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Literature & Fiction

Rating: 3.5 / 5.0 (11 votes)

Released: 1996-09-05

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How Brains Think: Evolving Intelligence, Then And Now (Science Masters) by William H. Calvin

Description

If you’re good at finding the one right answer to life’s multiple-choice questions, you’re ”smart.” But ”intelligence” is what you need when contemplating the leftovers in the refrigerator, trying to figure out what might go with them; or if you’re trying to speak a sentence that you’ve never spoken before. As Jean Piaget said, intelligence is what you use when you don’t know what to do, when all the standard answers are inadequate. This book tries to fathom how our inner life evolves from one topic to another, as we create and reject alternatives. Ever since Darwin, we’ve known that elegant things can emerge (indeed, self-organize) from ”simpler” beginnings. And, says theoretical neurophysiologist William H. Calvin, the bootstrapping of new ideas works much like the immune response or the evolution of a new animal species—except that the brain can turn the Darwinian crank a lot faster, on the time scale of thought and action. Drawing on anthropology, evolutionary biology, linguistics, and the neurosciences, Calvin also considers how a more intelligent brain developed using slow biological improvements over the last few million years. Long ago, evolving jack-of-all trades versatility was encouraged by abrupt climate changes. Now, evolving intelligence uses a nonbiological track: augmenting human intelligence and building intelligent machines.


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Editorial Review

William Calvin, a neurophysiologist and author of The River That Flows Uphill: A Journey from the Big Bang to the Big Brain, attempts to reclaim the study of human consciousness from physicists like Roger Penrose. Physicists, Calvin suggests, reduce the mind to subatomic particles and mathematical equations, whereas those in his specialty see the seat of consciousness and intelligence in higher levels of brain physiology–the neurons, synapses, and cortex. Calvin is a Darwinist who regards the unique level of human consciousness as the product of evolutionary forces that began with the ice ages two million years ago. The human response to this natural threat, he argues, was to develop mental faculties that allowed high-level communication and, thus, cooperation, leading to complex language capabilities and the distinguishing human characteristic of abstract thought.

Book Details

Author: William H. Calvin Publisher: Basic Books Binding: Hardcover Language: English Pages: 192


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