Book Review: Robot Brains

Review
Robot Brains: Circuits and Systems for Conscious Machines

By Pentty Haikonen
Wiley. September 2007.
ISBN: 978-0-470-06204-3

The first thing that I would like to say about this book is that this is one of the few cases in which the exiting title of the book is not just a catchy slogan that has little to do with the real content. I must admit that when I read for the first time such an amazing title I never thought about really finding inside real circuit designs for conscious machines. However, after having read the entire book (I had had a look to some chapters earlier but never had the time to go through it from the first page to the last) there is no way I can deny that this book is really providing a design of a possible conscious machine. Of course, this claim has to be put in context. In one hand, the term conscious machine does not necessarily refer to human-like machines; on the other hand, there would not be enough space in one book to describe in deep details such a complex machine. So what we have here is a rather complete description of the Haikonen cognitive architecture for conscious machines, alongside with a proposal for its implementation using uncomplicated circuits.

Another point that I inferred from the title of the book is that you really need advanced knowledge of electronics and analog and digital circuit design in order to understand author’s proposals. Again, I was wrong, as anyone with basic notions of electronics can understand the circuits and schemes described in the book. It is amazing how some cognitive processes that are presumed quite complex to imitate in artificial machinery are addressed with fairly simple designs.

In conclusion, I think this book is a must for anyone interested in the branch of Machine Consciousness or Strong AI in general. The Haikonen cognitive architecture provides many fascinating ideas for currently challenging issues like artificial emotions, imagination, and language understanding and production. There is only one thing I miss about this book: a real implementation of the proposed architecture in a physical robot. But I guess that would require a big budget.

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