The Making of the Memory

The Making of the Memory book coverThe Making of Memory by Steven Rose

This is not a book on consciousness but there is no doubt that memory is a fundamental component of mind. That’s the reason why I am also interested in the research of memory in mammals and that’s why I read this book by Steven Rose: The Making of Memory. From Molecules to Mind. (ISBN: 0099449986. 1992. Actually my copy is a revised edition published by Vintage in 2003).

As the title suggests, Rose offers a scientific review of current advances in the study of the processes of memory at the biochemical, physiological, and cognitive levels. However, one has to take into account that this is not a cognitive science book, and the strength is given in the realms of biochemistry and physiology. The book is to a great extend a biography of Rose’s research career, which I believe is a good strategy to introduce the world of biochemical research to the reader. For those whose field of research is not related with biology or physiology labs (like me) the book provides a good insight about how things are done, what animals and methods are used, and finally how science knowledge is obtained out of these sort of scientific research. Additionally, Rose makes an interlude in chapter 13, where he describes from his own experience how the social aspects of science and scientific community dynamics interact in the whole process of research, bringing to light the back-stage issues constantly present in the life of a scientific researcher.

This book is a great opportunity to discover the great complexity of the brain when you look at it from the point of view of biological processes that take place at the levels of description studied by biochemistry (composition), physiology (dynamics), and to a lesser extend psychology (cognitive functions). If you are interested in neurosciences, you’ll have fun reading this book.

I Am a Strange Loop

I Am A Strange Loop book coverI Am A Strange Loop by Douglas Hofstadter.

As the theory about consciousness proposed by Douglas Hofstadter was being discussed here in forums and elsewhere, I decided to challenge again my genuinely engineering and scientific intellect with another dangerous incursion into philosophy. Being a researcher in the field of consciousness this is actually a must, given the multidisciplinary nature of the study of consciousness.

Anyhow, I am to some extend an experienced reader of essays on philosophy of mind, and I’ve been surprised by the style and content of I am Strange Loop Book.

Even for those who are not interested in the problem of consciousness, but have some interest in computation, mathematics and logic, the first chapters of the book could be of great value. Hofstadter present in these first chapters some amazing (and easy to understand) mathematical concepts. Also, Russell and Whitehead’s Principa Mathematica are discussed under the view of Gödel achievements. Gödel’s incompleteness theorems and their implications will be the core of Hofstadter’s theory for consciousness.

To be honest, I must say that this was not an easy reading for me (partly because English is not my mother tongue and partly because of the more or less 400 pages, which sometimes I felt there were filled with too much musing). However, the way the book is written, which sometimes I would call an autobiography, helps the reader to understand the exact point that Hofstadter wants to communicate. The way the author reveals his intimate thoughts and feelings help the reader to understand how his arguments about consciousness can be assimilated from a personal point of view (specifically for those who don’t believe in any form of dualism). By the way, Hofstadter includes in the book some arguments and criticism against other philosophical ideas about consciousness. Dualism is particularly discussed under the light of the proposed theory and heavily criticized. In summary, Hofstadter tries to convey the reader a highly counterintuitive idea of consciousness by confronting it to his own personal feelings and other dualist approaches.

Sources of Consciousness

Sources of Consciousness book coverSources of Consciousness (Green, Triffet, 1997)

I haven’t read this book (yet), but I think it could be interesting to some extend as it tries to cover the biophysical and computational roots of consciousness. From a quick look at the index and some leaf through it seems that the authors are proposing a quantum mechanics explanation for consciousness (however, …

it doesn’t looks like the Orch-OR – Orchestrated Objective Reduction proposed by Hameroff and Penrose). Instead, they argue that the brain is like a quantal turing machine that processes information stored in a tape (memory). For them, perception is the instant action of gaining information, while awareness is the continuing aspect of acquiring the information from the quantal tape. Complementarily, the instant action of creating new information is identified with a decision, while volition is said to be the continuing aspect of the information creation process.

Book details:
Title: Sources of Consciousness. The Biophysical and Computational Basis of Thought.
Authors: H. S. Green and T. Triffet.
World Scientific Publishing. 1997.

The Cognitive Approach to Conscious Machines

The Cognitive Approach to Consciousn Machines book coverThe Cognitive Approach to Conscious Machines
by Pentti O. Haikonen
Principal Scientist, Cognitive Technology, Nokia Research
Imprint Academics. March 2003, 300 pp., ISBN 0907845428.

Review of the book ‘The Cognitive Approach to Conscious Machines’ by Pentti O. Haikonen, Principal Scientist, Cognitive Technology, Nokia Research.

The first thing to say about this book is that it is quite complete. For anyone interested in Machine Consciousness, this is an excellent resource as it covers virtually all open issues of this research field. The first part of the book is an introduction to computation, Artificial Intelligence and Neural Networks, so it is worth reading for those who don’t have a good background in Computer Science (even though if you are not particularly interested in Machine Consciousness).

The simple and direct writing style of the book makes it quite easy to read, even to the non-native English speaker (like me). It is actually amazing how the author manages to deal with lots of controversial and complicated issues with such a clarity and simplicity. After having read some other books on consciousness I have to say that this is the one that you can read and have the real feeling that you actually understand everything. But make no mistake; this apparent simplicity doesn’t imply that the author doesn’t approach the hard issues of Machine Consciousness. On the contrary, hard problems like the generation of speech are brilliantly tackled down and practical solutions are always explained.

Part II of the book is an introduction to consciousness and cognition, hard concepts that again are clearly introduced and explained. Part III of the book covers the author’s Machine Consciousness proposal, the cognitive architecture. I think that someone with a strong background in Computer Science (part I) and also in the scientific study of consciousness (part II) could skip parts I and II. However, I enjoyed reading them as they are presented from a particular straightforward point of view. Haikonen’s cognitive architecture described in part III of the book is something that anyone seriously interested in Machine Consciousness should read. I personally don’t know of any other framework that covers in such a broad range the problem of Machine Consciousness.

Finally the two last chapters are quite thought provoking and provide an insight of what the field of Machine Consciousness could lead us to in the future.


The Cognitive Approach to Conscious Machines

The Cognitive Approach to Conscious Machines

by Pentti O. Haikonen
Principal Scientist, Cognitive Technology, Nokia Research
Imprint Academics. March 2003, 300 pp., ISBN 0907845428.

“A fascinating presentation of various issues relating to the emulation of consciousness by a machine and its capabilities. The problems that confound the issues have been so clearly and precisely presented that even a beginner student will have no difficulty in getting at the meanings. For the undergraduates it will be a comprehensibly readable text.”  Metapsychology

“Recommended for serious researchers in modelling consciousness.”  Mitch Parsell, Psyche

“Well-written, approachable and relatively technical, laying down a comprehensive background before adding novel views on consciousness and the mind-body problem.” Research News and Opportunities in Science and Theology

Could a machine have an immaterial mind? The author argues that true conscious machines can be built, but rejects artificial intelligence and classical neural networks in favour of the emulation of the cognitive processes of the brain—the flow of inner speech, inner imagery and emotions. This results in a non-numeric meaning-processing machine with distributed information representation and system reactions. It is argued that this machine would be conscious; it would be aware of its own existence and its mental content and perceive this as immaterial.

Novel views on consciousness and the mind–body problem are presented. This book is a must for anyone interested in consciousness research and the latest ideas in the forthcoming technology of mind.

Searching for Spirit

Searching for Spirit.
Searching for Truth about Mind and Morality.

Where IS your mind? Is your mind located somewhere in your brain? Does your brain create your mind? If the answer to these questions is yes, the belief held by many religions that there is life after death is false. If the answer to these questions is yes, then morality is a product of the functioning of a brain, and the belief that there is an absolute morality is false.

Searching for Spirit is a quest to discover the true nature of both mind and morality written by C.R. Lind.


Robot Brains: Circuits and Systems for Conscious Machines

Robot Brains: Circuits and Systems for Conscious Machines

by Pentti O. Haikonen

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

Haikonen envisions autonomous robots that perceive and understand the world directly, acting in it in a natural human-like way without the need of programs and numerical representation of information. By developing higher-level cognitive functions through the power of artificial associative neuron architectures, the author approaches the issues of machine consciousness.

Robot Brains expertly outlines a complete system approach to cognitive machines, offering practical design guidelines for the creation of non-numeric autonomous creative machines. It details topics such as component parts and realization principles, so that different pieces may be implemented in hardware or software. Real-world examples for designers and researchers are provided, including circuit and systems examples that few books on this topic give.

In novel technical and practical detail, this book also considers:

  • the limitations and remedies of traditional neural associators in creating true machine cognition;
    basic circuit assemblies cognitive neural architectures;
  • how motors can be interfaced with the associative neural system in order for fluent motion to be achieved without numeric computations;
  • memorization, imagination, planning and reasoning in the machine;
  • the concept of machine emotions for motivation and value systems;
  • an approach towards the use and understanding of natural language in robots.

The methods presented in this book have important implications for computer vision, signal processing, speech recognition and other information technology fields. Systematic and thoroughly logical, it will appeal to practising engineers involved in the development and design of robots and cognitive machines, also researchers in Artificial Intelligence. Postgraduate students in computational neuroscience and robotics, and neuromorphic engineers will find it an exciting source of information.

Baars (1988) A Cognitive Theory of Consciousness

By Bernard J. Baars
Published 1988
Cambridge University
448 pages
ISBN 0521427436

Conscious experience is one of the most difficult and thorny problems in psychological science. Its study has been neglected for many years, either because it was thought to be too difficult, or because the relevant evidence was thought to be poor. Bernard Baars suggests a way to specify empirical constraints on a theory of consciousness by contrasting well-established conscious phenomena – such as stimulus representations known to be attended, perceptual, and informative – with closely comparable unconscious ones – such as stimulus representations known to be preperceptual, unattended, or habituated. Adducing data to show that consciousness is associated with a kind of global workplace in the nervous system, and that several brain structures are known to behave in accordance with his theory, Baars helps to clarify many difficult problems.

Dennett (1992) Consciousness Explained

Consciousness ExplainedPaperback: 528 pages
Publisher: Back Bay Books (October 20, 1992)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316180661
ISBN-13: 978-0316180665

Editorial Reviews (from
Consciousness is notoriously difficult to explain. On one hand, there are facts about conscious experience–the way clarinets sound, the way lemonade tastes–that we know subjectively, from the inside. On the other hand, such facts are not readily accommodated in the objective world described by science. How, after all, could the reediness of clarinets or the tartness of lemonade be predicted in advance? Central to Daniel C. Dennett’s attempt to resolve this dilemma is the “heterophenomenological” method, which treats reports of introspection nontraditionally–not as evidence to be used in explaining consciousness, but as data to be explained. Using this method, Dennett argues against the myth of the Cartesian theater–the idea that consciousness can be precisely located in space or in time. To replace the Cartesian theater, he introduces his own multiple drafts model of consciousness, in which the mind is a bubbling congeries of unsupervised parallel processing. Finally, Dennett tackles the conventional philosophical questions about consciousness, taking issue not only with the traditional answers but also with the traditional methodology by which they were reached.
Dennett’s writing, while always serious, is never solemn; who would have thought that combining philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience could be such fun? Not every reader will be convinced that Dennett has succeeded in explaining consciousness; many will feel that his account fails to capture essential features of conscious experience. But none will want to deny that the attempt was well worth making. –Glenn Branch

Holland (2003) Machine Consciousness

Vista previa del libroAutor Owen Holland
publicado 2003
Imprint Academic
250 páginas
ISBN 090784524X


Can a machine really have feelings? Well, even a humble thermostat knows when it gets too hot — and can do something about it. But can a machine think? Does it have a personality? How would you know? In this collection of essays we hear from an international array of computer and brain scientists who are actively working from both the machine and human ends of things to bridge the gap between the mind and the machine.