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True Love: Love Explained by Science by Dr Fred Nour

They say love is blind but here’s a new book that for the first time offers a clear and clinical view of that most fundamental of human experiences.

A science-focused analysis of love that reduces every amorous sensation and feeling to a practical biological function might sound like it would shatter any romantic ideals, but in fact it offers fascinating insights into our behaviour that could actually help us find, and hold on to, a true love that lasts a lifetime.

And it couldn’t come at a better moment. With divorce and separation rates soaring, couples seem to be finding it harder than ever to form bonds that stand the test of time.

Unlike other books on the science of love, True Love is actually written by a scientist. Respected US-based neurologist and neurophysiologist Dr Fred Nour, himself happily married with children, thinks the reason why many partnerships dissolve is that individuals have enshrined unrealistic expectations when it comes to love.

Over the course of the book’s 300-plus pages he carefully deconstructs love so, by the end, we understand the whole process in the same way that a magician might explain his tricks. His hope is that armed with this knowledge, people will make better choices and enjoy the rich rewards that science shows comes with true love.

Beginning by outlining the evidence that the concept of ‘love’ exists in all human cultures and has existed since time immemorial, he goes on to explain in simple terms why we experience love in the first place.

This is on account of the evolution of the human brain, moving beyond the basic mechanical responses of the primitive reptilian brain where the concept of a loving relationship is impossible, and past the more advanced avian mind, to our multi-faceted grey matter.

What may come as a surprise is that love is, actually, comprised of four distinct phases, all determined by changing chemical interactions within the brain.

Drawing upon extensive and carefully cited research, Dr Nour addresses each phase in turn, outlining its purpose and the mechanisms at play in the body.

The first phase of love is mate selection, and it’s interesting to learn that exactly whom we ‘fall for’ is based on our own genetics and brains. There are a whole number of ways someone unconsciously determines if another is potentially ‘the one’, such as the pheromones they give off, but this is hard-wired and can’t be influenced by potential beaus to any substantial degree.

This is followed by the romance phase, where the brain produces a potent mix of neurotransmitters called monoamines that are responsible for those giddy feelings of joy and exhilaration.

The bad news, Dr Nour reveals, is that this is only a passing phase and can’t last more than two to three years. It’s the next stage – the ‘falling out of love’ phase – that leaves many couples crashing on the rocks just as the levels of monoamines coming crashing back down.

But bitter as it may feel, falling out of love is actually essential to allow us to properly assess a potential mate before committing to starting a family. From a Darwinian perspective this makes total sense: parents need to be able to form long-term bonds to care for their offspring.

The changes in the brain during this stage allows the final phase, and proper biological goal of love, to come into effect. Dr Nour calls this ‘true love’ and it is determined by the level of nonapeptides (oxytocin and vasopressin) in the brain. Unlike the intensity of the romance period, true love is gradual and effortful but can last forever.

The book may sound dry and scientific but it’s anything but. Nour writes with an admirable clarity and personality that carries the reader along without any danger of being swamped by science, while he illustrates his points through sharing personal experiences — both from his own life and those of associates — and constant call-backs to pop culture such as love songs and romantic films.

Ideal for fans of popular science or anyone who is curious about how and why Cupid shoots his arrows, True Love is a book you will quickly find yourself falling for.

True Love: Love Explained by Science (Niguel Publishing) by Dr Fred Nour is available now, priced £14.95 in hardback. Visit www.truelovebook.net.

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Feel Better this Blue Monday with LoveReading

Blue Monday at LoveReading

“Good Morning, Pooh Bear” said Eeyore gloomily. “If it IS a good morning… Which I doubt”- A.A Milne

We will relate to one of the gloomiest characters ever created today, according to scientists. January 15th 2018 has been named as Blue Monday, calculated to be the most depressing day of the year, with New Year’s Resolutions left in the dust, the January pinch growing ever tighter and the distinct lack of any festive cheer while the weather reminds us it is still winter. Depression is not dictated by the date, and the seriousness of such an illness is not to be overstated. However, the middle of January can leave a lot of us looking for distractions while waiting for temperatures to rise.

While we hunker down and wait for the rain to stop, according to our favourite sad donkey “it always does. Eventually.” we’ve had a look at things that could brighten Blue Monday, the gloomiest day of the year.

Of course LoveReading recommends curling up with a good book, a blanket and a warm drink on this miserable Monday. Why not try one of our weekly staff picks, like the heartfelt ‘Three Things About Elsie’ by Joanna Cannon? For those wanting a peek in to the past, how about Alison Weir’s ‘Six Tudor Queens: Anne Boleyn, A King’s Obsession’? We also have a wide range of non-fiction, encouraging you to have another crack at your New Year’s resolutions. For the health-conscious we have Roger Frampton’s ‘The Flexible Body’, Tom Kerridge’s ‘Lose Weight for Good’ or ‘James Duigan’s Blueprint for Health’.

It is vital that we all remember Depression isn’t reserved for one day each year, despite how much we relate to Blue Monday. For those of you wanting to be more mindful and less anxious; or perhaps wanting to be more of a glass half full kind of person, why not have a read of ‘The Little Book of Happiness: Live. Laugh. Love’ by Kim Quadrille, ‘Calm’ by Fearne Cotton, or James Cowart’s ‘The ABCs of Coping with Anxiety’. Jennie Miller and Victoria Lambert’s self-help book ‘Boundaries’ has transformed a long known genre for today’s world. The book offers a four step programme could help to change your life for the better.

Another great way to feel better is to support those who suffer with mental health issues no matter the date. One option is to perhaps make a donation some fantastic charities such as MINDCALM or the Samaritans.

 

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The Boy from the Wild, by Peter Meyer

By Staff Writer

The Boy from the Wild needs a health warning:

‘Caution, this book may lead to wanderlust and adventure-envy’.

If Peter Meyer’s fascinating new autobiography doesn’t inspire you to see the world and follow your dreams, then nothing will.

Meyer’s memoir about growing up on the Karkloof Valley Nature Reserve, a 1,000-hectare reserve in ‘Valley of Heaven’ area of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, is told with charm, wit and honesty. His book recounts boyhood adventures with an infectious glee and a terrific knack for scene setting; readers are transported to the expanse of the African bush, where days are joyful, tear-jerking and terrifying in equal measure.

Meyer’s father, a successful British property developer, purchased the reserve in the early 1980s. Several years later the reserve was reborn as ‘Safari World’, the first wildlife theme park of its kind and a major international attraction that could be described as a real-world Jurassic Park.

Meyer’s life was dramatic from the outset. Born to a South African mother and British father, Meyer survived a traumatic birth that almost killed mother and child, and a near-fatal unobserved plunge into a swimming pool as a baby. Before he was eight years old, Meyer had fended off rhino attacks, had survived “uncomfortably close” encounters with buffalo and wildebeest, and twice been bitten by seriously venomous snakes. With a baby elephant, warthogs and friendly ostrich among his childhood ‘pets’, his early years nurtured a lust for adventure and excitement.

Meyer clearly inherited his father’s adventurous streak, along with a rebellious nature (there’s a healthy sense of mischief and self-deprecating humour throughout, which is wonderful). But the book is immeasurably sad at times, too. The deaths of his loved ones – both human and animal – are told with a raw and brutal honesty that is both refreshing and heartbreaking.

Meyer is now an actor, who has starred in films alongside Brad Pitt. His attributes his success in adult life to the freedom he was given to grow – physically and emotionally – as a youngster.

If there was ever a book that lends itself to the Big Screen, then The Boy from the Wild is it. But forget Brad Pitt as the lead – that role should fall to Peter Meyer.

The Boy from the Wild by Peter Meyer is out now, priced £9.99 in paperback and £3.99 as an eBook. It is available for sale on Amazon UK. Visit www.petermeyer.com

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Enter to win a family break to Salisbury

 

Don’t miss out! Win a family break to Salisbury – CLICK HERE TO ENTER

Here at Lovereading.co.uk and Lovereading4kids.co.uk we have joined with VisitWiltshire and are delighted to be giving you a chance to win a wonderful family break in Wiltshire.  You could see yourself indulging in the finest food and slumbering comfortably into one of the grand rooms at The Red Lion Salisbury for two nights. The Red Lion Hotel is located in medieval city of Salisbury, which is home to all your favourite stores as well as independent shops, restaurants, cafes and parks and green spaces.

 

There are many seasonal events in Salisbury, and you can find out what’s on here. You will also receive a family ticket to Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, the gardens are especially beautiful in the winter, with bold coloured stems, scents, and fabulous foliage, you can be sure to be impressed. For the children there is also a play park, and you can stop off in the Victorian tea room to warm up and treat yourself to a traditional cream tea.  

To enter click here.  Entries close 31st January 2018.

Terms and Conditions

Red Lion: Two night stay includes breakfast for two adults and up to two children sharing a family room. Subject to availability and cannot be exchanged or redeemed for cash value. Not to be used in combination with any other offer. Valid until 1st Dec 2018 and excludes bank holidays

Sir Harold Hillier Gardens: Valid for day entry, Not to be used for special events or group entry. Voucher is not transferable or refundable, no Cash Value. Ticket must be redeemed on entry. Valid until 31 Dec 2018. Gardens open daily from 10am – closed Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Prize admits 2 adults and accompanying children Under 17 FREE to Sir Harold Hillier Gardens.

 CLICK HERE TO ENTER

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New Beginnings

Happy New Year from LoveReading

Happy New Year from all of us here at LoveReading! 2017 saw the release of some amazing books and we are eagerly awaiting the bounty of great reads this year. We have some changes of our own that we are excited to share with you while everyone prepares for all of the new releases planned in 2018.

You may be aware LoveReading came under new ownership in 2017. As part of this change, we aim to bring a whole new lease of life to the LoveReading brand. Don’t fret, we will still be offering the same reliable, trusted book recommendations that you know and love the site for. We will also be looking to expand our services going forward. We’re not going to reveal too much, like the opportunity to read book extracts on our site, we’ve got to leave you wanting more! And I’m sure you wouldn’t us to reveal any spoilers just yet.

Also in line with our “new year, new us” transformation, we are preparing a fresh, modern new site. Our new home will make finding your new favourite book even easier! You may have noticed that we have already changed some smaller design features on the site and added a shiny new logo. With work to develop the new site currently underway we are certain it won’t be too long before we get to share the brand new home of the most trusted book recommendation site with you all.

All of these changes mean that the new LoveReading team will be working even closer with publishers. This will allow us to offer more of the trusted reviews that you have grown accustomed to since LoveReading’s 2005 launch. Our panel of readers and our team of editorial experts will still be supplying the reviews on our site.

That’s all for now, but stay tuned for updates. We look forward to having you with us as we start the new chapter of the LoveReading story!

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Entries for the 2018 Wicked Young Writer Awards are now open!

Now in its 8th year, the Wicked Young Writer Awards is a chance for young people from across the UK and Ireland aged between 5 and 25, to write on a theme or subject of their choice, so absolutely anything! It’s your chance to get creative and write on any theme that interests you. Young people are free to submit entries written at home or at school, and teachers are encouraged to enter writing on behalf of their pupils. The judges want to hear your voices through original writing and stories.

FICTION categories – any creative writing will be accepted including a story, play, or poem with five age ranges – 5-7 years old   •   8-10 years old   •   11-14 years old   •   15-17 years old   •   18-25 years old

NON-FICTION categories – enter the Wicked: For Good Award for Non-Fiction and write an article, essay, biography, review or letter, to name a few! – 15-17 years old   •   18-25 years old

Launched in 2010, the free-to-enter, annual creative writing competition for 5-25 year olds raises money for, and awareness of, the National Literacy Trust who campaign to improve public understanding of the vital importance of literacy.  The Wicked Young Writer Awards was established by the long-running musical WICKED to link the important messages of the production with a competition that would inspire young people to use creative writing to look at life a little differently. Since its launch in 2010, over 20,000 entries have been received.

Deadline for entries is  MONDAY 12th MARCH 2018. Entrants can submit their writing by visiting www.WickedYoungWriterAwards.com, where they will also find writing tips and resources from the Award judges.

JUDGING PANEL – The acclaimed WICKED YOUNG WRITER AWARDS, created and sponsored by the award-winning musical WICKED in association with the National Literacy Trust, are delighted to announce that author, award-winning journalist and former Labour MP Ed Balls is returning to join on the judging panel, alongside acclaimed Young People’s Laureate for London, Caleb Femi and Editor-in-Chief of First News, Nicky Cox MBE. Author and illustrator of the How to Train Your Dragon books, Cressida Cowell, returns as Head Judge for the fourth consecutive year, together with long-standing judges Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust and Michael McCabe, Executive Producer of WICKED.

RULES

  • 750-word limit (not including the title words)
  • Entrants must be aged between 5-25 years old when entering the Wicked Young Writer Awards
  • Entries can be hand-written or typed
  • Writing must be original and your own ideas
  • Judges criteria: originality, narrative, descriptive language, characterisation.
  • Ensure that all students include their name, surname and age on the entry form
  • Open to UK residents only

Full Rules can be found at Wicked Young Writer Awards

PRIZES

  • 120 finalists from across the UK will see their work published in the WICKED YOUNG WRITER AWARDS Anthology, which will be published in association with Young Writers (www.youngwriters.co.uk). The 120 finalists are also invited to an exclusive ceremony at London’s Apollo Victoria, home to the musical WICKED since 2006, where judges and members of the WICKED cast announce who has won in each category.
  • The overall winners from each category will win £50 book/eBook tokens, and the 5-14 year old winners will receive £100 worth of books for their school library kindly donated by Hachette Children’s Group.
  • Winners in the 15-17, 18-25 and FOR GOOD categories will also win an exclusive writing experience with one of the Awards’ literacy partners.
  • The three schools that submit the most entries will also win a Creative Writing Workshop for their school for up to thirty students delivered by WICKED’s education team.
  • Winners in all categories receive a VIP family experience at the West End production of WICKED, including tickets, an exclusive backstage tour and a meet-and-greet with members of the cast.

AWARD PARTNERS

NATIONAL LITERACY TRUST – The Award is proud to partner with National Literacy Trust.  One person in six in the UK lives with poor literacy. This holds them back at every stage of their life. As a child they won’t be able to succeed at school, as a young adult they will be locked out of the job market, and on becoming a parent they won’t be able to support their child’s learning. Lacking these vital skills undermines their well being and stops them making a full contribution to the economic and cultural life of our nation. The National Literacy Trust is a national charity dedicated to raising literacy levels in the UK. It works to improve the reading, writing, speaking and listening skills in the UK’s most disadvantaged communities, where up to 40 per cent of people have literacy problems. Its research and analysis make it the leading authority on literacy. Because low literacy is intergenerational, the National Literacy Trust focuses its work on families, young people and children.

FIRST NEWS – First News is the Media Partner to the awards and is the UK’s only newspaper for young people. It was founded in 2006 by Sarah and Steve Thomson with editor Nicky Cox. It has always been independently owned and have no political affiliations. It is published both print and digital editions every Friday. Ten years on, over 2 million young people nationwide read First News each week with over half of all UK schools subscribing to the paper.

LOVEREADING – We have just joined the Awards as a partner for 2018. LoveReading is a unique family of websites including Lovereading.co.ukLovereading4Kids.co.uk and Lovereading4schools, and media channels which helps to connect writers, readers, publishers and organisations with an active and enthusiastic audience of book lovers.

THE LITERACY SHED – a unique online resource for teachers, home to a wealth of visual resources collected by primary school teacher Rob Smith over 10 years as a teacher. The Literacy Shed has over 24k followers on Twitter.

PRIMARY TIMES – over 18 million copies of Primary Times magazines distributed every year through primary schools in 59 regions across the UK and Ireland.

ABOUT WICKED
Based on the acclaimed novel by Gregory Maguire that ingeniously re-imagines the stories and characters created by L. Frank Baum in ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’, WICKED tells the incredible untold story of an unlikely but profound friendship between two sorcery students. Their extraordinary adventures in Oz will ultimately see them fulfil their destinies as Glinda The Good and the Wicked Witch of the West.  Now in its 12th year in London and acclaimed as “one of the West End’s true modern classics” (Metro), WICKED has already been seen by over 8.5 million people in London alone and is the recipient of over 100 major awards worldwide, including ten theatregoer-voted WhatsOnStage Awards (winning ‘Best West End Show’ on three occasions) and two Olivier Audience Awards in the UK.

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Aliya by Emine Suleyman

Aliya by Emine Suleyman

By Staff Writer

And so to 2018. The New Year is just around the corner, which can only mean one thing: making, and very quickly breaking, resolutions.

It includes a full 2018 diary, as you might expect, but its hard cover pages are also filled with a variety of other motivational tools: a journal, event manager, goal planner, habit tracker, sketch book and ideas logbook. Its primary purpose is to inspire the user into action through a mix of positivity and decluttering.

And the motivation begins on page one. Users begin by defining their life’s purpose, which Suleyman’s introduction explains as, “…putting your purpose of being and your values into words. To do this requires careful consideration of our individual existence. It poses an important question; what does it mean to be successful in my life on my terms?”.

Suleyman, the author of 2015’s Goal Setting Journal: Your Past, Present and Future, believes success, organisation and reflection are one in the same: success does not come without organisation, and organisation and reflection spurs success. Aliya sets out to encourage busy people – whether businessmen or tireless mums – to incorporate this simple philosophy (often called mindfulness) into their daily routines.

Mindfulness techniques are included. So, too, are dedicated areas where readers (“users”?) can reflect on their successes and failures.

Suleyman knows a thing or two about turning dreams into reality. She founded a sales and promotions company in her 20s that had over 400 contractors, and has mentored hundreds of budding entrepreneurs. This experience and insight shines through in her new book.

So here’s my tip for 2018. Forget the gym membership and instead consider a practical day-to-day productivity diary. Like Aliya.

Aliya by Emine Suleyman is out now in hardback and available at www.planmyvision.co.uk, priced £25.

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Blue-Eyed Infidel, by Cosmo Clark

Blue-Eyed Infidel, by Cosmo Clark

By Staff Writer

Readers who are easily offended, take note: this gripping sci-fi thriller in the vein of A Clockwork Orange and 1984 is probably not for you.

Cosmo Clark pulls no punches in his controversial debut outing, Blue-Eyed Infidel, make no mistake. In fact, he issues a stern warning to this effect at the start of the book. But for bookworms with a dark sense of humour, a penchant for satirical and thought-proving comedy, and an unashamed taste for fast and fun action thrillers, this could be the book you’ve been waiting for.

The first book in trilogy from British cyber security analyst and observer Cosmo Clark (a pen name given the secretive nature of his job), Blue-Eyed Infidel is set in a horrific vision of 2051. It’s a dystopian future, where an extreme form of Islam has taken hold of much of Europe, and the British capital is the Islamic State of London.

With young non-Muslim females raised in ‘slave pens’ to serve the whims of their Islamic rulers, and Buckingham Palace serving as the headquarters of the extremist caliph, it’s a nightmarish vision of the future.

Meanwhile, the USA and Japan are engaged in a bitter cold war with Korea and China (China itself supporting the Islamic extremists in a bid to undermine the fragile ties between the USA and its European allies).

The book’s hero (or anti-hero) is ‘blue-eyed infidel’ Adam Ali, a non-extremist Muslim whose circumstances require that he feign an enthusiasm for religious extremism. An accountant for the Caliph of London, he dreads being drawn into combat, but must not show his reluctance for fear of violent retribution.

The book begins as Ali is reluctantly called upon to take part in a suicide bomb attack against none other than the Queen of England, and his sly humour in a shocking situation makes him an instantly relatable character.

The initial chapters of the book flip between the dystopia of 2051 and the near future, when former military fighter turned kick-ass journalist Kat Clark is caught up in dramatic terror attacks and their aftermath, and develops a super-tough persona that could ultimately shape the future of the UK.

Clark brings elements of his anti-terrorism work into the novel in addition to some real-life terrorist atrocities, including 9/11 and the Manchester bombing. There’s also some impressive sci-fi elements, including Adam being fitted with inner-eye technology by the Caliph as he is sent on an undercover mission to infiltrate enemy territory by posing as a non-extremist fleeing the Caliph in fear of his life.

Politically-correct readers may baulk at the book’s central theme, but the book is not anti-Islam in its stance. The author’s beef is with religious extremism in any form, and the book makes the point that all religions have their share of violent elements, keen to shed blood in the name of their god.

Blue-eyed Infidel takes readers on an adrenaline-fueled ride through tense action scenes, graphic violence and racy sex scenes (without giving away any spoilers, a section of the book involves a rebel female camp where men are brought in merely to service the women and contribute to the gene pool), but there is genuine human emotion, too, and even a spot of romance, between Adam and the glamorous Jewish character Devorah.

The book tackles seriously dark subject matter, no question. But if it’s a controversial read that you’re after this Christmas, then this could be just the thing.

Blue Eyed Infidel is out now, priced £9.99 in paperback and £3.49 as an eBook, and is available at Amazon UK. Visit www.cosmoclark.com.

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Incoming! By Garry Curtis – real-life action, drama and seat-of-your-pants adventure

If you’re a fan of real-life action, drama and seat-of-your-pants adventure, then this gripping new memoir from Garry Curtis ticks all the boxes.

Curtis is a private military contractor (PMC), a former Commando, and a mental health ambassador. He was also the Beckham’s former bodyguard.

It’s near-impossible not to be both impressed and moved by the author’s dramatic life story, which contains more shocks and scares than the most far-fetched action movie or work of fiction. In a career that has seen front-line action in Northern Ireland and the Gulf, as well as private security services to some seriously high ranking politicians and celebrities, it’s clear that Curtis has a tale worth telling.

But it’s his no-holds-barred approach to discussing issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression that really set this book apart from other military service memoirs. Curtis’ straight-talking approach sees him address his own failings – particularly in relation to the breakdown of his relationship with love of his life Samantha – and he does not shy away from discussing the ‘perfect storm’ of negative life events that led to deep depression and a suicide attempt.

The 49-year-old from Uxbridge is a dad of four, and writes from the heart about the pivotal moments in his incredibly dramatic life. He describes himself as a ‘rough diamond’ from a council estate, and his opinionated style, with some colourful language, brings his strong personality to the fore.

While Curtis’ preferred line of work involves getting stuck in ‘at the deep end’ (the book describes some seriously hairy moments protecting media crews in Iraq and Lebanon), he has also worked as a bodyguard to big name celebs, including the Beckhams, so readers can expect a dash of celebrity gossip (none of it intrusive or malicious) along with frontline stories.

The author’s bravery and commitment to duty is astonishing. Without giving too much away, for instance, Curtis describes the events that led him to staging a daring escape and rescue mission while being held hostage, together with a TV news crew, by Gaddafi’s loyalist gunmen in Libya.

Readers of a delicate disposition take note – the book highlights harsh realities of armed conflict, and there are some brutally-frank descriptions of the horrors of battle. Together with the roll call of friends and colleagues lost in the line of duty, the author’s words cast a stark light on the horrors that servicemen are witness to.

Curtis sank into the depths of depression in 2012, when he was hospitalised with injuries picked up in Afghanistan, and almost died of blood poisoning following major surgery. Unable to work, Curtis began to feel the impact financially, and felt it as a crushing blow when he could no longer afford simple things like new shoes for his youngest daughter.

Rather than painting himself as an all-conquering hero, Curtis holds his hands up to mistakes made in his personal life, and his description of the downward spiral that led to his breakdown and suicide attempt is refreshing in its honesty, helping to destigmatise what is often a taboo subject – especially among ‘hard men’.

Having been exactly that all his life – a ‘hard man’ – Curtis’ descent into depression and an almost-successful suicide attempt scared him into addressing the PTSD issues that had contributed to his mental health problems, and in talking frankly about these issues he is doing a great service to others who find themselves in a similar position.

To say that Curtis’s life story has been dramatic would be a giant understatement. Would it adapt well to the Big Screen? Absolutely.

Curtis is an ambassador for Exmouth-based mental health charity Rock 2 Recovery, which supports men, women and families of the armed forces. Proceeds from Incoming! will help support this charity, and the author has also contributed time and money to London Air Ambulance – whose crew rescued Curtis after his suicide attempt.

Buy it, read it, enjoy it…and thank your lucky stars that however bad your day job, it’s probably a dream career by comparison.

‘Incoming!’ by Garry Curtis is out now in print, published by FastPrint Publishing and priced £10.57 in paperback. It is available for sale on Amazon UK.

 

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Conscious Robots: If We Really Had Free Will, What Would We Do All Day? By Paul Kwatz

In Conscious Robots: If We Really Had Free Will, What Would We Do All Day, author Paul Kwatz argues that we don’t possess free will. Instead, we are following the pre-programmed instructions that are hardwired into our brains to ensure the survival of our genes. We are, in effect, robots. And as robots, we are also pre-programmed to sabotage our own happiness and as such will never truly be content.

Thus, the stage is set for this impressive work of non-fiction popular science. Kwatz sets out, in equal measure, to challenge perceptions of free will and to convince readers of their robotic status.

Kwatz, who writes under a pen name, is a free will expert with a background in medicine and brain science. His short but highly persuasive book (which is around 100 pages long), neatly tackles any objections that readers might make about their own free will.

He argues that life is inherently unsatisfactory because of a genetic con-trick that spurs us on to always want more: To earn more money, to run faster, to look more attractive. But whatever we achieve, he says, nothing is ever good enough because we are hardwired to aspire. Doing so safeguards our own genetic future.

It follows, he says, that all human actions come from self-interest. We only care about our own children because our genes tell us to (a nod to the idea of the ‘Selfish Gene’ theory popularised by scientist Richard Dawkins).

The book presents complex issues of free will (or lack of) and determinism in a succinct fashion, and differs from other books on the subject in that is does not merely alert readers as to their pre-programmed personalities, but suggests ways that we can address the issue. While we can never truly possess free will, he says, we can choose to live as though we did possess it.

How? Kwatz argues that, if we truly had free will, we would simply choose to feel great all day. Via a series of interesting questions about whether we would choose to take a ‘happiness pill’ or take other ‘short cuts’ to happiness (and if not, why not?), Kwatz provides food for thought about the way we believe happiness can’t be real unless it is hard-earned and offset by a large dose of pain and suffering.

Positing the idea of a Matrix-style ‘happiness bed’ or ‘happiness drug’ (one that goes above and beyond the sedative effects of the ‘Soma’ as imagined by Aldous Huxley in Brave New World), Kwatz predicts that in the future, humans will be able to directly control the brain chemicals that govern our thoughts and feelings. Such mind meddling will enable us to choose to feel happy whenever we want.

Stating that “Regardless of our achievements in the world, we are condemned to our unfair share of misery, disappointment, heartache and despair. We’re condemned to miss out on the sustained heights of delight and joy that our minds are capable of experiencing”, Kwatz suggests that we need to learn to resist the ‘instructions’ that determine our actions. He goes on to argue that, as a species, we should stop investing money in endeavours such as space travel, which will ultimately never satisfy us, and instead should invest resources into the neuro-science that could make us capable of living in a permanently content and happy state.

Kwatz acknowledges that many readers will feel uncomfortable at the thought of such ‘artificial’ happiness, but his aim is to make us question why that it. Once again, he argues, it is because we feel the need to unquestioningly follow the instructions set out in our genetic ‘robot manuals’.

Whether or not you agree with Kwatz, his book is a must for anyone with an interest in popular science, computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and philosophy. For the rest of us, it is a thought-provoking introduction to some mind-boggling questions.

‘Conscious Robots: If We Really Had Free Will, What Would We Do All Day’ is out now in print, published by Peacock’s Tail Publishing and priced £4.99 in paperback and £2.99 as an eBook. It is available for sale on Amazon UK.  Visit www.consciousrobots.com

 

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