REVIEW: The Deep History of Ourselves

A leading neuroscientist offers a history of the evolution of the brain from unicellular organisms to the complexity of animals and human beings today

LeDoux’s The Deep History of Ourselves is a broad and careful examination of the complex genesis of human consciousness. It begins 4 billion years ago by detailing the emergence of earth’s simplest forms of life, and proceeds gradually, over its 66 short pithy chapters, to guide the reader forward, explaining in great detail, the vast biological complexity we humans have inherited. I can now say with relative assurance that I fully comprehend the important differences between Protostomes and Deuterostomes!

Joseph E. LeDoux

It’s timely, technically current, and one learns a lot of what has been discovered (and disputed) in the last few decades.

In chapter 42 Cognition, LeDoux makes a rather curious and defensive argument that AI will never achieve human-like consciousness.

“My view is thus that cognition is a product of biological evolution, and as such, requires biological information processing.”

Perhaps his view will ultimately be proven true, but frankly mainstream AI research considers this issue irrelevant. As Stuart Russell and Peter Norvig observe, most AI researchers don’t care whether you call it a simulation of intelligence or real intelligence.

In any case, one does not need to agree with all of LeDoux’s positions, and I, for one, agree with nearly all of his conjectures. I greatly admire the depth, readability, and simplicity of this achievement and have happily recommended it to many of my friends.