The Forgetting Machine

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What to expect

If we lose our memories, are we still ourselves? Is identity merely a collection of electrical impulses? What separates us from animals, or from computers?

From Plato to Westworld, these questions have fascinated and befuddled philosophers, artists, and scientists for centuries. In The Forgetting Machine, neuroscientist Rodrigo Quiroga explains how the mechanics of memory illuminates these discussions, with implications for everything from understanding Alzheimer’s disease to the technology of artificial intelligence.

You’ll also learn about the research behind what Quiroga coined “Jennifer Aniston Neurons”—cells in the human brain that are responsible for representing specific concepts, such as recognizing a certain celebrity’s face. The discovery of these neurons opens new windows into the workings of human memory.

In this accessible, fascinating look at the science of remembering, you’ll learn how we turn perceptions into memories, how language shapes our experiences, and the crucial role forgetting plays in human recollection. You’ll see how electricity, chemistry, and abstraction combine to form something more than the human brain—the human mind. And you’ll gain surprising insight into what our brains can tell us about who we are.

The Forgetting Machine takes us on a journey through science and science fiction, philosophy and identity, using what we know about how we remember (and forget) to explore the very roots of what makes us human.

Critics Review

  • “Rodrigo Quian Quiroga is one of those rare computational neuroscientists who really knows how to bring complex and abstract concepts to a popular audience. This charming and informative book explains current understanding of how memories are encoded in the brain in elegant prose.”

  • “Quiroga offers up a remarkably readable introduction to how human memory operates.”

    Choice magazine
  • “A noted brain scientist takes the reader on an exciting whirlwind tour of vision and memory. ”

    Christof Koch, chief scientist and president, Allen Institute for Brain Science, Seattle
  • “A fascinating and memorable journey into the riddles of human perception and memory.”

    Yadin Dudai, professor, Weizmann Institute of Science and New York University
  • “Quiroga beguiles the reader with his fascinating accounts of how our very fallible memory machine attempts to function.”

    People behind the Science podcast

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