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Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic…
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Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist (edition 2012)

by Christof Koch

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
553214,390 (3.89)2
steve.clason's review
Christof Koch was in on consciousness research almost from the very moment it became a legitimate area of scientific endeavor, and was Francis Crick's collaborator and confidante from the late '80s until Crick's death in 2004, after Crick changed his scientific focus from molecular biology to neuroscience. That is to say, he knows what he's talking about.

Close to the end of this book, Koch writes:

“I was driven to write this book for a trifecta of reasons—to describe my quest for the material roots of consciousness, to come to terms with my personal failings, and to bring my search for a unifying view of the universe and my role in it that does justice to both chance and necessity to a satisfactory conclusion.”

He succeeds a little in each of his three endeavors, none of them spectacularly and I wasn't particularly interested in one of them, but the book is short, easy to read (with some perplexing asides), and intellectually rich. Koch describes his loss of faith in a personal God and mentions some intellectual compatibility with "some strands of Buddhism" but sadly doesn't pursue what may have been the most interesting thing he had to say.

If you're interested in the science, The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach
will be a better bet, but if you like a little mild confession with your science this isn't bad.

SPOILER: Koch believes Consciousness is neither epiphenomenon nor emergent property, but “a fundamental property of living matter.” ( )
1 vote steve.clason | Apr 26, 2012 |
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Part personal memoir, part popularization of science, and part philosophical speculation on the mind/body problem, Christoff Koch has written a deeply personal and profound book on understanding the brain and the life he has lead pursuing that goal. Truthfully, I wish he had given us more details on the science and philosophy, but what is there is provocative and on the leading edge. His personal anecdotes were endearing and sheds light on his character in a, sometimes too transparent, way as he lets us into his most personal trials and tribulations and how he always leads back to his life's driving force, understanding the brain. The most surprising, pleasantly so, part of the book is his acknowledgement of Piere Teilhard de Chardin's ideas and the open minded discussions on qualia and the so-called hard problem of consciousness. In this regard, I was relieved to see my own views and thoughts on the subject be vindicated by an eminent scientist who has come to similar conclusions. Overall a fun and quick read, not too detailed, wish there were more sections on Tononi's IIT, but it is still early days for that and it's understandable. ( )
  haig51 | Oct 13, 2012 |
A modest-sized, informal, personal memoir by the neuroscientist who worked on the neural correlates of consciousness with Francis Crick until the latter's death. Most notably, in my view, he comes out in favor of a quantitative brand of panpsychism ("integrated information theory" -- Wikipedia article has links to technical papers), saying that consciousness is not an emergent property (of highly complex brains) but rather is a fundamental attribute of all organized systems of matter -- from the largest structures in the universe, through brains, through human-built devices such as computers, all the way down to protons and neutrons. The more complex the system, the higher the degree of consciousness. In this view, mind uploading would be possible in principle, since "consciousness is substrate-independent." Koch says his position is one of substance dualism but not of Cartesian dualism -- a mind requires *some* substrate to reside on; it can't float "ethereally". No supernaturalism is involved.
  fpagan | Oct 4, 2012 |
Christof Koch was in on consciousness research almost from the very moment it became a legitimate area of scientific endeavor, and was Francis Crick's collaborator and confidante from the late '80s until Crick's death in 2004, after Crick changed his scientific focus from molecular biology to neuroscience. That is to say, he knows what he's talking about.

Close to the end of this book, Koch writes:

“I was driven to write this book for a trifecta of reasons—to describe my quest for the material roots of consciousness, to come to terms with my personal failings, and to bring my search for a unifying view of the universe and my role in it that does justice to both chance and necessity to a satisfactory conclusion.”

He succeeds a little in each of his three endeavors, none of them spectacularly and I wasn't particularly interested in one of them, but the book is short, easy to read (with some perplexing asides), and intellectually rich. Koch describes his loss of faith in a personal God and mentions some intellectual compatibility with "some strands of Buddhism" but sadly doesn't pursue what may have been the most interesting thing he had to say.

If you're interested in the science, The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach
will be a better bet, but if you like a little mild confession with your science this isn't bad.

SPOILER: Koch believes Consciousness is neither epiphenomenon nor emergent property, but “a fundamental property of living matter.” ( )
1 vote steve.clason | Apr 26, 2012 |
Showing 3 of 3

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