 11 on the moon. These seemingly unrelated facts tell us two things: our brains are magnificently complex organisms, and science fiction has a way of becoming reality rather quickly. This deeply fascinating book by theoretical physicist Kaku explores what might be in store for our minds: practical telepathy and telekinesis; artificial memories implanted into our brains; and a pill that will make us smarter. He describes work being done right now on using sensors to read images in the human brain and on downloading artificial memories into the brain to treat victims of strokes and Alzheimer’s. SF fans might experience a sort of breathless thrill when reading the book—This stuff is happening! It’s really happening!—and for general readers who have never really thought of the brain in all its glorious complexity and potential, the book could be a seriously mind-opening experience.”

Praise for Physics of the Future
"[A] wide-ranging tour of what to expect from technological progress over the next century or so.... fascinating—and related with commendable clarity"--Wall Street Journal

"Mind-bending........Kaku has a gift for explaining incredibly complex concepts, on subjects as far-ranging as nanotechnology and space travel, in language the lay reader can grasp....engrossing"--San Francisco Chronicle

"Epic in its scope and heroic in its inspiration"--Scientific American
"[Kaku] has the rare ability to take complicated scientific theories and turn them into readable tales about what our lives will be like in the future.....fun...fascinating. And just a little bit spooky"--USA Today
Praise for Physics of the Impossible
"An invigorating experience"
-The Christian Science Monitor

“Kaku's latest book aims to explain exactly why some visions of the future may eventually be realized while others are likely to remain beyond the bounds of possibility. . . . Science fiction often explores such questions; science falls silent at this point. Kaku's work helps to fill a void.”—The Economist
“Mighty few theoretical physicists would bother expounding some of these possible impossibilities, and Kaku is to be congratulated for doing so. . . . [He gets] the juices of future physicists flowing.”—Los Angeles Times

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 2229 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 360 pages
  • Editeur : Penguin (25 février 2014)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
  • X-Ray :
  • Word Wise: Activé
  • Composition améliorée: Non activé
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 4.5 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (2 commentaires client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°84.373 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)

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Commentaires client les plus utiles
4.0 étoiles sur 5 A Brief Summary and Review 5 mars 2014
The main argument: Up until 15 to 20 years ago the instruments and methods used to study the brain were still somewhat primitive. Since this time, however, advances in brain-scanning and brain-probing technology have gone into overdrive—as have the computers needed to make sense of the data from these new technologies. The deluge began in the early to mid 1990’s with the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine, and it’s more powerful cousin the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine, and it hasn’t stopped there. In addition to the MRI and fMRI, we now have a host of advanced sensing and probing technologies from the positron emission topography (PET) scan, to magnetoencephalography (MEG), to near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), to optogenetics, to the Clarity technique, to the transcranial electromagnetic scanner (TES), to deep brain stimulation (DBS) and more. In addition to these new scanning and probing technologies we have also advanced greatly in understanding how genes are expressed in the brain.

The result of these new advances is that we have learned more about the brain and how it works in the past 15 years than in all of history put together. And we are beginning to see real-world applications of this new understanding. For example, in the past decade we have learned to read the brain’s functioning to the point where we can now create rough images and video footage of thoughts and even dreams and imaginings; use the brain to directly control computers, and anything computers can control—including prosthetics (and even have these prosthetics send sensations back to the brain); implant and remove simple memories in the brain; create primitive versions of artificial brain structures; and also unravel at least some of the mysteries of mental illness and disease.
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5.0 étoiles sur 5 Very good book ! 1 octobre 2015
Par lemme
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
Althought Michio Kaku is a not a specialist in neuoscience, as a physicist he describes simply and precisely the future of human mind. I find in this book a complete summary of what i've not really understand in other essays.
I particularly appreciate the chapter on telepathy, and the way to alter and enhance the mind.
Suggested reading are also very interesting.

Thank you
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Amazon.com: 4.4 étoiles sur 5  597 commentaires
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5.0 étoiles sur 5 State of the Art Neuroscience 28 décembre 2013
Par Steve - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
Short Review: Interested in getting current with state of the art neuroscience and some philosophical discussions about our brain and consciousness? If so, read this approachable and easy-to-understand book!

Longer Review:

Michio Kaku is a theoretical physicist with a knack for explaining difficult concepts with simple analogies and clear descriptions. I've been a fan for some years now, and I thoroughly enjoyed Physics of the Impossible, Parallel Worlds, and Hyperspace. I was a bit surprised when I heard that Kaku was extending a bit outside his theoretical physics wheelhouse to write a book about the brain - but I'm very glad I decided to give this one a read.

After reading this book I feel like I'm much more up to date with where we currently stand when it comes to state-of-the-art neuroscience. Kaku stresses greatly the avalanche of modern neuroscience progress that was triggered by widespread use of MRI technology starting in the 90s, and this new information is forcing us to confront and redevelop longstanding ideas regarding our brains. A discussion of the various technological developments unlocking this new information leads into some philosophical discussion of consciousness and what makes us 'human'.

The bulk of the remainder of The Future of the Mind is focused on how the increase in brain-technology will affect the world, including discussions of telepathy, telekinesis, memory implants, memory recording, potential mental illness cures, brain enhancement, and mind reading. He also discusses different 'types' of consciousness including things like the consciousness of robots and the potential consciousness of alien life forms. The topics covered are very forward thinking, and there is a lot of time devoted to the various ways in which we will likely continue to stride forward in the future (such as the section on reverse engineering the brain). As you can tell this is a huge range of topics, and reading The Future of the Mind it sure sounds like we're just scraping the surface of potential topics with this book. Prepare to feel overwhelmed at how quickly brain science is marching along.

Kaku interviewed a huge number of experts in the field of neuroscience, and quotes from their conversations are features prominently throughout. A common pattern in the book is to reveal a shocking-but-true fact or experimental result about our brain accompanied by a metaphor and/or expert quote easing into an explanation that is understandable and clear. This approach works well in general, and keeps the pages turning. I had a hard time putting this book down, and brought it to work to finish during my lunch break. I have a habit of highlighting interesting/important passages whenever I read science books, and practically the entire book was highlighted by the time I was finished by this one!

It's hard to come up with any significant negatives for this review, but I have to mention that Kaku's constant movie references grew tiresome for me after a while. Many of the concepts in this book are introduced by way of "This happened in a movie and now it's happening FOR REAL!" I understand the benefits of this approach, but I could have used a bit more variety - I felt the technique was overused. Just a minor complaint, but something I noticed.
88 internautes sur 92 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 On what the future might hold for humanity 30 décembre 2013
Par Malvin - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
"The Future of the Mind" by Michio Kaku introduces inquisitive readers to the exciting science of the human mind. Dr. Kaku is perhaps the preeminent popular scientist of our time with numerous books, television productions and media appearances to his credit. This fascinating book will interest everyone who wants to get up to speed on the rapidly evolving field of brain sciences including what the future might hold for humanity.

The book is divided into three sections. `Book I: The Mind and Consciousness' is a brief survey of brain research up to the present day including an overview of how the brain works. `Book II: Mind Over Matter' discusses how science is shedding new light on telepathy, telekinesis, memories and the possibility of enhancing the brain's powers. `Book III: Altered Consciousness' speculates about how humanity's mastery of brain sciences might radically change our destiny on earth and beyond, including allowing us to reach across the universe with our minds.

Of course, Dr. Kaku carefully weighs the myriad ethical issues that inevitably come up when scientists talk about tinkering with the human brain. For example, when discussing the possibility of improving human intelligence, Dr. Kaku points to the benefits of enabling workers to rapidly learn new job skills but also warns about the social disparity that might ensue if such powerful technology is distributed only to the few. More than anything else, Dr. Kaku shares his vision and enthusiasm for where science can lead us. Through his demonstrated command of the subject matter, we become excited not only about the shorter-term promise of discovering more effective treatments for mental illnesses; but also about the longer-term possibility of exploring distant stars using our minds. The end result is a highly engaging book that rewards us with its keen intelligence, compassion and sense of wonder.

I highly recommend this outstanding book to everyone.
88 internautes sur 93 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Our brain, the greatest mystery of the nature 24 novembre 2014
Par Victoria Alexander - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle
One idle evening I was reading an old magazine and read about mind games. I don’t know why, but I felt a great drive to explore for the nature of mind, its functioning and the processing. Although I came across dozens of books and magazines, yet being a student of science, I was looking for some scientific explanation of our brain and its domains. Then I day I came across, what I wanted. The book titled “The future of the mind “, proved to be the perfect answer to all my questions and once I started with the introduction of the book, I could not resist to go further. The book is a perfect combination of fiction and science explaining the various mental coding models and possible potentials if human brain. If someone wants to dig out the future dimensions of the human mind and its miracles, this book is the best.

Once I got fully involved in learning about the human brain, I kept on reading more material over the topic. During this phase another perfect piece of writing came up my way, the book titled “Maximizing Brain Control : Unleash The Genius In You”. In this marvelous piece of writing the author has motivated all the readers about the controlling ability of our mind. He suggests that our brains are just like programmed machines, so better is the programming, better will be the results. He has suggested a number of simple tactics to conquer our mind strengths and use them for more useful purposes. He has helped the reader to understand the different divisions of the brain, by explaining it in very simple terms.

Having read these two books, I felt obvious changes in my personality, by having improvement in my cognitive and affective behaviors. The books have helped me to think about an arena of my life, which was neglected by me for very long. I recommend these books to all those who want to multiply their knowledge of the brain and its capabilities, because the brain miracles are the greatest mystery of this world and must be revealed to everyone.
148 internautes sur 177 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 A fun read, but perhaps a bit too sci-fi 1 février 2014
Par A. Burke - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
Although Michio Kaku is a theoretical physicist by training, his enthusiasm for neuroscience comes through very clearly. As the title suggests, this new book The Future of the Mind discusses the current state of neurology, bionics, and artificial intelligence, and then forecasts possible breakthroughs in the near and distant future. Kaku's experience in writing popular-level science books is obvious, as it is a fairly easy read with natural break points every 2-3 pages. There are really no dense walls of text to slog through, a definite positive attribute.

If you're an avid reader of popular level books on neurology or psychology, many of the topics may be familiar. There's a discussion of Phineas Gage, an attempt to define consciousness, a look into the new efforts to map the human brain, etc. And this background information is where the book shines. For example, Kaku's description of the CIA's mind control research is pretty interesting, as are his explanations of the current problems in AI research.

The rest of the book, however, reads a lot like articles from Popular Science. Kaku comes across as too optimistic about the future of these research areas, with more focus on what's possible rather than what's likely to happen. One assumes that this book will have to be updated a lot over the next five to ten years, as areas of research change, get delayed, or stall out entirely. And while it's fun to imagine the distant future where people might be able to beam their consciousness to surrogate bodies halfway across the galaxy via wormholes (an actual topic this book covers), I'd rather learn about the technologies which are right around the corner.
40 internautes sur 46 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 The Future of Something...not the Mind 9 avril 2014
Par Stephen E. Robbins - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
Dr. Kaku may be a fine physicist, but I see little evidence that he has engaged in any deep study of the problem of consciousness and its related spheres of perception, memory, cognition and cognitive development. The book is indeed interesting - if only on a semi-surface level - for its tour of developments in neuroscience with its new mapping technologies (e.g., fMRI), genetics and brain regions, massive planned research programs proposing to map the entire neural structure and connections of the brain and ultimately of course, recreate it in silicon. I say "on a semi-surface level" because Kaku does, at points, pull the unbridled optimism and unrealistic time-projections for future AI achievements a little closer to reality than I have seen elsewhere. Despite this, by the end, he is not far from the same optimism - one that belies any deep understanding - a mindset surely supported by the unhesitating reductionism displayed throughout the book, towards the end manifesting by simply assigning NDE's and out-of-the-body experiences as simply "generated" by the brain, in a treatment that nicely ignores all the problematic phenomena reported that might indicate an objective status to these experiences.

The book holds an interesting discussion of various brain imaging methods, their strengths and limitations, and therefore the fact that these are far from a panacea for research. As Kaku examines the topic of using raw computer power to simulate brains, to include Kurzweil's invocation of Moore's law with its projected doubling of computer power each year, he notes a brick wall that is about to block this tech-advance via quantum-physical limitations - an interesting point. In his discussion of plans to "download" memories or transfer them to other brains/devices, he does reveal that in reality there is no understanding today as to how the brain actually stores experienced events, noting the standard view that fragments or features of the event are stored in various spots in the brain, but that it is not known how these are reassembled in a remembering operation. This is not a usual admission. As he explores the future in creating an artificial human with the ability to act intelligently in the concrete world, he does some serious acknowledgement of the problem of "common sense knowledge" and AI's failures on this hitherto, and he projects that this will take much longer than writers like Kurzweil and others suppose. These are some welcome notes of caution, rare in this literature.

The problem is that these latter two problems go far more deeply than Kaku realizes, so deep that they question the entire information processing paradigm in which his book is framed. That little problem of how experience is actually stored in the brain stems directly from the fact that there is no theory of perception, i.e., how we see a coffee cup "out there," on the table surface, with its coffee being stirred by a spoon. Yes, this scene/event has "qualia" that must be accounted for, for given that the information from the external world has been transduced to neural-chemical flows (or for computers, changing bit patterns) which look nothing like the external world, we must explain how, from such an homogeneous architecture, we account for the "whiteness" of the cup, the "clinking" of the spoon, the smell of the coffee. The "qualia" formulation is Chalmers', and Kaku, following Dennett (who is far from accepted in philosophical circles), simply rejects as a problem how we explain the way the brain architecture, or any AI architecture, accounts for qualia.

The difficulty is this: Chalmers' formulation has been misleading; the deeper problem is explaining the origin of the image of the external world - not only the cup with its "whiteness," but the kitchen table with its wood-grained surface, the spoon stirring, coffee swirling, steam twisting and rising, the floor stretching in every direction with its tiles ... The "forms" in the image, and more obviously forms dynamically changing over time - rotating cups, twisting leaves, gently waving kitchen curtains - are themselves qualia, and equally non-computable. The origin of the image as a whole is the problem, and this image (of our kitchen with cup) is equally our "experience." This is why the problem is more critical than any AI-type theorist wants to realize: If you have no theory of the origin of our image of the external world, then you have no theory of experience, and in turn therefore, you can have no theory of the "storage" of this experience; your theory of memory is totally ungrounded, and this despite the current confidence, echoed by Kaku, that only a "subset" or a selected set of elements/features of this "experience" is stored - a current, widely held theory by the way with absolutely no in-principle method of the selection of what "parts" or "elements" or "features" of the coffee-stirring event will be stored, let alone of how this dis-assembly/reassembly would work - either in the real time required while the coffee stirring event is ongoing, or at a later time for retrieval of the experience. Ungrounded too then is any theory of cognition, therefore of that problematic "common sense knowledge," reliant as this knowledge is on the retrieval and use of our experience.

Abstract "computations" in themselves (and this is entirely the framework in which Kaku works) are simply insufficient to explain consciousness (our qualia-laden experience). There is a possibility concerning the nature of the brain that should give Kaku - particularly in his physicist persona - some pause: What if the brain, along with its computations or statistical/network analyses (same thing) is at the same time, and actually more importantly, sustaining a real, concrete dynamics - as real, for the sake of example, as an AC motor generating an oscillating electric field of force. Yes, knowing its equations, one can "simulate" the AC motor via a computer, but the computer is not generating the oscillating field of electric force; it is not even running a tiny light bulb. For this, one needs a device whose construction and function is to generate a real, concrete dynamics. One would need to engage in real engineering. This in fact was the thesis of Bergson (Matter and Memory, 1896). Bergson had presciently seen the essence of holography in 1896 (making his theory incomprehensible to his contemporaries). He viewed the universal field, in which we all are embedded, as holographic - a vast interference pattern, a field intrinsically non-image-able. Effectively, he saw the brain (with all its underlying quantum dynamics) as a modulated reconstructive wave passing through this holographic field, selecting out information in the field related to the action systems of the body, and in this becoming "specific to" a subset of the field - now, by this process, an image of aspects of the field, e.g., the kitchen with its tables, its chairs and cup. In other words, we are explaining how perception is limited, not how it arises. This image of the external world, due to the brain's dynamics (with its underlying chemical velocities) is specified at a scale of time - a fly "buzzing" by the coffee cup, his wings oscillating at 200 cps, is seen as a blur in our normal scale of time. Drop in a catalyst into this dynamics - the brain/modulated wave is now specific to a heron-like fly slowly flapping his wings and equally now specific to a new possible action of the body, e.g., picking the fly out of the air by a wing, for as the selection of a subset of the field is made in relation to the action systems of the body, then, as Bergson stated succinctly, perception is virtual action. If the brain is actually such a device - a modulated reconstructive wave - all the future brain-mapping projects Kaku is discussing will be proceeding under the wrong assumptions, and the goal of rebuilding all this as a device in silicon, as purely sustaining computations, is utterly misguided.

For all this, Bergson's model requires a quite different model of time, where the flow of time is indivisible or non-differentiable, and it demands a re-conception of the relation of subject and object, for the difference between, and the relation of each, is in terms, not of space, but of time. But one will find in Kaku but a trivial discussion of the problem of time in relation to mind, namely the role of consciousness as planning for future events, and this is in reality the great problem of explicit memory or the localization of events in time, something requiring the development of the symbolic function - an extremely complex trajectory of development requiring the human child several years, long ago discussed in great depth by Piaget - of all of which Kaku (and AI as well for that matter) is apparently unaware, but a trajectory that would need to be replicated by his AIs. One finds nothing in Kaku on the origin of our scale of perceptual time, or the form of memory that supports the ongoing perception of rotating cubes or stirring spoons, or the support of invariance laws defined only over time. One will find nothing of the problem of subject and object.

In Bergson's conception, since the brain is specific to sources within the external field (as an image) perception/experience is not occurring solely within the brain (nor is it simply "generated" by the brain), therefore experience cannot be solely stored there, yet our experience is retrievable by the same reconstructive wave process. The fact that a konk on the head produces retrograde amnesia does not mean that experiences are stored in the brain and are destroyed - as opposed rather to there now being damage to the mechanisms responsible for modulating the retrieving reconstructive wave. (Similarly, a successful artificial retinal implant supporting vision - one of many advances noted by Kaku that appear to support the computational metaphor - does not imply more than achieving partial support of the overall, very concrete dynamics supporting vision). Obviously this is a quite different theory of memory retrieval; it is inherently supportive of analogical retrieval - a phenomenon basic to thought, to include analogy in general. Hofstadter in his vast consideration of the subject of analogy (Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking) clearly has no idea (and appears to harbor doubts) as to how to implement this operation in a computer (or neural net). Yet analogy - the foundational operation of thought as Hofstadter shows - is at the heart of common sense knowledge: I am given a 12" cubical box, rubber bands, pencils, toothpicks, string, razorblade, staples, cheese, etc., and asked to create a mousetrap. I make a "crossbow" using the box, pencil and rubber bands, or a "beheader" using the box, pencil, razorblade and rubber bands. I am doing analogy via my stored experience. This is why that problematic issue of common sense knowledge is so deceptively difficult - it is bound to the entire problem of conscious perception or experience (with the "qualia" problem as a subset) and the memory "storage" of this experience. (For the sake of those interested in a deeper discussion of Bergson and these issues, as I know of none other, one can search (on Amazon) for "Collapsing the Singularity.")

The failure of current science/AI to solve (or admit) the hard problem, properly understood as the more general problem of the image of the external world, is an index into the possibility that the entire framework in which Kaku, AI and neuroscience are working is badly wrong. But this is just a glimpse - when we write of projected feats such as "downloading memories," "transferring consciousness," or "AIs as or more intelligent than humans" - of the tremendous scope and depth of the issues surrounding these topics that Kaku has presumed irrelevant.

For an interesting tour of projects and developments, the book is good. As I have grown tired of these shallow analyses of the issues involved, I can only give so many stars.
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