- Paperback: 176 pages
- Publisher: Humanity Books (2 January 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1591024838
- ISBN-13: 978-1591024835
- Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 0.9 x 21.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #7,87,970 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Are You a Machine?: The Brain, the Mind, And What It Means to Be Human Paperback – 2 Jan 2007
Customers who bought this item also bought
"Consciousness is a major neuroscience mystery. Since bright, ambitious young people have solved many of our scientific mysteries, this young man's remarkable synthesis of current consciousness theory and research shouldn't surprise us. I expect that this book is simply the first of many contributions Elie Sternberg will make during his career."
Robert Sylwester, Emeritus Professor of Education
University of Oregon, author of How To Explain a Brain
Columnist for the online journal "Brain Connection"
"Elie Sternberg gives a fascinating and accurate account of the issues and arguments for and concerning the possibility of intelligent computers. His book is not only exciting reading, it also shows good judgment in helping the reader decide which arguments to accept."
Hubert Dreyfus, University of California, Berkeley
Philosopher and author of What Computers Still Can't Do
About the Author
Eliezer J. Sternberg, MD, is a resident neurologist at Yale-New Haven Hospital. With a background in neuroscience and philosophy, he studies how brain research can shed light on the mysteries of consciousness and decision making. He is the author of Are You a Machine? and My Brain Made Me Do It.
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter mobile phone number.
No customer reviews
|5 star (0%)|
|4 star (0%)|
|3 star (0%)|
|2 star (0%)|
|1 star (0%)|
Review this product
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The book is composed of fifteen short chapters, each that starts with a scene from the author's life or a hypothetical situation. He uses the events or actions in this scene in the rest of the chapter to discuss, prove or disprove a theory of interest. Each individual chapter is well structured and cohesive, and it is easy to comprehend because the writing is in layman's terms. Although initially the book seems haphazardly organized, a closer look at the structure of the book shows that the author's organization is justified and comprehensible. While reading the book, it seemed to me that one chapter did not smoothly transition to the next. For example, the first chapter defines a "machine," but the second chapter jumps to the definition of consciousness without any true transition. At the completion of the book, however, the structure of the book is understood. The author starts the book by define the terms, machine (chapter 1) and consciousness (chapter 2), that he spends most of the book discussing. Next, he introduces the long lasting question of the relationship between body and mind, and some theories as to how philosophers have approached it until now (chapter 3). Next, he discusses how the how the brain might be connected to consciousness (chapter 4-5). The next major portion of the book contains various discussions on how consciousness could or could not exist in machines (chapter 6-9). The following chapters discuss what it means to be a human (chapters 10-14), and he ends the book with suggesting his own theory that combines portions of several theories presented in the book (chapter 15).
The book mainly focused on the many different philosophical ideologies on consciousness. Because the entire book is an attempt to provide answers to the question "are you a machine?", the author develops a working definition of a machine in the beginning that he uses though out the book. He states that a machine is "a system of interacting physical parts that operates according to a set of formal rules to accomplish a task" (page 28). With this definition, he begins the quest of determining if humans are machines. Immediately, he is encounters an obstacle, the existence of consciousness, in answering the question that humans are machines. Because consciousness is the central to the question of "are you a machine?", he defines consciousness as the ability to possess the "powers of language, understanding, experience, perspective, imagination, thinking, the self, intention, free-will, and emotion (page 36)". With these working definitions of a machine and consciousness, Sternberg begins his path for the understanding of what it means to be human.
Sternberg introduces the three major schools of thought on relationship between the body and mind: (1) materialism, (2) dualism, and (3) idealism. He provides an extensive overview of both materialism and dualism, but neglects to discuss idealism. Materialism is the belief that consciousness can be completely explained as a physical phenomenon. Dualism is the idea that there are two worlds (physical and mental).Idealism is the belief that everything we perceive in the product of the metal world. He provides examples of how these theories are represented by various philosophers. One of the dualist concepts is the existence of a homunculus which literally means `tiny person,' inside a person who makes all the decisions. He also talks about how the materialists believe that neural circuits are cause the emergence of consciousness. This is the major section in which he introduces neuroscience. He provides a brief overview of the major parts of the brain and neurons. This overview is less than elementary at best.
Later on in the book, Sternberg talks about more interesting ideas that include the discussion of whether we are machines. In this section, he introduces several programs that were trying to emulate the humans, such as Deep Blue (chess playing computer), COG (robot that learned from human interactions), ELIZA (program developed to be a virtual therapist), and ALICE (Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity). While discussing why these highly complex machines are not considered conscious, the concept of understanding arises. One of my favorite quotes in the book is Marvin Minsky's (Nobel Prize winner and one of the founders of Artificial Intelligence) definition of understanding: "Understanding is the connection of one idea to many others and the ability to interpret that idea in many ways" (page 83). As this quote suggests, one of the most important concept in consciousness is "understanding" not only of concepts but also emotions. After talking about several other characteristics that define consciousness, he introduces his own theory. Because that is the main theme of the book, I will not spoil it for those who will by this book.
Overall I found the book to be an interesting overview of all the theories that exist on consciousness and how it applies to machines, artificial intelligence, and robotics. This book is an excellent source for those who would like to get a summary of the debate on consciousness thus far. However, if you are looking for a book that will provide with an in depth analysis of these theories and their implications on what it truly means to be human, I would recommend this book as a great starting place. Not only will this book be a quick and comprehensive overview of what you are looking for, but it also provides further readings that can be done in order to obtain a better understanding of what is discussed. I would recommend this book for all those who are looking for some insight into understanding consciousness, but not for those how are looking for a neuroscience explanation for this phenomenon.
In particular, Sternberg examines what it means to be conscious-not just awake, but aware and processing our surroundings in a uniquely human way. And, what makes us different from machines. Is it possible that some day scientists could understand enough about the way our brains work to understand how we love, how the creative process begins, and what constitutes joy and despair?
Sternberg poses the fundamental questions: What is the difference between our brain, our mind, and our consciousness? What separates us from robots? He brings together science and philosophy and weaves them together in an easily accessible way that draws on biology, neuroscience, and common sense examples to illustrate his points.
Sternberg asks us to consider our consciousness-how much we know about it and how ultimately private and unknowable it is. First, no one can know what we are thinking or imagining until we tell another person. Even then, we can filter out what we want to share from what we want to remain private. We can imagine things that are not tied to the physical world. In our minds we can be greater than Michael Jordan on the basketball court, receive the Nobel Prize or and Academy Award, walk on Mars, or reverse the course of previous actions.
This short book is a fascinating examination of the mind and the brain. It is definitely a book for the layman, and Sternberg offers additional reading suggestions at the end of each chapter.
He raises fascinating questions about who we are, addresses them in vivid ways, and challenges his readers to consider what discovery about consciousness might be just around the corner.
Armchair Interviews says: If you're looking for a fascinating book to challenge your thinking about thinking, pick up Are You a Machine?
These are the questions that are addressed in this book, and in a really gripping way. The book is structured so that it feels like one long, interesting discussion between experts in the fields of neuroscience, philosophy of mind, artificial intelligence and others.
Filled with illustrative examples, the book draws you into every concept immediately and doesn't let go. At points, I felt that it read like a novel that I couldn't put down. I haven't read many books on this topic, so the questions raised in the book really took me by storm and got me thinking about things like consciousness and free will in radically new ways. It's a really cool book. I definitely recommend it.