Re: Recent Readings of List Members

Anders Sandberg (
04 Jan 1999 17:11:50 +0100

christophe delriviere <> writes:

> During my trip in the library i've noticed the existence of a spanish book
> called "El Aleph" but I can't remember the name of the author and i understand
> nothing in spanish anyway... Anders ;)?

Borges. I recommend his stories, they are lovely mindbending stuff. Very much like M.C. Escher.

> I've just looked at the comments about Zen and the Brain on to know
> what is it about...
> And well...I'm rather tempted ;)
> Do you think it's worth to buy for somebody with absolutely no background in
> neuroscience ?
> I should add that my brain is more trained at things like mathematics and I
> feel that neuroscience could be a very difficult subject to grasp for me,
> having a *very* poor memory (I think)
> Stardrive9 ;) ? Anders ?

Well, it took me 6 months to finish Zen and the Brain, with occasional long sittings (on the bus, on airplanes, in the Grand Canyon - my copy even has a faint red tint due to the sandstone dust) and usually a few short chapters each week. It takes time to read and think about, but it is worth it. I finished it, symbolically, on New Years Eve.

It is rather heavy on the neuroscience, but not technical. Austin has some fairly nice introductions to various systems, both the elementary stuff about neurons and how the brain works, and some of the more thrilling subsystems like the brainstem nuclei. I learned a lot. I think you could read the book, especially if you at the same time read some intro to neuroscience or neuropsychology - I really recommend Biological Psychology by Kalat, definitely a book that should be on transhumanist reading lists.

Much of the book is about what Zen is (a rather tricky question), how it has developed, what it does and what the author has experienced. Very beautifully written in places. The parts where he becomes less excellent are where he discuss things he haven't experienced firsthand or haven't got solid scientific grounding (like the discussions of ongoing enlightenment), but overall, Austin does a good job. It is tough going and a long climb, but the view is grand.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y