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A Collective Super-Mind

Ogas and Gaddam’s tour of the evolution of minds starts with the first cells on Earth and continues from flatworms to insects, reptiles and mammals. Along the way, biological brains amass sophisticated functions and capabilities, from navigation to memory, pattern recognition and sociality. The story doesn’t end with humans: the authors argue that civilizations represent a kind of collective super-mind, augmented with wholly artificial AI minds. The narrative is enjoyable and illuminating, but it is flawed by a failure to separate fact from speculation.


31 reads


Expectation and Experience

A rat finding food in a maze breaks down a visual scene into component features of edges, foreground and so on. And there’s more: the rat mind holds a complex internal representation of the world against which to compare sensory input; it is constantly checking this inner map. The authors lean he...


21 reads

Unedifying Metaphors

There is more than a hint that evolution is striving to a particular end in Ogas and Gaddam’s suggestion that, once early single-celled organisms acquired the ability to sense and move, “the royal road to consciousness beckoned”.

The authors deploy some unedifying metaphors to tell their ta...


18 reads


Ogas and Gaddam take a very broad view of mind as “a physical system that converts sensations into action”. At face value, this grants a mind to thermostats and robots as much as to living entities. “A mind responds. A mind transforms. A mind acts,” they write. But the same is true of many machin...


23 reads

An Admirable Survey

The book offers an admirable survey of how minds might comprise modules that control simple operations, which are combined to solve complex problems of survival. For instance, a bacterium can move towards food sources thanks to motor systems that switch between directional swimming and random tum...


25 reads


Many assertions go beyond the facts. The discussion of consciousness rests on the belief that the problem has been solved by cognitive scientist Stephen Grossberg (whom the authors thank for “guidance and support”). Since the late 1960s, Grossberg has developed the idea that consciousness arises ...


21 reads

All the Answers

They present consciousness as a phenomenon of information exchange in the brain, positing that awareness simply ‘ignites’ once certain criteria in the interaction of brain circuits are satisfied. Their corollary is that this would apply to any information-processing circuits with the correct arch...


18 reads

Bacterial Behaviours

Even bacteria are not the simple automata portrayed here; other researchers describe bacterial behaviours in the language of cognition. The structure of a progression from the seemingly simple minds of bacteria and amoebas to the complex ones of primates makes narrative sense, but recalls the out...


16 reads

Informative & Entertaining

And they trivialize a pivotal social moment when they compare the mind’s attentive focus to the media presentation of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020.

There is plenty to like in Journey of the Mind. It is so often informative and entertaining that it feels mean to cavil. B...


24 reads

Global Workspace Theory

Grossberg’s theory is provocative and stimulating, but, couched in the abstract mathematical framework of dynamical systems theory, it remains contingent on his supposition that “all conscious states are resonant states”. I’m not convinced it amounts to the revolution that the authors assert. The...


16 reads

Other Instances

There are other instances in which they present contentious ideas with certainty. For all of the minds they discuss, much remains open. They write that birds didn’t develop language “because they don’t have hands”, but in fact it’s still debated whether gestures helped lead to the origin of langu...


16 reads

A tour of the evolution of minds

A tour of the evolution of minds

An informative guide takes in archaea, birds, primates and more — overconfidently.

Look through a microscope at a macrophage cell pursuing, engulfing and consuming a bacterium, and it is hard not to impose a narrative: one is trying to catch the other, which is...


40 reads


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