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Genes vs Cultures vs Consciousness: A Brief Story of Our Computational Minds

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What is the mind? How did it evolve? Can we engineer it? This interdisciplinary short book explores the mind and its development from a computational perspective. It touches on its evolutionary development, its algorithmic nature and its scientific history by bridging ideas across Neuroscience, Computer Science, Biotechnology, Evolutionary History, Cognitive Science, P What is the mind? How did it evolve? Can we engineer it? This interdisciplinary short book explores the mind and its development from a computational perspective. It touches on its evolutionary development, its algorithmic nature and its scientific history by bridging ideas across Neuroscience, Computer Science, Biotechnology, Evolutionary History, Cognitive Science, Political Philosophy, and Artificial Intelligence.Never before had there been nearly as many scientists, resources or productive research focused on these topics, and humanity has achieved some understanding and some clarification. With the speed of progress it is timely to communicate an overreaching perspective, this book puts an emphasis on conveying the essential questions and what we know about their answers in a simple, clear and exciting way.Humans, along with the first RNA molecules, the first life forms, the first brains, the first conscious animals, the first societies and the first artificial agents constitute an amazing and crucial development in a path of increasingly complex computational intelligence. And yet, we occupy a minuscule time period in the history of Earth, a history that has been written by Genes, by Cultures and by Consciousnesses. If we abandon our anthropomorphic bias it becomes obvious that Humans are not so special after all. We are an important but short and transitory step among many others in a bigger story. The story of our computational minds, which is ours but not only ours. What is the relationship between computation, cognition and everything else? What is life and how did it originate? What is the role of culture in human minds? What do we know about the algorithmic nature of the mind, can we engineer it? What is the computational explanation of consciousness? What are some possible future steps in the evolution of minds? The underlying thread is the computational nature of the Mind which results from the mixture of Genes, Cultures and Consciousness. While these three interact in complex ways, they are ultimately computational systems on their own which appeared at different stages of history and which follow their own selective processes operating at different time scales. As technology progresses, the distinction between the three components materializes and will be a key determinant of the future.Among the many topics covered are the origin of life, the concept of computation and its relation to Turing Machines, cultural evolution and the notion of a Selfish Meme, free will and determinism, moral relativity, the hard problem of consciousness, the different theories of concepts from the perspective of cognitive science, the current status of AI and Machine Learning including the symbolic vs sub-symbolic dichotomy, the contrast between logical reasoning and neural networks, and the recent history of Deep Learning, Geoffrey Hinton, DeepMind and its algorithm AlphaGo. It also develops on the history of science and looks into the possible future building on the work of authors like Daniel Dennett, Yuval Harari, Richard Dawkins, Francis Crick, George Church, David Chalmers, Susan Carey, Stanislas Dehaene, Robert Boyd, Joseph Henrich, Daniel Kahneman, Moran Cerf, Josh Tenenbaum, David Deutsch, Steven Pinker, Ray Kurzweil, John von Neumann, Herbert Simon and many more. Andres Campero is a researcher and PhD student at the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department and at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).


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What is the mind? How did it evolve? Can we engineer it? This interdisciplinary short book explores the mind and its development from a computational perspective. It touches on its evolutionary development, its algorithmic nature and its scientific history by bridging ideas across Neuroscience, Computer Science, Biotechnology, Evolutionary History, Cognitive Science, P What is the mind? How did it evolve? Can we engineer it? This interdisciplinary short book explores the mind and its development from a computational perspective. It touches on its evolutionary development, its algorithmic nature and its scientific history by bridging ideas across Neuroscience, Computer Science, Biotechnology, Evolutionary History, Cognitive Science, Political Philosophy, and Artificial Intelligence.Never before had there been nearly as many scientists, resources or productive research focused on these topics, and humanity has achieved some understanding and some clarification. With the speed of progress it is timely to communicate an overreaching perspective, this book puts an emphasis on conveying the essential questions and what we know about their answers in a simple, clear and exciting way.Humans, along with the first RNA molecules, the first life forms, the first brains, the first conscious animals, the first societies and the first artificial agents constitute an amazing and crucial development in a path of increasingly complex computational intelligence. And yet, we occupy a minuscule time period in the history of Earth, a history that has been written by Genes, by Cultures and by Consciousnesses. If we abandon our anthropomorphic bias it becomes obvious that Humans are not so special after all. We are an important but short and transitory step among many others in a bigger story. The story of our computational minds, which is ours but not only ours. What is the relationship between computation, cognition and everything else? What is life and how did it originate? What is the role of culture in human minds? What do we know about the algorithmic nature of the mind, can we engineer it? What is the computational explanation of consciousness? What are some possible future steps in the evolution of minds? The underlying thread is the computational nature of the Mind which results from the mixture of Genes, Cultures and Consciousness. While these three interact in complex ways, they are ultimately computational systems on their own which appeared at different stages of history and which follow their own selective processes operating at different time scales. As technology progresses, the distinction between the three components materializes and will be a key determinant of the future.Among the many topics covered are the origin of life, the concept of computation and its relation to Turing Machines, cultural evolution and the notion of a Selfish Meme, free will and determinism, moral relativity, the hard problem of consciousness, the different theories of concepts from the perspective of cognitive science, the current status of AI and Machine Learning including the symbolic vs sub-symbolic dichotomy, the contrast between logical reasoning and neural networks, and the recent history of Deep Learning, Geoffrey Hinton, DeepMind and its algorithm AlphaGo. It also develops on the history of science and looks into the possible future building on the work of authors like Daniel Dennett, Yuval Harari, Richard Dawkins, Francis Crick, George Church, David Chalmers, Susan Carey, Stanislas Dehaene, Robert Boyd, Joseph Henrich, Daniel Kahneman, Moran Cerf, Josh Tenenbaum, David Deutsch, Steven Pinker, Ray Kurzweil, John von Neumann, Herbert Simon and many more. Andres Campero is a researcher and PhD student at the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department and at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

30 review for Genes vs Cultures vs Consciousness: A Brief Story of Our Computational Minds

  1. 4 out of 5

    H.A. Leuschel

    A good basic summary of the ongoing nature-nurture debate and the current advances in AI research.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bandit

    Our minds are computers. They operate through the complex interactions of genes, cultures and consciousness. This book will provide you with a coherent overview of exactly how the three interact and will do so in an accessible language. The author covers subjects like evolutionary development, scientific past and present, cognitive behavior, AI and more. In fact, the book’s official GR description does an excellent job of informing the readers of what it offers. A very long description, quite di Our minds are computers. They operate through the complex interactions of genes, cultures and consciousness. This book will provide you with a coherent overview of exactly how the three interact and will do so in an accessible language. The author covers subjects like evolutionary development, scientific past and present, cognitive behavior, AI and more. In fact, the book’s official GR description does an excellent job of informing the readers of what it offers. A very long description, quite disproportional to the length of the actual book, which is just over 100 pages. Personally, I enjoy these types of reader’s digest overviews, it helps to revisit all I’ve learned and maybe grab a new fact or two. To be fair, I didn't learn a lot from this one (and learning is usually my goal with nonfiction), but it was nice to be able to sort of mentally catalog what is already in the brain and maybe reevaluate it from a new perspective. And someone new to this area of inquiry should be able to enjoy this also, the information is nicely arranged and well presented in coherent arguments toward a cohesive total. Each of the six chapters touches down on a specific subject, like Genes, and is then followed by some examples, before logically flowing into the next subject. There aren’t any charts of cute pictograms, like some overviews utilize, but it’s very much layperson ready. I especially appreciated the span of themes covered in such a slim volume, many, well almost all of which, actually, are of great interest to me, from origins of life to origins of robots. The author took a meditative approach to the narrative, facts are not merely presented, they are contemplated as components in a grand total sum. So yes, this book will make you think. That alone is worth the investment of 120 minutes or so. Check it out. Think profound thoughts. Make your mind work.

  3. 4 out of 5

    robert hedlund

    One man one flower There are a lot of thoughts here. These thoughts range from simple to wrong to points of view. An editor could have been useful.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bob Miller

    The book addresses a broad range of topics in a superficial way, while engaging in speculation that is barely supported by current research activities. This might be good as an introduction to these ideas. For me, it had little value.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rade Ralevic

    Bunch of crap,

  6. 5 out of 5

    David Bradshaw

    a i fanboy

  7. 5 out of 5

    Santiago Renteria

    In Genes vs Cultures vs Consciousnesses Campero explores the evolution of minds, molecular machines and social codes. Seeking to understand how complex behavior emerged in nature and gave rise to conscious experience, he sets forth some of the most fascinating breakthroughs in science, ranging from the structure and function of DNA to the latest bioinspired models in Artificial Intelligence (AI). Despite the intricacies of neurobiological and cognitive phenomena, the book is intended for an inte In Genes vs Cultures vs Consciousnesses Campero explores the evolution of minds, molecular machines and social codes. Seeking to understand how complex behavior emerged in nature and gave rise to conscious experience, he sets forth some of the most fascinating breakthroughs in science, ranging from the structure and function of DNA to the latest bioinspired models in Artificial Intelligence (AI). Despite the intricacies of neurobiological and cognitive phenomena, the book is intended for an interdisciplinary readership. Undoubtedly, a vital resource for Cognitive Science and AI newcomers who want to know more about the technical and philosophical challenges in the field. Chapter one discusses evolution as a complex generative and selective process underlying not only biological systems but high level dynamic structures such as natural languages, ideas and societies. Special attention is given to the computational notion of self-replication in Von Neumann’s work. Chapter two introduces the Computational Theory of Mind as a framework for studying the functional organization of the brain from the molecular to the cognitive level. While Campero does not address alternative non-representationalist views of the mind (e.g. enactivism), this chapter provides a good overview of computationalism. Chapter three goes beyond biological evolution to show how the interaction and accumulation of cognitive adaptations led to “behavioural modernity”. Anthropologists use this term to describe the development of a set of traits such as language, religion, arts and social norms, distinguishing Homo Sapiens from other anatomically modern humans. Chapter four covers different accounts of Concepts (the building blocks of thoughts) and the symbolic and sub-symbolic paradigms in AI. The first paradigm privileges interpretability and control, as in most search algorithms and automated theorem provers, whereas the second leverages the robustness and scalability of distributed computing systems, like neural networks, at the cost of explainability. Cognitive Scientists will find valuable insights in Carey’s Dual-Factor theory. Chapter five attempts to disentangle the hard problem of Consciousness and the associated properties of self-awareness and qualia. Contrasting views from Daniel Dennett, David Chalmers, Christof Koch, Stanislas Dehaene and Giulio Tononi reveal that symbolic and behavioural approaches are insufficient to understand and engineer consciousness. In other words, not all knowledge is explicit nor we are philosophical zombies devoid of internal experiences. Finally, chapter six closes with questions and reflections around brain-to-brain communication, cognitive augmentation and exponentially growing technologies. Recent investigations showcase interfaces enabling direct collaboration between brains whereas memory-boosting prosthetics are no longer science fiction. Technology is not only becoming more sophisticated, but also accelerating its own development rate. Campero concludes deliberate technological progress directed by Consciousnesses is much faster than cultural and genetic evolution. Amidst ethical challenges posed by emerging technologies like CRISPR and brain-computer interfaces, readers should ponder whether humans are ready to take full control over their own minds and genes.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Leon Adeyemi

    It was okay It's not a bad but, it does go over thing we are already Aware of though, but it's nice to be reminded that we live in a world we're AI will over power us It was okay It's not a bad but, it does go over thing we are already Aware of though, but it's nice to be reminded that we live in a world we're AI will over power us

  9. 4 out of 5

    Gregzeng

    Quick general summary of a large complex issue. Cognitive sciences are very rapidly evolving. Major big-names are used as sources for the generalizations in this book. Not too many big, unusual words are used. ESL readers might have trouble with the native, advanced English writing style; some long & complex sentence structures. The last half of my 70 years life shows that generalizations about Consciousness are wrong. My traumatic brain injury has frequent 'Locked-In-Syndrome'. INTELLIGENCE is no Quick general summary of a large complex issue. Cognitive sciences are very rapidly evolving. Major big-names are used as sources for the generalizations in this book. Not too many big, unusual words are used. ESL readers might have trouble with the native, advanced English writing style; some long & complex sentence structures. The last half of my 70 years life shows that generalizations about Consciousness are wrong. My traumatic brain injury has frequent 'Locked-In-Syndrome'. INTELLIGENCE is not just Homo Sapiens Sapiens. Whales have subsonic communication languages much better than visual sensors. LANGUAGE is much more complex than described in this book, etc. Later versions of this and other books should include these more accurate facts. Knowledge, as described in the book, is 'fake' (Donald Trump) and statistically variable.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tom Hailand

    Informative and well written, Mr Campero does not make big outrageous predictions, just the facts. I recommend this book to any and all

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sjervey

    Campero deerved a better editor, but stick with it and this is an important book. It presents a very "scientific" view of evolution, where evolution first yielded genes, then, according to Campero, culture, then consciousness, and presents this model as a blueprint for developing AI (Artificial Intelligence). I do not share Campero's very mechanistic view of life and evolution, a view which takes all religion as counter-productive and unscientific and which never makes any room for art; but I do Campero deerved a better editor, but stick with it and this is an important book. It presents a very "scientific" view of evolution, where evolution first yielded genes, then, according to Campero, culture, then consciousness, and presents this model as a blueprint for developing AI (Artificial Intelligence). I do not share Campero's very mechanistic view of life and evolution, a view which takes all religion as counter-productive and unscientific and which never makes any room for art; but I do believe science should always be pushing to understand truth as fully as possible. The more we understand about the world and the brain, the better. But Campero's neat development of gene to culture to consciousness fails to illuminate how consciousness contributes to culture, how science when well done is also an art, how there is something more to human beings than the sum of its neronal activity. Campero's view, carried to its logical end, embraces the philosophy of might makes right, there can be only one (he speaks of conscious entities being consumed into one larger consciousness) and the beauty of evolution is the diversity we are invited to enjoy and respect. Still, I would recommend this book as a good introduction to some complex ideas about AI and human development.

  12. 5 out of 5

    G M Higgins

    Good but frustrating I'm so torn on this book! It's a fascinating subject and the author has fantastic insight. I just feel like the language could have been simplified and the concepts more thoroughly explained to make it a much more enjoyable and engaging read. I did enjoy it and it was very short so you get through it fast. Good but frustrating I'm so torn on this book! It's a fascinating subject and the author has fantastic insight. I just feel like the language could have been simplified and the concepts more thoroughly explained to make it a much more enjoyable and engaging read. I did enjoy it and it was very short so you get through it fast.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Marc Wojciechowski

    Superb book superbly written The author takes you on a epistemological journey from atoms to humans an convinces you the path is correct. The physics and metaphysics are harmonious. Okay, enough of the flowery words. The book is truly thought provoking without being radical. Highly recommended for those that what a comprehensive view of consciousness.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Page Thomas Shanklin Sr

    Most of book understandable for us not scientific and evolved into sense. Some parts over my head Most of the book made sense to me and at the end it made more sense to someone interested but educated in evolution. A lot was over my head

  15. 5 out of 5

    SKC

    Interesting compilation An interesting read with lots of information and references. Some typos are annoying in a book such as this. The connection between Genes, Culture and consciousness is striking!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Doyoung Chung

    This book reads like an academic review paper mixed up with the author's political opinion. It was great to glance over the advanced studies of consciousness but the coverage is understandingly far from comprehensive and leaves much room for elaboration and improvement. This book reads like an academic review paper mixed up with the author's political opinion. It was great to glance over the advanced studies of consciousness but the coverage is understandingly far from comprehensive and leaves much room for elaboration and improvement.

  17. 4 out of 5

    James C.

    Very good Thought provoking reading. Good overall look at a complicated subject. Most of his thoughts were clearly put forth. this is a good general look at consciousness.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Michael Thomas

    This was a very nice read. It doesn't delve too deeply into any of the topics covered. Rather, it inspires a way of thinking about the overarching ideas. Short but good read. This was a very nice read. It doesn't delve too deeply into any of the topics covered. Rather, it inspires a way of thinking about the overarching ideas. Short but good read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    DJ

    Fascinating I really enjoyed this very quick read - it provided a great look forward to the future of AI and the similarities between how the brain works and how computers work.

  20. 5 out of 5

    joshua bremer

    Eh A very quick read, kind of slow and scattered, but nothing new or insightful. I'm glad I got it for free. Eh A very quick read, kind of slow and scattered, but nothing new or insightful. I'm glad I got it for free.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Héctor Corro

    Excellent, so simple and clear The easiest way to read an incredible introduction into the AI world, 3 great components describe as clear as water. Terrific !!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bonnye Reed

    DigitalBookSpot

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sal Leggio

    Quite superficial

  24. 4 out of 5

    Trung

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mattias Leino

  26. 5 out of 5

    Adam Bliven

  27. 5 out of 5

    Eduardo Barraza

  28. 4 out of 5

    Juan Pablo H. Domínguez

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alexi Choueiri

  30. 5 out of 5

    Wesley P Ewanchyna

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