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Beyond Zero and One: Machines, Psychedelics, and Consciousness



Original Language: English | 268 pp. | December 2015

2 Seas Represents: Dutch, French and Nordic rights


“A splendidly mind-bending book, which mashes up Alan Turing, The Matrix, Immanuel Kant, “zombie AI”, Leibniz, and research on psychedelic drugs.” —The Guardian

“Andrew Smart deftly shows why it’s time for us to think deeply about thinking machines before they begin thinking deeply about us.” —Douglas Rushkoff, author, Escaping the Growth Trap, Present Shock, and Program or Be Programmed

“Provocative and cool.” —Cory Doctorow

“Forget the Turing test—will the supersmart AIs that we hear so much about these days pass the acid test? In this playful, informative, and prescient book, Andrew Smart brings psychedelics into dialogue with neuroscience in order to challenge the whiz-bang computational views of human and machine sentience that dominate the headlines. Giving robots LSD sounds like a joke, but Smart is dead serious in his critique of the hidden and sometimes dangerous biases that underlie both popular and scientific fantasies of digital minds.” —Erik Davis, host of “Expanding Mind” and author, Techgnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information

“Philosophy, psychedelics, robots, and the future; consciousness and intelligence, what else do you desire? Here you will see why those machines that reach singularity will be smarter than us and take over the world—and shall need to be conscious…and maybe they can only be conscious if they are human enough. The thesis of the book, and the path shown us by Smart, leads to a great trip, of imagination and philosophy, of maths and neuroscience.” —Dr. Tristan Bekinschtein, Lecturer, Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge

Can we build a robot that trips on acid? This is not a frivolous question, according to neuroscientist Andrew Smart. If we can’t, he argues, we haven’t really created artificial intelligence.
In an exposition reminiscent of crossover works such as Gödel, Escher, Bach and Fermat’s Last Theorem, Andrew Smart weaves together Mangarevan binary numbers, the discovery of LSD, Leibniz, computer programming, and much more to connect the vast but largely forgotten world of psychedelic research with the resurgent field of AI and the attempt to build conscious robots. A book that draws on the history of mathematics, philosophy, and digital technology, Beyond Zero and One challenges fundamental assumptions underlying artificial intelligence. Is the human brain based on computation? Can information alone explain human consciousness and intelligence? Smart convincingly makes the case that true intelligence, and artificial intelligence, requires an appreciation of what is beyond the computational.