"A supremely enjoyable, intoxicating work." —Nature
How did we come to have minds? For centuries, poets, philosophers, psychologists, and physicists have wondered how the human mind developed its unrivaled abilities. Disciples of Darwin have explained how natural selection produced plants, but what about the human mind?
In From Bacteria to Bach and Back, Daniel C. Dennett builds on recent discoveries from biology and computer science to show, step by step, how a comprehending mind could in fact have arisen from a mindless process of natural selection. A crucial shift occurred when humans developed the ability to share memes, or ways of doing things not based in genetic instinct. Competition among memes produced thinking tools powerful enough that our minds don’t just perceive and react, they create and comprehend.
An agenda-setting book for a new generation of philosophers and scientists, From Bacteria to Bach and Back will delight and entertain all those curious about how the mind works.
Dennett (Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking), co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University, combines arguments from philosophy, biology, and informatics to explore questions associated with the origin of consciousness. It is an illuminating and insightful, if occasionally difficult, book; Dennett's two overarching themes concern the philosophical ideas of Ren Descartes and the biological concepts of Charles Darwin. As he has done before, Dennett argues that Cartesian mind/body dualism, which is still accepted by many today, is incorrect. He makes a convincing case, based on a rapidly growing body of experimental evidence, that a materialist theory of mind is within reach. Dennett also builds on Darwin's idea of natural selection, explaining how natural systems can create "competence without comprehension" that is, situations in which sophisticated actions occur without the individual or machine involved understanding the reasons for the actions taken. This type of "bottom-up" design, according to Dennett, can lead to innovative results, including animal brains. He takes the next step to propose that basic language acquisition ability is coupled with the memes of language to yield both consciousness and culture. Though Dennett is sure to once again raise the hackles of certain peers, his ideas demand serious consideration.
Customer ReviewsSee All
You will like the author...
in the sense that you are glad his attempts make sense, that he's doing this work, and that you find it all fascinating.
You will give it 4 stars instead of 5 to emulate the awesome humility required to sneak-peak at the evolution of minds.
Being wrong is part of humanity, and the most powerful of AI's will require such a characteristic no matter how fast, or slow, goes the requirement. Historical foundations provide credibility, and books aside, just be happy the author exists.