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Book Review

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The Future of the Mind


Author: Michio Kaku
Publisher: Penguin
RRP: £9.99
ISBN: 978 0 141 97587 0
Publication Date: 24 February 2015

The human mind is one of the most complex constructions we know of and whilst we can explore, in a limited way, the universe around us we still know little about our most important asset. From a few pounds of interconnected neurons the human race has created equal parts beauty and horror. With the advent of the MRI and similar devices the brain is slowly giving up some of its secrets...

The Future of the Mind (2014. 377 Pages) is an examination of our current understanding of the brain and the wonderful possibilities which might exist. The book is written by theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, author of numerous academic papers and promoter of science, who has appeared many times on the television.

Taking the perspective of a physicist, Kaku give a very accessible insight. Starting with the growth of knowledge which the creation of the MRI, EEG, PET, CAT, TCM TES and DBS, all advances which have allowed us a greater depth of understanding, for anyone interested in this sort of thing, there is little new, but Kaku is laying out some complex discoveries and idea in a people friendly way, with a use of examples, throughout the book, to ground the reader in information they are already aware of.

In part two of the book, Kaku proceeds to examine some of the aspects of the brain's functioning, both realistic and fictional, which his readers may wish to explore. He examines in turn, telepathy, telekinesis and the enhancement of our intelligence. Rather than just debunking the whole idea that these things may exist, Kaku goes through the ways in which they do exist in the present and the limitations which real physics puts on the development of these abilities. For instance telepathy is not wholly impossible, the problem is that the signal which the brain gives out, it is after all just a billion electrical signals, the power level is so low that it degrades to nothing very quickly.

That said, it does open up the possibility of recording dreams, memories and possibly even whole personalities. Already artificial limbs are being controlled by the brain and we have reached a stage of being, albeit in a very primitive way, of recording what people are thinking. As we gain more knowledge on how the brain represents information, it also brings the possibility of directly implanting information, or giving people full access to their memories.

The last section of the book looks to the possibilities of the far future. Already there are three international projects which aim to map the brain, small tiny steps into a future full of possibilities. With time we may be able to make copies of ourselves, or inhabit artificial bodies, Sheldon would be delighted.

The writing is very assessable and does not presume previous knowledge; it is resplendent with example from both fiction and the real world to deconstruct difficult ideas into easily digestible pieces as Kaku takes the reader to the very edge of human knowledge.


Charles Packer

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