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How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed by Ray Kurzweil

March 8, 2013

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Ray Kurzweil is an expert in the field of artificial intelligence, an inventor and a futurist (a scientist who makes informed predictions about the future). In this book, he explains his theory of how the human mind works and how that understanding can be used to engineer artificial intelligence. His model, called the Pattern Recognition Theory of the Mind, proposes that the mind is made of hierarchical pattern recognizers that allow us to quickly process the massive amounts of information we encounter at any moment.

The core of this book is interesting, particularly when Kurzweil discusses the various ways computers are designed to mimic (and surpass) human intelligence. But he also makes bold statements that engender skepticism, as when he declares that his theory is the only possible way the mind could operate. Not everyone shares his view; his work has actually received quite a lot of criticism from the scientific community and in the mainstream media. He also wanders off onto various other topics—e.g. a long section on consciousness, a section where he recounts the predictions he made in a previous book and how they fared, and another section where he defends some of his previous work from specific criticism it has received. All of this would be better suited for his blog, and he comes off as full of himself. There are some interesting ideas here, but you have to kind of sift through some other stuff to get to them.

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