A book written by our own–David Gelernter, professor of computer science.
The Tides of Mind: Uncovering the Spectrum of Consciousness
For nearly a century psychologists and scientists have tried to understand and replicate both human thought and the human mind. It’s what attracted computer scientist and artificial intelligence authority David Gelernter to the discipline. As a student and young researcher in the 1980s, Gelernter hoped to build a program with a “dial” marked “focus.” At maximum focus, the program would “think” rationally. As the dial was turned down and focus diminished, its “mind” would start to wander, and eventually this artificial mind would start to free-associate, eventually ignoring the user completely as it fell to “sleep.”
While the program was a only a partial success, it laid the foundation for “The Tides of Mind,” a new exploration of the human psyche that shows how the purpose of the mind changes throughout the day. When we are at our most alert, when reasoning and creating new memories is the mind’s primary function, the mind is a computer-like machine that keeps emotion on a short leash and attention on our surroundings. As we gradually tire, however, and descend the “mental spectrum,” reasoning deteriorates. Memory ranges more freely, the mind wanders, and daydreams grow more insistent. Self-awareness fades, reflection is extinguished, and we are completely immersed in our own minds.
This book helps decode some of the wonders of the human mind, such as the numinous light of early childhood, why dreams are so often predictive, and why sadism and masochism underpin some of our greatest artistic achievements. It’s a theory that also challenges the notion of the mind as a machine — and not through empirical studies or “hard science” but by listening to great poets and novelists, who, the author contends, have proven themselves as humanity’s most trusted guides to the subjective mind and inner self.