Roger Penrose - The New Mind of the King

This book became a kind of discovery for me. But first, a little bit of "poetry". =)

It just so happened that I love complex reading material. However, one should be very careful in this regard, as "complex reading material" can be at the level of Coelho (may all his fans forgive me, but it is difficult (for me) to find another bright example), or it can be something that truly changes you, for the better, towards less entropy (this was said under the impression of the book by Penrose). So what is the difference?

Let's start with the fact that the world around us is complex. Incredibly complex. Those who do not see/do not want to see/deny it - are either "not mature enough" or will never mature. But, as always, there is another side to the coin. Many people have started to realize, intuitively feel/understand what was written above, but it did not inspire them, on the contrary - it scared them and stopped them. And then the most interesting part begins. On the one hand, such a person has taken a step towards enlightenment, on the other hand - this step is very small, so small that it is enough only to understand that self-improvement and the understanding of the world is a good thing (although this too means a lot). And here begins the tragedy. But let's talk about the essence of this tragedy a little later.

The result of reading The Emperor's New Mind by Roger Penrose was somewhat unexpected. Usually, when reading, the essence and the main idea matter, but here the author tried (practically in every line) to make the reader think. The main idea is somewhat controversial, it lies in the field of so-called "fringe science", and, by the way, I do not accept it. But it is reserved for about the last 20 pages. The main part is about the current understanding of the Universe by humanity (although in some places the accents are placed slightly differently than in classical interpretations).

I was very interested in the fact that Penrose talked about three (at least) modern research directions that I have been involved in/am involved in (physics, mathematics, programming) + a little introduction to neurophysiology.

The author allows the reader to deeply understand the concept of Turing machines, the problem of Hilbert, touches on set theory, the problems of determinism and computability, classical and quantum physics, and the theory of relativity, and much more.

About key positions and ideas, or just what was new or seemed elegant to me:

1. The author is a staunch opponent of the so-called theory of Strong AI (in short, the theory of Strong AI assumes the possibility of creating a self-conscious machine using only algorithms, or, in other words, asserts that our brain is just a very powerful computational device).

In fact, it is very difficult to say anything about this. On the one hand, modern computing machines look very smart, neural networks have not yet reached their peak of development (there is huge potential for growth), and the Turing test will be passed very soon (I would like to believe that). So why not? But the cornerstone here remains the question of self-consciousness. Where did it come from? What is the driving force?

2. The problems of computability and determinism are interestingly presented in both classical and quantum physics. Mechanics is deterministic, but not computable; the U-procedure of quantum mechanics (the evolution by the Schrödinger equation, for example) is deterministic, the R-procedure (wave-function collapse) is random. A hypothesis is proposed to explain the nature of the R-procedure + the so-called "one-graviton criterion" is proposed - but all this looks very unconvincing.

3. The second law of thermodynamics, the evolution of the Universe, the source of low entropy in the Universe, the temporal asymmetries in the laws of physics (and there are not many of them, which is surprising) are excellently described.

4. The functioning of the brain, which is very difficult for me to judge (since I am far from this field of knowledge), but the influence of the R-procedure on our consciousness looks very fantastic, although not groundless.

5. Thinking. Penrose shares his life experience, talks about enlightenments and inspirations. It has always been interesting to me how other people think, and undoubtedly, the experience of such a significant person is also very interesting.

In fact, the book contains many more interesting moments, and one note is not enough to cover them all.

But you probably already have some idea about the book and whether it is worth reading.

Let's get back to the tragedy and "complex reading material". As I mentioned earlier, the world is complex. But the paradox is (this theme was indirectly touched upon in The Emperor's New Mind as well) that despite this complexity, the better you understand something, the better you are able to explain it in simple words. This is the difference between Coelho (yes, I understand that this is still fiction, but still!) and Penrose (or Hawking, for example). The latter try not to complicate understanding (to make the reading seem more "clever", "sophisticated", etc.), but on the contrary, they try to express their ideas as simply as possible. Yes, a technically illiterate person will not read Penrose (Maxwell's equations, wave equation, and equations of Hamiltonian mechanics are probably the most complex I found there, and they were easy to understand, but some background is required for comprehension).

There is no need to complicate things where it is not necessary, just to use the word "vector" in all suitable and unsuitable cases, or any other word, to appear smart. It is better to truly delve into the subject.

P.S. I'm not sure if there is any point in such comments, so please click Like or Dislike at the bottom right - it will help me determine if anyone is interested in this kind of topics at all. Your votes will help me identify the most relevant topics and I will develop them further.