Monday, August 11, 2014

Facts for Fiction: The Future of the Mind

It's been a long time since I posted a Facts for Fiction article. (In fact, I think this is only the second time I used it.) However, even though I read a fair amount of non-fiction, I haven't come across any books I wanted to discuss until recently, when I read Michio Kaku's The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind.

Kaku's book is divided into three main sections: the mind and consciousness, mind over matter, and altered consciousness. The first section discusses ways to study the brain and provides a working definition of consciousness. According to Kaku, "consciousness is the process of creating a model of the world using multiple feedback loops in various parameters (e.g., in temperature, space, time, and in relation to others), in order to accomplish a goal (e.g., find mates, food, shelter)." There are various levels of consciousness, with animals less able to model the world (in particular, the future), than humans. Having established this, Kaku then goes on to discuss scientifically valid ways in which telepathy, telekinesis, memory creation/manipulation, and intelligence enhancement can be accomplished. Finally, he covers even more exotic subjects such as mind control, artificial minds, minds made of energy, and alien minds. There is also an appendix on quantum consciousness, which is something I make indirect use of in the Catalyst Chronicles. Alas, Paul's and Julia's Catalyst abilities aren't considered scientifically plausible, though I can't change them at this point in the series.

Kaku provides clear explanations for how the various therapies and enhancements might work, and he does touch on some of the legal and ethical questions that might arise from them. I don't think he works through the implications of all his topics equally. For instance, he mentions that a mind without outside stimulation (for example, a mind duplicated on a computer) would eventually go insane. However, this doesn't seem to be an issue for energy minds. Perhaps this is meant as an exercise for the science fiction writer. He also talks about what characteristics might give rise to an alien intelligence. For example, he mentions that predator species tend to be more intelligent than prey species. I admit I feel a bit challenged to come up with an intelligent prey species, perhaps one that had to evolve to keep up with its predator. (The Sparrow might be a good example of a dual alien race society.) All in all, however, I recommend this book to any science fiction writer interested in learning how our minds, robots, aliens, or any type of intelligence might evolve or by affected by technology.

1 comment:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Could've used that when writing my current manuscript.

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