Letting the rest of the world go by
You get two things with this book. You get an incredible interesting exposition on the workings of the mind (consciousness) and a narrative that ties that story together by showing how mirror neurons almost certainly aren't what you thought they were.
The author does not reject the existence of mirror neurons in humans, but he does poke holes in most of what you probably have been told about them in a host of other books and articles. He gives very nuanced arguments to how the available data doesn't always mean what mirror neuron experts say they do. The author is an expert in the understanding of how we communicate. He'll delve into the "motor theory of speech" and how that deservedly fell out of disrepute over time and was resurrected only because that gave mirror neurons such a central role. The results of various experiments supporting that hypothesis are not always best explained by the ways mirror neuron advocates claim and sometimes they ignore the better explanations.
This is a real strength of the book. While showing how better explanations for the experiments and data are available which don't excessively rely on mirror neurons the author never shies way from educating the listener on the embodied processes of thinking.
I love neuroscience and books about the workings of the mind and human behavior. While reading such books, mirror neurons kept popping up in sections of those books, but over time, I started to realize that the advocates for the magical workings of the mirror neurons did not always make sense and there seemed to be better explanations available. This book tells me why my caution radar was beeping.
I'm sure a lot of experts in the field probably hate this book, but I can recommend this book because it will teach the listener to be cautious about mirror neuron claims, and help the listener learn a little bit more about the way the brain works without overwhelming the listener with too many names of brain parts which I only end up forgetting.
The meaning of consciousness is no longer completely inaccessible to me after reading this book. It's starting to make sense to me. The author does an excellent job of reviewing what is only recently becoming known about the field. He explains difficult concepts wonderfully and uses some of the best analogies I've heard.
The author looks at the relevant philosophy, evolution psychology and the recent neuroscience understandings to go a long way with explaining what is consciousness. He indirectly answers two question, 1) what is it about humans that make us different and 2) will computers ever think.
I've listened to about five or so books and even watched a Great Course lecture on this topic and this book is the first one that went beyond just claiming that the meaning of consciousness is unknowable, and after having read this book, I feel that I'm getting closer to its understanding. I enjoyed the other books, but this one makes me believe that people way smarter than me are getting close to answering those two questions and discovering the real nature of consciousness. .
You know you have a good narrator when you recognize his voice from another book you've read and loved. Mr. Dixon also read "The Beginning of Infinity" and my mind would go back to some passages in that book which were covering similar material. Nicely narrated.
The book gave me more reasons why humans are different from anything else known in the universe and how we got that way.
I've been looking for a book like this one which takes all the anomalies and traumas that have happened to individuals and weaves them all together in a coherent story about how our mind works and doesn't work. The mind is a wonderful thing to understand and this book goes a long way in helping me understand it.
The author has one of the best droll sense of humors I have ever come across while listening and he made me laugh out loud multiple times. The narrator really knew how to add the proper amount of drollness and added to the experience.
This is one of the few books where I lost something by listening instead of reading. I would get confused when he talked about some of the illustrations of the optical illusions under discussion and when he talks and names different areas of the brain, I would get lost and forget which region does what. Overall, even if I had read the book with the maps of the brain, I wouldn't have followed the names of the regions of the brain, but be warned, it does get very confusing while listening.