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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Book Review: Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith (audio)

I do like books about science but occasionally they can be a bit of a slog, so I like them especially on audio. While I might get a little lost, it's just easier to have someone else reading the book to me. This one, however, I found quite compelling.

Mr. Godfrey-Smith uses an octopus to explore neurology, how brains work, what we don't understand about brains and therefore about consciousness, and how much that means we don't understand of ourselves. He is a philosopher and so that's his angle, but I think luckily, he didn't dwell on that and kept the focus mostly on octopuses (not octopi) and brains. And why not as those are two truly fascinating things.

For example, only half of an octopus's brain is in its head. The other half is in its arms. It can think with its arms. How? We don't know. Illustrating how little we actually know about how thinking works. Also, octopuses can change color. They often change color to blend in with their surroundings. But, as far as we can tell, they are color blind. Since they're not magic, obviously we humans don't fully understand how octopuses understand color, showing yet another deficiency in our understanding of how brains and thinking works. If we understand this little about how octopus brains work, might we also maybe not fully understand how human brains work?

It's a truly interesting book filled with bizarre facts (Octopuses have no fixed body shape! Which means they can squeeze through a hole as small as their eyeball. See one do that here.) And a book that really makes you think about... how we think. I mean not the philosophical how but the physical, chemical how.

I downloaded this eaudiobook through by library via Overdrive. This book is published by Macmillan, my employer.

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