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Rethinking Consciousness

A Scientific Theory of Subjective Experience
Narrated by: David de Vries
Length: 6 hrs and 29 mins
5 out of 5 stars (1 rating)

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Publisher's Summary

Focusing attention can help an animal find food or flee a predator. It also may have led to consciousness. Tracing evolution over millions of years, Michael S. A. Graziano uses examples from the natural world to show how neurons first allowed animals to develop simple forms of attention: taking in messages from the environment, prioritizing them, and responding as necessary.

Then some animals evolved covert attention - a roving mental focus that can take in information apart from where the senses are pointed, like hearing sirens at a distance or recalling a memory.

Graziano proposes that in order to monitor and control this specialized attention, the brain evolved a simplified model of it - a cartoonish self-description depicting an internal essence with a capacity for knowledge and experience. In other words, consciousness.

In this eye-opening work, Graziano accessibly explores how this sense of an inner being led to empathy and formed us into social beings. The theory may point the way to engineers for building consciousness artificially. Graziano discusses what a future with artificial consciousness might be like, including both advantages and risks, and what AI might mean for our evolutionary future.

©2019 Michael S. A. Graziano (P)2019 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

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  • Orca
  • Sydney, Australia
  • 2019-10-23

Disappointing and strangely anachronistic

I enjoyed the Social Brain, and the elucidation of an attention schema (author's previous work), but much of this book reads like a step sideways not forward. It's got an overly avuncular tone (which may also have to do with the narrator) and is an underwhelming summary of the pop-culture approach to consciousness. Especially the final chapters which read like an exercise in wool gathering and clichés.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Dror
  • 2019-11-07

A conscious spark of joy

Prof. Graziano delineates clearly and intuitively what consciousness really is.
This book is a swift and Jargon-free journey to the recent advance in neurobiology and especially a computational theory of consciousness. It takes you from the evolution of the conscious brain trough the biological technicality and advantages, the philosophical considerations, and the possible future of conscious machines and mind uploading.
I think that the final chapters on mind uploading and futurism are too speculative. After all, the attention-schema theory of mind does not require a full brain-scan for mind uploading. It is not even clear that you need a neural network for that. Nevertheless, the ideas are mind-blowing and inspiring. A most read to any intellectual.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful