From the inventor of the PalmPilot comes a new and compelling theory of intelligence, brain function, and the future of intelligent machines
Jeff Hawkins, the man who created the PalmPilot, Treo smart phone, and other handheld devices, has reshaped our relationship to computers. Now he stands ready to revolutionize both neuroscience and computing in one stroke, with a new understanding of intelligence itself.
Hawkins develops a powerful theory of how the human brain works, explaining why computers are not intelligent and how, based on this new theory, we can finally build intelligent machines.
The brain is not a computer, but a memory system that stores experiences in a way that reflects the true structure of the world, remembering sequences of events and their nested relationships and making predictions based on those memories. It is this memory-prediction system that forms the basis of intelligence, perception, creativity, and even consciousness.
In an engaging style that will captivate audiences from the merely curious to the professional scientist, Hawkins shows how a clear understanding of how the brain works will make it possible for us to build intelligent machines, in silicon, that will exceed our human ability in surprising ways.
Written with acclaimed science writer Sandra Blakeslee, On Intelligence promises to completely transfigure the possibilities of the technology age. It is a landmark book in its scope and clarity.
Hawkins designed the technical innovations that make handheld computers like the Palm Pilot ubiquitous. But he also has a lifelong passion for the mysteries of the brain, and he's convinced that artificial intelligence theorists are misguided in focusing on the limits of computational power rather than on the nature of human thought. He "pops the hood" of the neocortex and carefully articulates a theory of consciousness and intelligence that offers radical options for future researchers. "he ability to make predictions about the future... is the crux of intelligence," he argues. The predictions are based on accumulated memories, and Hawkins suggests that humanoid robotics, the attempt to build robots with humanlike bodies, will create machines that are more expensive and impractical than machines reproducing genuinely human-level processes such as complex-pattern analysis, which can be applied to speech recognition, weather analysis and smart cars. Hawkins presents his ideas, with help from New York Times science writer Blakeslee, in chatty, easy-to-grasp language that still respects the brain's technical complexity. He fully anticipates even welcomes the controversy he may provoke within the scientific community and admits that he might be wrong, even as he offers a checklist of potential discoveries that could prove him right. His engaging speculations are sure to win fans of authors like Steven Johnson and Daniel Dennett.
Plausible and compelling story of how intelligence works
Jeff Hawkins tackles the subject of how the brain works 'head on' - pun intended :-) This book is both deep and accessible. A more timid soul would would not have had the ambition and hubris to tackle a subject covered by many brilliant minds and bearing so much academic weight. Jeff's legacy is this writing and research. His creation of the pda industry, the smartphone and his futurism were side-effects and side-stories to this passion. Whether researching AI, soul seeking or wishing to understand memory, this is an essential read. In the spirit of full disclosure, I used to work with Jeff at Handspring - not as a friend but as an employee inspired to work with a great mind.
A Genuine and Novel Framework
Jeff presents a novel approach to solving the general intelligence problem in machines without attempting to indoctrinate his audience into a naive belief system veiled in theoretical clothing.
He doesn't over value his insights and doesn't spare any of the fine low level details that other authors on the subject tend to withhold or over generalize.
Jeff is passionate but is grounded in science and practicality.
I suggest that readers that do not already possess a background in machine learning and computer science to first read "The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood" by James Gleick, as it provides a strong historical foundation on artificial intelligence that is largely absent from "On Intelligence".