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How to Create a Mind summary

Ray Kurzweil

The Secret of Human Thought Revealed

4.4 (151 ratings)
16 mins
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    How to Create a Mind
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    The human brain stores information in a strict, orderly fashion.

    Memory is a curious thing. You might not think about an event for what seems like years, but a small, sudden detail – like the smell of your grandma’s cookies – brings a moment back with amazing clarity.

    Interestingly, this phenomenon tells us a lot about how information is organized in the brain.

    The brain stores and organizes information according to patterns. Think, for example, of the last time you were walking down a sidewalk. How many details can you remember of this trip? Could you describe even a single person who might have passed you by?

    Such common details can be hard to visualize. However, with the help of certain techniques, a sequence of memories can be coaxed back.

    Police sketch artists, for example, show a person a collection of varying facial features to help trigger and recover memories. Because the brain stores information as a sequence of patterns, seeing a similar set of eyebrows could help a person recall the rest – in this case, a face.

    Triggers like this occur all the time. The things you see, smell or otherwise experience with your senses (like grandma’s cookies) can unlock memories from ages ago.

    Countless memory techniques are based on this pattern principle: if you can get your hands on just one piece of a pattern, the rest of the sequence will reveal itself.

    Some simple thought experiments show exactly how the brain retrieves information.

    You can no doubt recite the alphabet. But can you say it backwards? In theory, this should be a simple task. Your brain has all the information it needs, stored away somewhere. However, accessing that information any other way than from A to Z is challenging!

    Similarly, it’s difficult to play a piece of music you’ve memorized if you start not at the beginning but at some point in the middle. This is because the brain stores information in sequential order. Thus starting out of order feels “unnatural,” and the brain struggles to put the pieces together.

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    What is How to Create a Mind about?

    How to Create a Mind (2012) offers an intimate examination of the nuts and bolts behind how the brain works. Once we understand exactly how people think, perceive the world and decide to take action, the creation of true artificial intelligence seems a possibility that’s just around the corner.

    Best quote from How to Create a Mind

    Human beings have only a weak ability to process logic, but a very deep core capability of recognizing patterns.

    —Ray Kurzweil
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    Who should read How to Create a Mind?

    • Anyone interested in artificial intelligence (AI)
    • People who’d like to learn more about neuroscience
    • Students considering a career in advanced computing

    About the Author

    Ray Kurzweil is a pioneering technological futurist as well as a prolific inventor, including groundbreaking work in speech recognition software. His books include the bestseller The Singularity is Near and The Age of Spiritual Machines.

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