1/07/2011. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: Humanity Books/Prometheus Books. 190 page small enlarged paperback. Price: $39.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-61614-227-8.
check out website: www.prometheusbooks.com
At last a title, ‘From Neurons To Self-Consciousness’, that makes equal sense to the sub-title, ‘How The Brain Generates The Mind’. You use it a lot. Brain and mind. You even think in words non-verbally. Well, at least I hope you do. But do you question what makes your mind work? Although I don’t think author Bernard Lorzeniewski has all the answers here, it’s not a bad place to start questioning what makes you tick. After all, somewhere in all those neurons in your brain, there is what is essentially you. As Lorzeniewski points out, that he thinks the seat self-consciousness is in the prefrontal cortex in your brain rather than the hippocampus. In some respects, that covers the physical bit before he concentrates on what makes up the personality but not how it makes sense of the world.
One of the things you learn from this book is how much of your behaviour is taught responses from when you were young. You learn something is hot or cold so have an expected response rather than suffer harm. This goes some way further in identifying what things are so you know what you’re talking about. A good reason to get as much experience as you can when young. Being able to think non-verbally in words allows your ideas to become more solid in your head so you can make them real or even tell them to someone else. Mind you, if you can do this verbally without a pre-amble think, I wish Lorzeniewski should have addressed this because it addresses this as being one and the same thing. Expressing ideas verbally as described is very much something I first came across in 1930s General Semantics so it’s hardly a new idea.
Just in case you think where’s the link to Science Fiction, Lorzeniewski points out that he’s not convinced that an artificial intelligence could be tested by the Turing Test let alone be created. Reading his chapter, I do think he has a point. One thing humans can do is learn new behaviour and adjust their own conditioning to new patterns. If an AI is to exist then it must be capable of doing the same thing.
In his closing penultimate chapter, Lorzeniewski points out how readily we accept colours without having them explained to us. I’m not sure if I agree with that. I mean, anything hot is likely to be red and anything cold seen as blue. Whatever culture you come from, that would be a common denominator. I would have thought combining different associative information together would have given Lorzeniewski a different answer to the one he had but it’ll give you the reason to look up the book and make up your own minds.
I’m not entirely convinced Lorzeniewski has gone far enough in this subject but this is a short book and if it makes you go away and think on the subject or like me, voice opinions in this review, then he’s doing his job. If he pursues this subject more, I would like to see some tests used to give the readers something to test themselves on. Being told something is so is always more effective when you can put yourself to the test. However, this is a start and you might come away understanding what makes you you.
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