Are You A Machine?
Published By: Humanity Books
Book Category: Non-Fiction, Science
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Reviewed by Laura Langer
Subtitled: The Brain, the Mind, And What It Means to Be Human
Sternberg’s book examines the question of what makes us human, and more specifically what makes us different from machines, computers, and artificial intelligence. At a time when people talk about carbon-based intelligence versus silicon-based intelligence at dinner parties in the suburbs, posing this question in a scientific manner is both relevant to our times and much needed.
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?