Friday, August 15, 2008

Book Fail: The Emperor's New Mind

I give up. I've been reading this book since June - which for me is almost a record for how long it's taken to read a book - and I've finally decided to throw in the towel. On paper, "The Emperor's New Mind" by mathematician and physicist Dr. Sir Roger Penrose (insert the rest of the letters in the alphabet here) is something I'm heavily susceptible to enjoying.

In practice, it's mindbogglingly boring. Even though I consider myself to be rather mathematically inclined, I found this book to be a struggle. Not wanting to leave any reader behind, the author has set the bar quite low with respect to prerequisite math knowledge, and instead opted to introduce what i suspect is a rather steep learning curve for his intended audience as the book progresses. Thus, the book is well-stocked with DIY Mandelbrot sets and other math puzzles, and concomitant pages filled with nothing but numbers corresponding to the answers to reader exercises.

Not what I signed up for. I read two-three pages, and have to switch to something else out of sheer boredom. I liked the section on entropy and the laws of thermodynamics, though.

As a side note, I noticed one serious bug in the Turing test after reading this book. As far as I can tell, Alan Turing was kinda' vague on the criteria the human subject has to pass. Specifically, the test appears ill-suited to tackle particularly pedantic, inanimate and humourless individuals, resulting in under-shooting the intended criteria. To put it differently; if Martin Kolberg had been the human subject, our electronic bathroom scale could have found to be Turing compliant.

No comments: